Nigerian journalist and lawyer, Richard Akinnola, says the country’s judicial system “still has a long way to go”.
Akinnola was reacting to the prison sentence of human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong.
Effiong was on Wednesday morning sent to prison for one month by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot, over what she called “contemptuous and insulting behaviour in court.”
She said that the lawyer would use the correctional facility to purge himself of insolence and dishonourable acts that tended to bring the court to disrepute.
The court which sat in the case of libel by Governor Udom Emmanuel against Leo Ekpenyong, was on its last day for the prosecution to end its case.
Effiong had in a series of tweets on his verified handle on Wednesday, revealed he was in court on a suit filed by Governor Emmanuel against Ekpenyong for alleged defamation. But strangely, he’ll be sent to jail.
Commenting on the matter, Akinnola made a flashback to three decades ago when late legal luminary, Gani Fawehinmi, challenged a judge, saying he has a case against the military government and the presence of the picture of the military governor behind the judge “unsettles” him.
Akinnola claimed that at the next adjourned date, the court obliged Fawehinmi’s request. The journalist insinuated that the judge should not have sent Effiong to jail, especially considering Nigeria is under a democratic rule.
Read Akinnola’s full post below:
“There was an instance, some 30 something years ago. It was during the military era. Gani Fawehinmi was in court. Then, out of the blues, he raised a strange observation. He told the Chief judge that the matter could not proceed. He said:”(Pointing at an object of interest behind the judge) My Lord, kindly look back. Look at that picture of the military Governor, staring menacingly at my Lord like a gun pointed at you. My Lord, my case is against the military government and the presence of the picture of the military governor behind you unsettles me.” The court rose momentarily. The matter was then adjourned to another date.
At the next adjourned date, all portrait of Col. Raji Rasaki, the military governor, had been removed from all the courtrooms, replaced with that of Coat of arms.
That was under the military. Today, Inibehe Effiong only made a request that the armed policemen in the courtroom be made to stand outside the court, even after the Chief judge had refused to hear the application that she recused herself from the matter. Then, sending counsel to prison. You can see the difference of how a judge behaved under a military government and under a democracy. We still have a long way to go. This shall not stand.