Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has resolved to sue the Federal government and Governor Udom Emmanuel following the sentencing human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong to prison.
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Newsonline reports that SERAP said the decision of the Chief Judge of Akwa-Ibom to send Inibehe Effiong to prison for defending a client was an unlawful and apparent misuse of the justice system.
SERA argued that lawyers should never be arrested or detained for representing their clients in court or identifying with their client’s cause, not even in a libel case by a governor.
In a statement on Wednesday, SERAP said, “We’re suing Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel and the Buhari administration over the unlawful detention of human rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong, and the apparent misuse of the justice system.
“Sending a lawyer to prison simply for representing his client in court is a blatant violation of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] and the country’s international human rights obligations, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Lawyers should never be arrested or detained for representing their clients in court or identifying with their clients’ causes, not even when handling a libel case instituted by a state governor.”
SERAP further demanded that the “Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel must immediately and unconditionally release lawyer Inibehe Effiong who has reportedly been sent to Uyo prison while in court representing his client against the governor.”
Narrating what happened in court on Wednesday during the proceeding, Inihebe Effiong, a human rights lawyer said:
“The moment My Lord entered the Courtroom, His Lordship ordered the orderly attached to the court to go out and bring the armed policemen inside the courtroom. I started feeling that there was going to be trouble.
“The Chief Judge of Akwa Akwa Ibom ordered a Premium Times reporter to leave the court. I said my lord, we were thinking that since the proceeding is public, that members of the public should be allowed to observe the proceeding. My Lord asked me to proceed with cross-examination.
“After the Premium Times reporter was sent out, I raised the issue. I applied to the Court to ask the armed policemen with AK47 to leave the courtroom, that it was not proper and that I felt extremely unsafe and uncomfortable. My Lord then started writing, I thought it was going to be a ruling on my application to excuse the officers.
“Unknown to me, my Lord was writing committal order to send me to Uyo prison. I wasn’t even given the opportunity to say anything. My Lord just ordered me to remove my wig and gown, that I was going to prison.
“Meanwhile, we have a pending motion for my Lord to disqualify and recuse himself from the case on grounds of bias or likelihood of bias which.”
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