Akwa Ibom human rights community has suggested a conciliatory approach to resolving the sentencing to one month jail of a Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, by the state chief judge, Justice Ekaette Obot.
This is contained in a statement signed by its national coordinator, Clifford Thomas Esq., and made available to newsmen in Uyo.
The statement read in part: “We call on all who intends to intervene in this matter, to exercise restraint. This matter is very sensitive, and the best approach we suggest now would be a conciliatory approach. There would appear to be rights on all sides, but caution is necessary.
“Sadly, we feel strongly that advocacy by lawyers in courts in Akwa Ibom would be greatly impacted. Lawyers may no longer feel very free to do their advocacy freely. A precedent has been set, and human rights advocates may end up becoming victims of the process.
“We resolve that adoption of the middle of the road and conciliatory approach to see how best to placate the situation without necessarily widening the chasm further. Every Court globally has standard operating procedures, and all advocates appearing before them must follow the set procedures.
“Respect must be accorded the courts. Applications by motions should be taken in line with extant procedures, and the rules of courts should be followed, barring any powers of discretion of courts permitted by the rules.
“No security personnel bearing arms must be allowed inside the court room. All armed security personnel must be stationed outside the courtroom.”
The human rights community stressed that in the event that there was intractable tension and misunderstanding that could be resolved that crystallises in lack of trust and confidence in the adjudication of a matter, the Judge should recuse himself and hands off the matter, where the counsel raises a likelihood of bias.
The group described courts as sacred and public institutions,adding that proceedings must be open to the public, except in special proceedings which requires privacy like proceedings that involves a minor.
“Immediately this organisation heard of the information that Barr. Inibehe Effiong had been sentenced to one month imprisonment by the Learned Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom, Justice Ekaette Obot, for being contemptuous of the Court, we reached out to Chairman of the Uyo branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other eminent members of the bar as well as persons of goodwill.
“After our meeting with the chief judge of the state, coupled with comments and video of Inibehe Effiong Esq., and information gleaned from some of those present in court, journalists, the CW3- the witness who was cross examined, we came up with the following observations.
“In previous proceedings on this matter, there have been series of actions which the court considered very provocative; the court considered the mannerisms and attitude of the learned Counsel out of tune with the Rule of Professional conduct for lawyers.
“The current solidarity strike action of Labour which led to the beefing up of security around facilities and institutions around the Wellington Bassey Way axis of Uyo, possibly informed the heavy presence of security in the judiciary headquarters and the courts.
“The CJ could not confirm if the policemen in the Courtroom were armed with AK-47 as alleged by Mr. Inibehe Effiong. The incident had nothing to do with the nature of the matter or the parties. Judges have the right to adjudicate in matters pending before them irrespective of where the parties hail from,” it asserted.