The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has joined the many voices calling for the release of Lawyer and Activist, Inibehe Effiong who was sentenced to a a one-month imprisonment for contempt of court.
The NLC in a statement issued by its national president, comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the body has followed with keen interest travails of the human rights lawyer in a court case of defamation brought by the Akwa Ibom State Governor which is before Justice Ekaette Obot who is also the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State.
NLC stated that while it recuses itself from interrogating the merit or otherwise of the contemptuous acts that led to the sentencing of Mr. Inibehe Effiong, it is guided by moral punition which instructs restraint in the exercise of the mighty powers reposed in the state and its institutions of authority.
“We are also guided by the fundamental principle of justice in our laws that presumes an accused innocent until proven guilty – Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat.
“Unfortunately, the treatment of Mr. Inibehe Effiong since the commencement of defamatory case against his client appear to violate the morality of the natural instinct to protect the weak and vulnerable against the mighty and powerful.
“The ordeal of Mr. Effiong also appear to portray him as an accessory to the crime allegedly committed by his client. This burden becomes heavier given that the order to remand Mr. Effiong in a correctional facility even while the case is still under trial came from the state Chief Judge who sits on the case. Clearly, the events surrounding this case make no pretense that Mr. Effiong is up and against the mighty and powerful.” NLC added.
The NLC called on the Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge to be circumspect in her handling of the case which Mr. Inibehe Effiong is defending considering that his client, Mr. Leo Ekpenyong made damning allegations against the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Emmanuel Udom.
“We also find it curious that Mr. Effiong’s lawful request for the order of the court proceedings that sentenced him be released to him was denied more than twenty days after had filed for the release even when the law provides that such a request should be granted after seven days.
“Furthermore, the fact that a journalist who was also covering the proceedings of the court the day Mr. Effiong was sentenced was also harassed by Justice Obot who had his recording device confiscated and the contents deleted and the subsequent ill-treatment of Mr. Effiong while in custody lends weight to the suspicion of organized ambush designed to intimidate and cower.
“The truth is that there is no room for vindictiveness in our laws.
The NLC called on the Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge, Honourable Justice Ekaette Obot to reverse her earlier ruling incarcerating Mr. Inibehe Effiong in order to restore confidence in the case that Mr. Effiong is representing especially given the bad blood that now exists between the trial judge and the defendant’s counsel.
“We all have a responsibility to protect the integrity of our judiciary as it is the last hope of the common man and woman. This is a burden that the Nigeria Labour Congress will always discharge” it added.