A human rights organisation, Citizenship Civic Awareness Centre otherwise known as Democracy Vanguard has condemned the brutal violation of human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong by warders of the Nigerian Correctional Service.
SaharaReporters on Thursday reported that Effiong’s beard was forcibly shaved off by prison officials.
Describing the action as draconian, the group called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to boycott courts in Akwa Ibom state in solidarity with Effiong and other inmates that are subjected to judicial and prison brutality in silence.
Effiong, a human rights lawyer, who is also the National Legal Adviser of the African Action Congress (AAC), was in court to defend Leo Ekpenyong, a lawyer, in a libel suit filed by Udom Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom when he was sent to prison.
The lawyer was sentenced without due process on July 27, 2022, after questioning the judge for allowing armed security agents with AK-47 rifles into the courtroom.
SaharaReporters on Wednesday reported that the lawyer was secretly transferred from the Ikot Ekpene Medium Security Custodial Centre to the Uyo Custodial Centre.
The newspaper also learnt on Thursday that his beard was forcibly shaved off by prison officials.
“Staff of the Nigerian Prison Service at the Uyo Medium Security Custodial Centre have forcibly shaved Inibehe Effiong’s beard. We were denied access to see but someone who saw him confirmed this,” a source told SaharaReporters earlier on Thursday.
But Democracy Vanguard in a statement in reaction to the treatment meted out to Effiong, signed by its Executive Director, Adeola Soetan, said for such a barbaric action to have happened in a prison now called correctional centre, has ridiculed that name —correctional —and any objective in focus for the change of name.
It unequivocally stated that no prisoner or detainee should be subjected to any punishment outside his/her warrant of sentence by the court. “If not, the prisons may be turned into an abattoir of humans and their human rights.”
In the statement titled “Why shaving Effiong’s Head in “His Absence”? You can’t imprison the rights of a prisoner. Somebody must go to jail,” the organisation queried “what did Barrister Effiong do to warrant another round of persecution, attack, ridicule, embarrassment and conscious attempt to kill him in spirit and physically.”
The statement partly read, “…why did some lawless warders also contemptuously called as “senior resident prisoners” by inmates, barb the head (give a haircut) of Barrister Effiong in “his absence”?
“MKO once popularized the saying that “you cannot shave somebody’s head in his absence”. In Yoruba mythology, presence or absence of a person can be physical or spiritual. What the criminal warders have done was to have shaved the head of the consistent human rights and pro-democracy people’s lawyer in “his absence” without his consent.
“They must pay dearly and legally for this draconian act of barbarism. That it happened in a prison now called correctional centre for its transformation and humane objective ridiculed that name correctional and any objective in focus for the change of name. This is an issue the Internal Affairs Minister should address immediately and fish out the bad eggs among his prison staff.
“Handcuffing and parading a prisoner in prison without any violent act or intention is strange and embarrassing. The only set of people that are always handcuffed or legchained are prisoners on death row, failed jailbreakers or sodomists. In actual fact, sodomists and failed jailbreakers are isolated in a room and given “monkey chain” treatment and released from monkey chain after many days, that’s if they ever survived it after a week.
“So what did Barrister Effiong do to warrant another round of persecution, attack, ridicule, embarrassment and conscious attempt to kill him in spirit and physically? Even Boko Haram terrorists and economic terrorist looters were not subjected to such inhuman treatment. This is unacceptable, condemnable, draconic, illegal, brutal, uncivilized, provocative and shameful.”
It added, “No prisoner or detainee should be subjected to any punishment outside his/her warrant of sentence by the court. If not, the prisons may be turned into an abattoir of humans and their human rights.
“NBA should declare a boycott of court in that state of lawlessness and impunity as solidarity with Effiong and other inmates that are subjected to judicial and prison brutality in silence and to protect our laws and humanity from prowling beasts everywhere.
“All discerning citizens and conscientious people of the world should rise in unison to condemn prison brutality, defend human rights both in the “outside world” and inside world”. Solidarity!.”