The news of the committal to Prison of Inihebe Effiong, an human rights lawyer rudely welcomed me to London as I switch on my phone after the 6 tiring hours flight.
By the information received he was sentenced over accusation of some sorts of contempt but without trial whatsoever!
Whereas, sentencing without trial is definitely not permissible under our jurisprudence, particular when the issue is criminal in nature.
The presiding judge, with respect, can not be a judge in her case and our judges have been warned when faced with cases of contempt to be cautious in dealing with such cases.
The Court of Appeal in the case of OBIUKWU v UGWUERUCHUKWU & ORS (2019) LPELR-46616(CA) has this to say to such situation; “Courts have always been admonished to be circumspect while handling contempt proceedings…Contempt of Court was not meant to be wielded by the Court as an instrument of intimidation, or a club of offence, to harass and subjugate and hew down litigants, lawyers and persons within the precincts of the Court, or outside. Contempt is not meant to be used as a weapon or means of showing strength and power by the Judge.
It was against this background that I forcefully urge that Mr Inihebe Effiong should be released unconditionally and immediately.