Tuesday, 9 July 2024.

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SAN raises alarm over violation of fundamental rights by C’River SSG

Ntufam Mba Ukweni SAN, a Calabar-based human rights lawyer, has reacted over what he described as intimidation and denial of fundamental rights of his clients by the Government of Cross River State who after receipt of money from his clients and leased out 1,415 hectares of cocoa through the office of the State Attorney General to immediate past administration, only to turn out to arrest and incarcerate lessees whom the government had entered into agreement with.

Below is the excerpt from the interview:

We came to court today and observed that the court is not sitting and that your clients who are claimants in the matter had been arrested and incarcerated by the Zone 6 Police. Can you just react to this?

The court is not sitting, we got here, It was even my colleague early this morning, I had already dressed up to start moving to the court when he called me and informed me that he was also here in Ikom and that he was surprised that the information that he got that the court will not sit.

He informed me and then I called the clerk and the registrar and they confirmed that the court was no longer going to sit. It’s quite discomforting, considering the state of the road and expenses involved coming from Calabar to Ikom, to get here and the court does not sit.

Is not quite a pleasing thing. They should have at least been a desk officer who would have made a call. Communication is made easy these days. Some of the courts even have a WhatsApp page for lawyers. They would have even put a call to us yesterday or sent us text messages that the court was not going to sit.

The National Industrial Court is very very efficient in doing that. Honourable Justice Elias Abua in Court 4 in Calabar has a WhatsApp page where information is given about the sitting and even the cost list for the day. If other judges will adopt that, it will be good. Because like I said, put the cost involved, the expenses, and the inconvenience of coming under this terrible road, and you get to Ikom, and you get here, and in the morning to the court, not even one clerk is in the court, to even say something to the lawyers. Is not good enough.

Well, I am suspecting but I pray, my suspicion should not be correct that they are some undue influence going on with the matter. Last week, that was when I started receiving calls that some of the claimants who are my clients were being arrested. In fact, they are still at Zone 6 Police Headquarters, Calabar, on a petition written by the Secretary to State Government (SSG). I see no reason why they should start arresting them on a complaint the government know. I see no reason if they want to know, except they refused to know.

There is no crime that is committed and the government wants to know the truth which they will not know the truth. So Secretary to the state government knows the person who died and knows those who killed the person. He cannot feign ignorance that he does know to come and start arresting innocent people.

He is violating their fundamental rights. And when we start taking action, it will appear as if we are fighting somebody. Because what he is doing is a fight against those people. As a lawyer, we are trained to protect the oppressed, and if we see it as what he is doing is oppressing them because what he is doing is using his position to oppress them, we will rise up to protect them. That position he is occupying is temporal, somebody has been there.

When a matter is in court they should allow the court to sit and do their work. The judiciary is not interfering with the executive in doing their work. So those in the executive arm should allow other arms of government to function. The constitution that had structured it that way, has a reason for structuring it that way. So they should allow those in other arms and other sectors to do their work, while they do their own.

When a matter is pending in court, it is better to allow the judge to have a clear view of the matter to dispense justice without favour, ill-will or affection which is the oath judges take.

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What is the next line of action?

Well, we got the indication that we should come on Thursday, being 27th of June 2024.

Talking about the claimants, I mean your clients whom you claimed were arrested and currently cooling their feet at the Zone 6 police net.

What would be your next line of action?

On the next line of action to be taken Mba said, am going to Calabar, I know today which is Thursday; their detention is already undue, if they arrested them of any crime they should charge them in court. They are not afraid of standing trial, for whatever offences that they are alleged to have committed. We are not afraid of defending them.

What is your message to the Government of Cross River state regarding this issue?

My message to the Cross River State government is for the government to be responsible and abide by the rule of law. Any government that is not responsible, and abides by the rule of law is bound to fall in the same trap. The person occupying the office, whatever office the person is occupying.

Anyone occupying a position in power is a temporary thing and is ephemeral. Power is transient. Nobody should see himself in office and see it as if that is the end of the world or has become God.

Government collected money from these people and signed an agreement with them. Done in the office of no lesser person but in the office of the Attorney General of the state who endorsed those agreements. They should allow them to stay on their respective farms. They would have time, after that, the farm is large enough. The areas that have not been allocated are vast areas. Government should learn to respect agreements. Everything is based on agreement even God and man’s existence is based on agreement. Any person who refuses to respect the agreement and abide by the agreement is bound to fail.

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Frank Ulom
Frank Ulom
Frank Ulom is an experienced Journalist, Blogger and Writer with several years of experience. His stories are based on community development and have brought positive change across board.

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