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NBA threatens to drag judge to NJC over imprisonment of human rights lawyer

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The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has threatened to petition the National Judicial Council (NJC) to censure Akwa Ibom Chief Judge, Ekaette Obot over her one-month prison sentence for alleged contempt of court against human rights attorney, Inibehe Effiong.

NBA President Olumide Akpata on Wednesday via a series of tweets, criticised Ms. Obot’s method for imprisoning the attorney while providing an update on the group’s efforts to gain Mr. Effiong’s release.

“Regardless of the conduct of Mr. Effiong in the courtroom on the date of the proceedings that led to his committal, one thing that has come out from the various accounts that the NBA has so far received is that Hon. Justice Ekaette Obot did not follow due process in the committal proceedings,” Akpata noted.

The NBA president listed the judge’s alleged violations in sending Mr. Effiong to prison, saying investigations into the matter were ongoing, which included denying Mr. Effiong a fair hearing.

Akpata further stressed, “Mr. Effiong was not put in the dock, told what his wrong or contempt was, given fair hearing or even an opportunity to recant or purge himself (a courtesy that the Bench should, at the minimum, extend to counsel where counsel’s conduct is said to be contemptuous).

Read also:NBA demands urgent reform of Nigeria’s judiciary after Justice Mohammed’s exit as CJN

“This, on its face, not only runs afoul of known practice and procedure in such cases but is also unconstitutional.

“In view of the foregoing and depending on the outcome of our ongoing investigations, the NBA may be forced to take this matter up with the National Judicial Council.”

On July 27, Justice Obot sentenced Mr. Effiong to prison as the attorney appeared before her to represent a client in a defamation lawsuit.

The judge also stated that the attorney would utilise the prison to absolve himself of haughtiness and dishonourable behaviour that tended to tarnish the court’s reputation.

Consequently, Justice Abot ordered Mr Effiong’s imprisonment after the lawyer expressed concerns over the intimidating presence of armed police officers in the courtroom.

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