Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has said he will challenge the conviction of Inibehe Effiong.
Falana vowed to legally challenge the unjust conviction and imprisonment of Inibehe, a human rights lawyer, by the Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge, Ekaette Obot.
Falana described condemned the conviction and imprisonment of Effiong by the judge.
On July 27, Effiong was sent to prison by Obot after he protested against the presence of armed policemen in court.
He was in court to defend Leo Ekpenyong, a lawyer, in a libel suit filed by Udom Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom.
His incarceration has been described as vindictive and lacking due process.
On August 3, the Nigerian Bar Association said the lawyer was not given a fair hearing before he was sent to prison by the judge, and the organisation threatened to petition the judge at the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Speaking to SaharaReporters after Effiong was released on Friday, Falana stated that he would “challenge all aspects of his unjust, unfair and cruel proceedings in court.”
Falana also said he had spoken to Effiong after his release from jail.
Justice Obot had released a doctored record of the court proceedings by which Effiong was jailed. The contents differ from the accounts obtained from witnesses.
Effiong earlier challenged the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom to release the CCTV footage of the July 27 court sitting, adding he did not point at the judge or bang on the table during the proceedings.
“I’m using this opportunity to publicly appeal and urge my lord, the Honorable Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom, Justice Ekaette Obot to please release the CCTV footage of that day.
“Because I was told and I’m aware to the best of my knowledge, that there is CCTV cameras inside that court room. Let all lawyers in Nigeria see, where Inibehe’s pointed at the Honorable Chief Judge, let them also see where Inibehe banged at the table, why scandalizing my name and attribute to me a conduct that never took place in court?” Effiong said after his release from jail on Friday morning.
SaharaReporters earlier reported that the lawyer had completed his one-month remand as ordered by Obot and released.
The newspaper earlier reported that Obot had allowed armed policemen wielding AK-47 rifles into the courtroom on June 27, after threatening to jail Effiong for accusing her of being biased and asking her to recuse herself from a case.
It reported that on the same day, in fulfilment of her threat, the judge jailed the lawyer for one month for asking her to recuse herself from a libel suit filed against a fellow lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong by the state governor, Deacon Udom Gabriel Emmanuel in Suit No. HU/279/2019.
Udom Emmanuel had sued Ekpenyong for defamation of character over a publication in which he accused the governor of “buying judgment” from the 2019 National Assembly Election Tribunal.
However, Justice Obot on December 15, 2020, gave judgment in favour of the governor, the Claimant/Applicant. The court found the Defendant liable for defamation and subsequently awarded N1.5 billion against him.
SaharaReporters on August 11 also reported that some officials of the NCS in Uyo assaulted and tortured Effiong, using blunt instruments to forcefully shave off his beard.
The lawyer was injured in the process, SaharaReporters had gathered.
The newspaper had also reported how Justice Obot omitted important details in the record of court proceedings used to commit Effiong to prison.
The judge had refused to release the record of court proceedings within seven days as stipulated by law, instead releasing a doctored record 21 days later, about 48 hours after being sued by the lawyer. Indeed, several attempts made by the lawyer and legal representatives to access the copy of the proceedings were rebuffed by the chief judge until she was sued and pressured to do so.
In the doctored record of proceedings released by the judge, there was no mention that the lawyer had asked her to recuse herself from the case.
She also failed to add that the lawyer had applied that she should order the armed security officers to leave the courtroom as their presence was "creating hostility".
“The proceedings failed to capture the application Inibehe made reminding her of our pending motion for recusal including an application to order the officers with AK-47 to leave the courtroom as their presence was creating hostility in the court thus making it inconvenient for him to continue with his cross-examination of Governor Udom's witness,” a source told SaharaReporters on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Obot had violated Section 36 (7) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to the Section of the Constitution, “When any person is tried for any criminal offence, the court or tribunal shall keep a record of the proceedings and the accused person or any persons authorised by him in that behalf shall be entitled to obtain copies of the judgement in the case within seven days of the conclusion of the case.”
SaharaReporters had reported that the judge rushed back from vacation to release a copy of the proceedings, which had been doctored.
A source had said the judge “hurriedly returned from vacation to release the doctored copy of the proceedings”.
SaharaReporters earlier reported that Obot was making moves to forge the court proceedings she used to sentence Effiong to one month’s imprisonment for alleged contempt.
“The Chief Judge is currently working round the clock to doctor the proceedings in which she used to sentence Inibehe after condemnation from right and left.
“Different people have exposed her, even lawyers present in court faulted her decision. The NBA leadership also said that her judgement did not follow due process,” a judicial worker had told SaharaReporters.