The Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Justice Ekaette Obot, has threatened to put behind bars a Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong (Esq) for accusing her of being biased or likelihood of bias in the ongoing libel suit by Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel and Senator Effiong Bob against his client, Leo Ekpenyong, Esq.

It could be recalled that in suits No HU/279/2019 between deacon Udom Emmanuel VS. Leo Ekpenyong Esq and No: HU/273/2019 between Senator Effiong Bob VS Leo Ekpenyong respectively delivered on 2021by Justice Obot, the defendant was found guilty of libel and was asked to pay the governor a sum of N1.5 Billion and a sum of N500Million to Senator Effiong Bob.

Counsel to the defendant, Mr Effiong, however, filed a motion for the judgement to be set aside, insisting that his client was not given a fair hearing; the prayer was later granted by the court.

However, the defence counsel also filed another motion praying the Chief Judge to recuse from the case, alleging prejudice and likelihood of bias.

During a proceeding held at High Court 1, Chief Judge’s court, Barracks road today, the defence counsel said “My Lord, my client Mr Leo Ekpenyong (Esq) has alleged bias, or likelihood of bias of the honourable Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Honourable justice Ekaette Obot.


“That is why we filed an application before this court on the 23 of June 2022 asking the Honourable Chief Judge to disqualify himself from hearing or presiding over this matter. Defendant has raised that the grounds of that application clearly stated but not limited to the fact that in the course of this proceedings my Lord has personally berated us as counsels. I have been described in venomous terms, we know that by law, a court should not address a counsel in that manner. The seeming hostility that characterized the proceedings to set aside the default judgement is discouraging.

“Why we are also asking that my Lord should reassign this matter is because my Lord has already delivered a judgement though in default against Mr Ekpenyong where he asked him to pay gov Udom Emmanuel a sum of N1.5 billion and I came before this court asking that, that judgement should be set aside having been delivered in error and in flagrant violation of right of my client to fair hearing because the date that judgement was given, no hearing notice was issued and the registrar gave that date off record. The court agreed with us that the right of our client was violated and set the case aside.

“We are saying because you have already found the defendant guilty in this matter it is only just and fair that those matters should be reassigned to another Judge to be heard denovo, that is the practice my Lord, for example if the court of appeal has set aside a judgement and sends back the case to be tried before the lower court it usually goes with a consequential order that a new judge should handle that matter, so if the defendant said that he doesn’t have confidence in the honourable Chief Judge of the State to hear his case, it’s only fair that, the matter be reassigned to preserve the dignity, impartiality and honour of the court.

“All we are saying is that we do not have confidence in my Lord to interprete my matter.”

Irked by the submissions of the defence counsel and his (Mr Effiong) refusal to sit when the counsel to the Claimant, Samuel Ikpo asked him to do so, the Chief Judge said the court will not condone unruly behaviour in the courtroom, warning of her power to send him behind bars or petition him to the National body.

According to Justice Obot, “You cannot say that before me, you can’t talk to your senior like that, I don’t know when this man learnt law. You are trying to intimidate your senior, did you see the type of counter you filed over miscellaneous matters I overlooked? I still set aside that judgement only for you to capitalize on it and you want to play on the intelligence of the court? Do not allow me to send you to prison!”

“Saying that when a matter is set aside that it must be reassigned to another Judge is not the practice, it is a lie from the pit of hell.”

The Judge, however, proceeded with the hearing of the witness of the Claimant and later adjourned the case to 27 to 29 July for conclusion of Claimant and hearing of defendants case as well as motions filed even when the defence counsel said the dates were not convenient for him insisting that the case was that of defamation and no urgency in it for accelerated hearing.

Counsel to the Claimant, Mr Ikpo refused to talk to journalists at the end of the session insisting that the matter is sub judice.

But, the defence counsel who spoke to journalists said, “what is worrisome is despite the tendency of the application challenging the jurisdiction of the court raising the issue of bias on the last date in this matter, my Lord allowed the claimant in the two cases to call witnesses even when the jurisdiction of the court is being challenged and those witnesses were called in my absence even when I told them that I missed my flight and we were not there to cross examine them, that was why yesterday we filed a motion to set aside the proceeding including the order for the continuation of hearing.

“Even the proceedings of today were in error and should be set aside and I told the court that the motion should have been determined, my Lord did not determine the two motions and yet insisted that we continue with the hearing. We were basically forced to go into trial today.

“My Lord consistently has accused me of bringing a herbalist to court, how on earth will I do that? I’m not a traditional worshipper but a christian.”

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