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Akinnola, Falana condemn torture of Inibehe Effiong in prison

Two prominent human rights activists on Thursday raised alarm on the transfer of activist lawyer, Inibehe Effiong from Ikot Ekpene Correctional Center, to Uyo Center where he was allegedly beaten while his head and beard were shaved.

The Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot on July 27, 2022 sentenced Effiong to a month imprisonment for complaining against two policemen bearing arms inside the courtroom and preventing a journalist from covering court proceedings.

Justice Obot was alleged to have ordered that Effiong should serve his sentence at Ikot Ekpene Correctional Center. However, a witness, Fejiro Oliver said Effiong was surreptitiously transfered to Uyo Correctional Center on Wednesday.

Oliver said: “Yesterday while he was in his cell in Ikot Ekpene Prison, some dreadful looking prison officers came to forcefully handcuff him inside a van and took him to Uyo prison. While there, he was blindfolded and beaten before being pushed to the floor while still on handcuffs;

They brought in two men with blunt clipper to begin to shave all his beards and hair, with the woman in charge saying “here we treat people like animals”, after which he was kept into one nasty cell. Let it be on record that if anything happens to Inibehe, the entire prison officials in Uyo and the tyrant Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State should be held responsible.

We have passed this route before and did not bow and will not bow to a common Judge that’s politically corrupt”.

Foremost journalist and Chair, Center for Free Speech(CFS), Mr Richard Akinnola condemned the brutality against Effiong, saying it has the ‘imprimatur of some highly placed persons in Akwa Ibom State”.

Curiously, the local branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in both Uyo, and Ikot Ekpene have remained silent over the Effiong matter. A former Attorney General of the State, Uwemedimo Nwoko SAN supported the predicament of Effiong, saying he lacks mentorship.

Nwoko said: “Inibehe Effiong is not in detention, he is serving a prison term. He is a victim of lack of mentorship. Since he left law school, he has not been mentored by anybody. He has not learnt the very simple act of telling the Court as the court pleases. So where he is now is for him to learn how to say as the court pleases. Lawyers don’t argue or quarrel with the Court. Lawyers don’t insult the Bench”.

The President of NBA, Olumide Akpata however condemned the Judges decision saying that the body will make a decision on whether or not it will raise the matter before the National Judicial Council (NJC).

However, Femi Falana SAN, condemned Justice Obot for blocking Effiong’s right of appeal by not furnishing him certified true copy of her judgement which the lawyer could have used to file his appeal thereby contravening section 36(7) of the constitution. He also condemned the brutal torture meted out to him in prison.

In a statement he issued on Thursday evening, Falana said:

“On July 27, 2022, the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Ekaette Obot convicted and sentenced Inibehe Effiong to one month imprisonment for contempt of court in facie curiae. In order to prevent Inibehe from appealing against the conviction and sentence imposed on him the Chief Judge has refused to furnish him with a certified true copy of her judgment in contravention of section 36(7) of the Constitution which prescribes that every convict is entitled to a copy of the judgment of the court that tried and convicted him;

However. the warrant signed by the Judge directed that the Effiong be held in Ikot Ekpene Correctional Centre, Akwa Ibom throughout the duration of his prison term. But the order of the Court was secretly varied today as Inibehe was forcefully transferred to Uyo Correctional Centre in handcuffs even though there was no violence on his part. At the Uyo Correctional Centre, Inibehe was forced to sit on bare floor while his head was shaved together with his beard. He was thereafter subjected to more horrendous humiliation and paraded before all prison inmates;

The brutal torture meted out to Inibehe by the prison officials in Akwa Ibom State constitutes a violent violation of his fundamental right to dignity guaranteed by section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004;

It is painful to note that the unprovoked violence unleashed on Inibehe is a sad reminder of the case of Minere Amakiri, then a reporter with Nigerian Observer, the old Bendel State owned newspapers whose head was shaved with a broken bottle in 1973 on the orders of Alfred Diette-Spiff, the then Military governor of the State;

Apart from challenging the egregious infringement of the fundamental right of Inibehe to the dignity of his person and fair hearing we shall press for the prosecution of the officials who inflicted torture on him contrary to the provision of section 2 of the Anti Torture Act of 2017. The penalty for the offence of inflicting torture on any person in Nigeria is 25 years imprisonment without any option of fine”.

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