Inibehe Effiong appeals contempt conviction

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Incarcerated lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, on Friday filed a suit at the Court of Appeal in Calabar, Cross River State, urging the appellate court to set aside his conviction for contempt by a State High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Mr. Effiong was on 27 July sentenced to 30 days imprisonment over what the trial Judge, Ekaette Obot, described as “unruly behaviour”.

Justice Obot is the chief judge of Akwa Ibom State.

Appealing the lower court’s decision, Femi Falana, counsel to Mr Effiong, raised nine grounds which he said Justice Obot erred in convicting and sentencing the appellant.

Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, in a court document seen by this newspaper stated that the facts relied upon by Justice Obot as “constituting contempt of court do not constitute contempt in any material particular.”

He also stated that Mr Effiong’s conviction was a breach of his right to fair hearing and added that Justice Obot was the “accuser, the prosecutor and the judge,” an action he said violates Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

Mr. Effiong, a Lagos-based lawyer, was at Justice Obot’s court to defend his client in a defamation case in which Governor Udom Emmanuel is the claimant.

Mr. Effiong had, in previous proceedings, requested the judge to recuse herself from the case.

The lawyer, on the 27 July hearing, objected to the presence of two armed police officers which was brought into the court on the order of the chief judge.

In a court proceedings released after she was sued, Justice Obot said, she committed Mr Effiong to 30 prison for his “unruly behaviour.”

Mr. Effiong served the first two weeks of his sentence at Ikot Ekpene Custodial Centre, Akwa Ibom State.

He was later transferred to Uyo Custodial Centre to serve the remaining days.

The lawyer was reportedly abused by prison officials who scraped his hair and beard.

Mr. Effiong’s incarceration has attracted much condemnation across the country.

Several groups have staged protests in Uyo, calling for his release.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has also faulted the procedure adopted by Justice Obot in jailing the lawyer.

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