ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
An environmental rights group, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), has condemned the detention of Barrister Inibehe Effiong and Jackie Ikeotuonye who were arrested on July 27, 2022 and August 1, 2022 respectively.
The news about the arrest of Effiong, an ally of HOMEF, circulated after the human rights lawyer shared same on his Twitter page.
The Court in Akwa Ibom State sentenced Effiong to jail for contempt of court.
Effiong jailing happened while representing his client in a libel trial involving the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, before the learned Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot.
Jackie Ikeotuonye who is also a partner with HOMEF alerted the public of her arrest via social media. Her Facebook post read: ‘Nigeria! You win a case against a Governor and he sends policemen and arrest you.’
She had reportedly won a case against Governor Dave Umahi in court which mandated that she be paid the N30m the Ebonyi State government owed her.
Executive Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, stated that it was outrageous and condemnable that citizens are oppressed in such a manner for demanding what is due them or exercising their rights.
“We denounce such an abuse of power and condemn these attempts to criminalize dissent,” he added.
In a statement signed by Jasper Koikoibo, a lawyer and advocacy officer at HOMEF, the environmental rights organisation noted that Effiong had a longstanding relationship with the organization and it knows for a fact that he is a law-abiding citizen of Nigeria.
The statement read: “Effiong is a legal practitioner who is committed to the advancement of justice for the downtrodden and eschews disrespect for both the high and hoi polloi of Nigerian society.
“To treat the Temple of Justice, of which he is a committed Minister, with contempt, is not in his character as ‘convicted’ or at all.
“In any case, we are also fully informed that the learned judge adopted a unique legal procedure in convicting Mr. Effiong. The law is unambiguous in this respect: that where contempt is committed in the face of the court, the proper step is to put the alleged contemnor in the dock for an opportunity for him to show cause why he must not be punished for contempt. From all available reports, it does not appear that Chief Judge Obot followed this procedure in Mr. Effiong’s case.
“True freedom requires the rule of law and justice, and a judicial system in which the rights of some are not secured by the denial of rights to others. We, therefore, condemn in the strongest terms this untrammeled abuse of judicial/political authority, and call for the unconditional release of Inibehe Effiong, Esq. and Mrs. Jackie Ikeotuonye forthwith.”