Falana condemns torture of Inibehe Effiong in prison, vows to press charges against warders

Human rights lawyer Femi Falana has condemned “the brutal torture” of Inibehe Effiong by officials of the Uyo Custodial Centre.

Mr Effiong was illegally sentenced to one-month imprisonment for “contempt of court” by the chief judge of Akwa-Ibom State, Ekaette Obot.

The lawyer was in court to defend his client Leo Ekpenyong who was standing trial for a defamation case instituted by Governor Udom Emmanuel.

Peoples Gazette on Thursday reported how Mr Effiong was subjected to inhuman treatment by prison warders who forcefully shaved his hair with blunt objects.

Reacting to Mr Effiong’s worsening ordeal, Mr Falana said the lawyer has been subjected to humiliation by being paraded before prison inmates.

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He explained that the torture meted out to Mr Effiong was a violation of his fundamental right as guaranteed under the country’s constitution.

“The brutal torture meted out to Inibehe by the prison officials in Akwa Ibom State constitutes a violent violation of his fundamental right to dignity guaranteed by section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”, Mr Falana pointed out in a statement.

The continued incarceration of Mr Effiong has been attracting condemnation, especially from activists, who have taken to social media with the hashtag #FreeInibeheEffiong.

On Thursday, a coalition of civil society groups staged a protest in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom capital, to condemn the continued incarceration of Mr Effiong while also calling for his immediate release.

Meanwhile, Mr Falana has said Ms Obot had refused to furnish him with a certified true copy of her judgment convicting the lawyer to prison “In order to prevent Inibehe from appealing against the conviction and sentence.”

He explained that the action of the chief judge already contravenes section 36(7) of the Constitution which prescribes that every convict is entitled to the certified true copy of the judgement of the court that tried and convicted him.

“However, the warrant signed by the Judge directed that Effiong be held in Ikot Ekpene Correctional Centre, Akwa Ibom throughout the duration of his prison term. But the order of the Court was secretly varied today as Inibehe was forcefully transferred to Uyo Correctional Centre in handcuffs even though there was no violence on his part. At the Uyo Correctional Centre, Inibehe was forced to sit on the bare floor while his head was shaved together with his beard. He was thereafter subjected to more horrendous humiliation and paraded before all prison inmates”, Mr Falana added in the statement.

The renowned lawyer promised to press charges against officials involved in the infringement of the rights of Mr Effiong.

He said “It is painful to note that the unprovoked violence unleashed on Inibehe is a sad reminder of the case of Minere Amakiri, then a reporter with Nigerian Observer, the old Bendel State owned newspapers whose head was shaved with a broken bottle in 1973 on the orders of Alfred Diette-Spiff, the then Military governor of the State.

“Apart from challenging the egregious infringement of the fundamental right of Inibehe to the dignity of his person and fair hearing we shall press for the prosecution of the officials who inflicted torture on him contrary to the provision of section 2 of the Anti Torture Act of 2017. The penalty for the offence of inflicting torture on any person in Nigeria is 25 years imprisonment without any option of fine.”

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