Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot has sent a lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, to jail for one month from the courtroom even as he also ordered the arrest of a Premium Times reporter, Saviour Imukudo, over a case of defamation between Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel and a lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong.
The jailed lawyer, a human rights lawyer, was handling a case for his client before the judge sent him to prison straight from the courtroom.
Shortly after the court sitting, the jailed lawyer announced his travails on Twitter: saying: “I have been sent to Uyo prison by the Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot, for one month for defending Leo Ekpenyong in a libel suit filed by Governor Udom Emmanuel.”
The Premium Times reporter, Imukudo, was also arrested by the police in the same court on the orders of the Chief Judge. He was covering the court sitting when he was harassed and ordered out of the court before Justice Obot ordered his arrest.
It was gathered that the judge ordered Imukudo to leave the courtroom after he identified himself as a reporter with the Premium Times and that as he was walking out of the courtroom, the judge ordered a police officer to search him and confiscate his phone.
Meanwhile, the Coalition for Whistleblower Protection and Press Freedom (CWPPF) has condemned Imukodo’s arrest and has demanded the immediate release of the reporter and another journalist, John Adenekan.
In a statement by Programme Officer of the CWPPF, Stephanie Adams-Douglas, the Whistleblower said: “on Wednesday, July 27, Mr Imukodo, a reporter with Premium Times, covering a court proceeding, was first harassed and ushered out of the court before Judge Obot ordered his arrest.
“Sadly, this is not the first time journalists, media professionals, press freedom advocates and civil rights activists have been targets of assault by anti-democratic elements. Judge Obot has intentionally shown disregard for the Constitution which gives journalists the right to gather and disseminate information in the public interest.”
CWPPF condemned the raid by Nigerian police on the Abuja head office of the Peoples Gazette on July 23 and the arrest of Adenekan, an assistant managing editor.
According to the CWPPF: “these among several other attacks targeted at proactive individuals engaged in human rights and media freedom activism reflect the sustained assault on the civic space by elements resistant to being held accountable to the people.
“Specific case of the media, it is constitutionally mandated to hold the government and public office holders accountable to the people. For this reason, the Federal Government and Nigerians should see the news media and civil society groups as partners, not adversaries.
“While investigation is ongoing, we condemn the attacks on Mr Imukodo and Mr Adenekan and demand their unconditional release.”
The coalition said that it would continue to uphold its stance against any attack on human rights and press freedom in Nigeria and across the sub-Saharan region.