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Udom vs Leo Ekpenyong: Chief Judge sends human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong to prison

Udom vs Leo Ekpenyong: Chief Judge sends human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong to prison

The Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom, Justice Ekaette Obot on Wednesday, sent Lagos-based human rights activist, Inibehe Effiong to prison for one month for allegedly being rude while in court.

Barr. Effiong was appearing as counsel for Leo Ekpenyong who is being dragged to the court by Governor Udom Emmanuel over alleged defamation.

Ekpenyong had accused Udom of bribing the Chairman of the 2019 Election Petition Tribunal in the state, Justice WO Akanbi to influence judgment in favour of the then PDP senatorial candidate, Obong Chris Ekpenyong. Leo Ekpenyong allegedly claimed the governor paid $1.4million to Akanbi to secure victory for Sen. Chris Ekpenyong against Senator Godswill Akpabio of the APC.

In a ‘Facebook Live’ video monitored by TheMail Newspaper, Inibehe Effiong said he had earlier asked the judge to recuse herself from the case over possible bias. He said the motion for recusal was not taken by the court, only for him to be committed to prison on Wednesday.

“We were in court this morning and as usual the atmosphere was very hostile. I came in this morning and immediately My Lord the Chief Judge came in, she ordered some armed policemen with AK-47 to come inside the courtroom, two of them including her orderly. And then I kept quiet and the proceedings started and I reminded the court that I have a motion for recusal asking the Chief Judge to recuse herself from the matter on grounds of likelihood of bias which we have filed.

“The court said we should go ahead with the trial and leave the motion. The trial started and while I was cross-examining the witness of the governor, the judge ordered the journalist from Premium Times to leave the court and I said My Lord, it is an open court, hence anyone that wants to observe proceedings can observe proceedings.

“The judge now turned on me. I also raised a concern I don’t feel comfortable having armed policemen inside the court. That I have never seen two armed policemen with AK-47 inside the court. That it makes me feel uncomfortable, it makes me feel threatened, that they should be outside. And I applied officially that the court should excuse them from the court. My Lord ordered me to step out of the bar, ordered me to derobe and said she is committing me to prison for one month for raising an observation that it is not proper for armed policemen to be inside the courtroom.

“My Lord has asked that a conviction warrant be brought. I am waiting for the conviction warrant. I am going to Uyo prison from here. I think it is also an opportunity to get to see people that are there.

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“We will see how this goes. I just want everybody to know what has been happening. This case has been hostile. A lot of things have happened. Every time we come to the court, it is always one issue or the other. I haven’t done anything. I haven’t disrespected the court. I haven’t said anything to her that is personal. I just made an application that it is not proper to have armed policemen in court, the next thing she said I am being rude, that why should I say that, that I should step out of the bar, that I am going to prison.

“This is the case filed by Udom Emmanuel against a certain Leo Ekpenyong, a lawyer over alleged defamation. Since I got into this matter, it is as if I shouldn’t have even defended this man. We have a pending application for recusal, asking the chief judge to recuse ‘himself’ from the case. That application has not been taken. And this is exactly why we brought the application because of what has been happening. I am just waiting for them to bring the warrant. The judge has ordered them not to allow me to step out of the court, that I am going to be taken to prison from here. I am waiting for the policemen to come. You are not likely going to hear from me after now.

“We will see what happens from there. I have never seen this kind of situation before. How do you commit a lawyer to prison for making a formal application before the court? Immediately the chief judge came in, she clearly said that look today, anybody that says anything, she is going to deal with the person. How am I supposed to feel comfortable with people carrying AK-47 behind me? This is the price we have to pay for following our conviction”, the lawyer said via the Facebook live video he did while inside the courtroom.

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