Inibehe Effiong, a human rights lawyer and activist, has been sent to prison by Ekaette Obot, the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State in South-south Nigeria, for demanding press freedom.
Effiong was in court on Wednesday, July 27, to represent his client, Leo Ekpenyong, in a libel suit filed by Udom Emmanuel, Governor of Akwa Ibom, before Justice Obot court in Uyo.
He wrote on his Facebook page how Justice Obot had sent a journalist out of the courtroom and how he pleaded that the matter was of public interest that journalists should cover.
“The Chief Judge of Akwa Akwa Ibom ordered a Premium Times reporter to leave the court. I said, my lord, we thought that since the proceeding is public, members of the public should be allowed to observe the proceeding,” Effiong wrote on his Facebook page.
“My Lord asked me to proceed with cross-examination. I applied to the Court to ask the armed policemen with AK47 to leave the courtroom, that it was not proper and that I felt extremely unsafe and uncomfortable.”
“My Lord then started writing, and I thought it would be a ruling on my application to excuse the officers. But, instead, my Lord was writing a committal order to send me to Uyo prison.”
Effiong said the judge did not allow him to present his case before he asked him to remove his wig and gown to proceed to the prison. “I wasn’t even allowed to say anything. My Lord just ordered me to remove my wig and gown, that I was going to prison,” he said.
Effiong said that he had been rejected at Uyo prison because of COVID protocol and is currently back in court for the judge to determine where he should be jailed.
Last week the police raided the head office of Peoples Gazette located in the Utako area of the FCT and arrested five staff members. The journalists regained freedom hours after the intervention of Ken Eluma Asogwa, the newspaper’s lawyer.
Media groups and local journalism unions have been advocating for the protection of journalists in Nigeria. As a result, Nigeria ranks 120 out of 180 countries on The World Press Freedom Index Reporters Without Borders.
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