Akwa Ibom Chief Judge, Ekaette Obot, Wednesday, sentenced fiery lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, to prison for one month for challenging her to recuse herself from a libel case before her court.
The judge also ordered the arrest of a Premium Times reporter, Saviour Imukudo, who was in the court to cover a case of libel brought by the Governor, Udom Emmanuel against a lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong.
Mr. Effiong, who has consistently accused the judge of bias in the libel case had on a Twitter post, narrated how Mrs. Obot ordered Mr. Imukudo to leave the court before directing her orderly to call in armed policemen into the courtroom.
Witnesses said the judge first asked the Premium Times reporter to identify himself just as she began proceedings on the case.
After the journalist had introduced himself, the judge ordered him to immediately leave the courtroom while also ordering a police officer to search him.
During the search, the police found a smartphone with the reporter and immediately confiscated it before taking the journalist away to an unknown location.
Having taken the reporter away, the judge went on to sign a remand order and directed the two fully armed policemen, who were called into the courtroom, to take Mr. Effiong to Uyo Correctional Centre for remand.
The Editor-in-Chief, Premium Times, Mojeed Musikilu, in an interview with GuardPost Nigeria condemned the arrest of Mr. Imukudo and called for his immediate release.
“Although I am yet to know the details of what happened, I want to say that there is no reason whatsoever for the judge to send out a reporter from a court which is carrying out an open trial.
“The action is unacceptable, retrogressive and dictatorial and I think the authorities should call the judge to order immediately,” Mr. Musikilu said.
Counsel to the governor, Samuel Ikpo expressed shock at alleged conduct of Mr. Effiong, adding sending the activist to prison would teach him how to behave in the court.
“I believe that when he comes out of the correctional facility, he will learn how to conduct himself before a court,” Mr. Ikpo boasted.
“A lawyer should not allow himself to use one client to destroy his reputation before all the judges. I think Justice Obot has really been patient with him all this while, even as a lawyer, I could not tolerate the young lawyer’s conduct.”
But the leadership of the African Action Congress (AAC), has kicked against the action of the chief judge, describing it as a “parody of democracy that Nigerians live under.”
In a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Femi Adeyeye, the party called for the immediate release of the lawyer and a disciplinary action against the judge.
“This is shocking to all members of the African Action Congress (AAC) and lovers of human rights globally,” the AAC stated.
“Barr. Inibehe was committed for contempt and ordered to be remanded in Uyo Prisons by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot in a reckless abuse of judicial authority and discretion of what ought to be the hallowed temple of justice.”
It accused Governor Emmanuel of acting like a tyrant in a democracy and while also allegedly bribing the judiciary.
“The action of the chief judge acting the script of the tyrant governor against a lawyer in the legitimate pursuit of his duties, is pure judicial rascality, judicial shamelessness, and judicial recklessness.
“It is a fruitless conspiratorial attempt to intimidate a counsel, a fighter of human rights in the legitimate activity of representing his client. We call for the immediate release of Inibehe Effiong now! Failure to release him with immediate effect, would be met with serious mass actions,” the party stated.