Barristers & Solicitors
How Akwa Ibom CJ seized my phone, threatened to send me to prison – Another lawyer

A lawyer has narrated how the Akwa Ibom Chief Judge, Ekaette Obot, once described in a derogatory manner the incarcerated human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, as a “lousy boy”.

The lawyer, Augustine Asuquo, who is the head of Inibehe Effiong Chambers in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, disclosed this in a press statement he issued on 28 July, shortly after Mrs Obot committed Mr Effiong to prison for alleged contempt.

Several people and groups, including the Nigerian Bar Association, have condemned the judge’s action as being arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Mr Effiong, who is based in Lagos State, Nigeria’s South-west, is a counsel to another lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong, in a defamation suit in which the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, is the claimant.

Mr Asuquo said he had a shocking experience on 21 June when he appeared on behalf of Mr Effiong before Mrs Obot in the defamation matter.

The lawyer said Mrs Obot took on him when he reminded her of a letter from their chambers that she should transfer the case to another judge.

“I saw the letter, and I did order that you should make a formal application so that the other party can respond, but you evaded service of that process,” Mr Asuquo quoted the judge to have said.

Mrs Obot, according to the lawyer, veered off the case to talk about Mr Effiong.

“What about that lousy boy? What’s his name again?” The judge said derogatorily.

The claimants’ counsel, Samuel Ikpo, responded, “Inibehe Effiong!”

“My Lord said, ‘Yes, that rude boy was found running in the street of Uyo, evading service and was chased after by the bailiff’.

“You people want to frustrate this case with this your application, you will not,” the judge said.

Mr Augustine Asuquo, Uyo-based lawyer
Mr Augustine Asuquo, Uyo-based lawyer

Mr Asuquo said Mrs Obot accused his chambers of bringing a herbalist (a journalist who was covering the proceedings) into the court.

“With utmost dismay, I couldn’t believe myself,” the lawyer said of the judge’s remarks.

“I then pleaded with my Lord that we never evaded any service of the process and that my colleague is not based in Uyo, but Lagos.”

Contempt of court?

Mr Effiong said his argument angered the judge who wanted to commit him to prison for contempt.

“In anger for daring to argue with my Lord, Her lordship quickly ordered the clerk of court to seize my phone, check if I was recording.

“When it was discovered that I wasn’t recording, my Lord asked that my phone be switched off and seized from me. As I stammered to utter another word, my Lord yelled at me to step out of the court and de-robe myself that she’s sending me to prison for contempt.

“I was shocked to my marrow. While I stepped out, my Lord continued to denigrate my colleague Inibehe for his ‘unruly’ behaviour, that he has influenced me with it. That I had better find a senior lawyer and attach myself and learn the proper principles of law and conduct.

“Regarding my committal, I was helplessly miserable because I had done nothing to warrant such an unthinkable attack. So I managed to utter some words of apologies to the court if my comment had ever offended the court. Another learned senior from the bar, equally stood up and appealed for my pardon. That was how I escaped the sentencing hammer.