Inibehe Effiong’s misadventure and the misleading gospel by Femi Falana & his twelve disciples

The peaceable and tolerant disposition of Governor Udom Emmanuel has propelled all manners of insidious calumnious campaigns against his person and his government. For example, the allegation that the Governor is ordering the security clampdown on dissenting voices is very baseless and rather laughable. But that itself can best be answered by the court of public opinion, where every member of the public can see in Mr Emmanuel, a transparent and accommodating leader who has eschewed political bias in his administration of the State. This perhaps explains why a lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong, could throw caution to the wing and go all out to attack the personality of the Governor, accusing him of bribing some judges to secure judgement in 2019 in favour of Senator Chris Ekpenyong who had defeated Senator Godswill Akpabio.

Today, it is quite sad and embarrassing that the plot by convicted lawyer Inibehe Effiong through outdated tactics to delay justice on the defamation suit against Barr Leo Ekpenyong can receive the signatures of 13 lawyers in the guise of suing the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, His Lordship, Justice Ekaette Obot over a demand that is purely administrative.

It is evident that Femi Falana, SAN, and his co-lawyers do not mean well for Barrister Inibehe Effiong. Otherwise, they would have been more concerned about teaching him how the court works outside Facebook and other social media where his legal practice flourishes more to the point that he was already assuming the status of a self-appointed solicitor general on Facebook. It was this illusion that blinded him into daring a legitimate law court presided over by a State Chief Judge.

It is worthy of note that on July 27, the court was entertaining the last witness brought by the prosecution counsel, and a certain reporter with Premium Times, Saviour Imukudo was caught video recording the session with his mobile phone, everyone knows that this is clearly wrong and the judge ordered the journalist out of the Courtroom. Inibehe rejected all forms of persuasions to continue his cross examination of the witness, insisting that the court was an open court and the journalist had the right to record proceedings. When he ran out of ideas on how to go about his case, he turned his nozzle on the policemen in the courtroom, alleging that he feels unsafe among police officers. Inibehe Effiong knew that the day in question was the day the NLC in Akwa Ibom joined in the solidarity strike with Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and as such security around the court premises and on Wellington Bassey Way, was a bit more intensified to forestall a breakdown of law and order. Between Inibehe and the other members of the public who monitored the proceedings, who ought to have been afraid to see policemen? How can Inibehe be ordering the judge to rescind his decisions as if he was talking to a school boy? Imagine telling the Judge to rescind his decision on the reporter and to order the policemen out of the court?

The action of Inibehe’s cheerleaders to sue the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State raising teething questions about the sincerity and intent of the legal team. These are supposedly renowned lawyers who know court proceedings at their fingertips, and know that the pocket lawyer and Facebook solicitor was wrong to challenge the court and the Chief Judge by his utterances before the Judge despite repeated pleas and warnings by His Lordship to that he should respect the sanctity of the court. When all efforts to remind him that he is a lawyer, and that he was in court not his court of Facebook failed, he was convicted of contempt.

Do Femi Falana, SAN and his legal team know that their client, Inibehe Effiong does not know a simple expression as “as the court pleases?” Possibly he is the only lawyer in his generation that such expression sounds strange to?
Be that as it may, if the convict was uncomfortable with his sentence, the proper thing to have been done would have been to approach the appeal court to appeal the verdict of the lower court. This is a known norm of the court. Alleging that the chief judge refused to give them the certified true copy of the judgement, shows how much they have lowered the sanctity of the justice temple. But these are people who should know, and of course, who know that the chief judge is not responsible for issuing the certified true copies of judgements. This is strictly an administrative function, domiciled with the court registrar. Where then is the basis of suing the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State on this?

This leads to more questions for Femi Falana and co: Are they doing this because it is in Akwa Ibom State? In all of Femi Falana’s outstanding legal practice, do they sue judges in Yoruba land for delivering judgements that are not in their favour? Or is Akwa Ibom State another guinea pig for wrong precedence after onshore/offshore oil persecution from Yoruba lawyers? Except, the lawyers would say what is good in courts and judges in Yoruba land is not good for court and judges in Akwa Ibom State. Otherwise, this watery suit against the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State by this team of Yoruba lawyers is a height of embarrassment to their legal profile.
We should not even forget that the case Inibehe Effiong was coming to defend is a weighty defamation of the governor of Akwa Ibom State, where his client, a loquacious lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong alleged that Justice W.O Akanbi and Justice Ebetu were bribed by the Governor Udom Emmanuel to the tone of $1.5m, to procure judgement in favour of Dr. Chris Ekpenyong in the senatorial elections. If Mr Inibehe Effiong is bereft of defense lines for his client, then he should not resort to these well-rehearsed dramas to delay the course of justice. How long will such a drama last? This cannot save him and his client in the evidently bad case. Sadly, we are witnessing insults by emergency lawyers who want to use one attack on a judge to cover an earlier attack. And senior lawyers are supporting them because it is in Akwa Ibom State.

In as much as we agree with Falana and co that Mr Inibehe Effiong had no budding tutelage as a lawyer, his ignorance does not mean that anything goes in court because it is in Akwa Ibom State. Judges in Akwa Ibom State deserve as much respect as their colleagues in other parts of Nigeria, including the ones that are highly revered in Yoruba land. If a lawyer cannot insultingly question the authority of a judge to give orders in Yoruba land, then such should not be tolerated in Akwa Ibom State.

We are counting days for Mr. Inibehe Effiong to exhaust his sentence so that the substantive case of defamation against Mr Leo Ekpenyong instituted by the governor of Akwa Ibom State, His Excellency, Mr Udom Emmanuel could resume in court. We advise Inibehe against further deliberate delays of justice on the matter again by similar unskilled innovation of court delay. Not even the ill-motivated suit against the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State by Falana and his 12 disciples can stop justice from being done on the matter. The suit is a wrong gospel by Femi Falana, SAN and his twelve disciples. Such wrong gospel cannot win any legal soul in their favour and that of their drowning client, Mr Inibehe Effiong. All we want is that justice should be served, and timely too. We are waiting patiently.

• Essien Ndueso writes from Eket, Akwa A’Ibom State

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