On Saturday, 23rd May, 2020, through the CLO WhatsApp Group, Barr. Inibehe Effiong brought to the attention of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Akwa Ibom State Branch, the continuing and unlawful detention of his client, Mr. Kufre Carter, at the Department of State Services (DSS) even after the perfection of his judicially reviewed bail conditions.
Considering the seriousness and the gravity of the allegations in the complaint of Barr Inibehe Effiong, on Monday, 25th May, 2020, at about 2:30 p.m., the CLO Public Complaints Committee went to the DSS office with a view to meeting with the State Director of the DSS in order to hear him out but was told that the Director was not on seat since it was a public holiday. The CLO team was not allowed access into the premises of the DSS.
On Monday, 25th May, 2020 at about 3:45 p.m., the CLO team called the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Akwa Ibom State, Barr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, to secure an appointment for a meeting to also hear his side of the matter. The Attorney General drew the attention of the CLO team to his pending appeal and motion for stay of execution of the court order admitting Mr. Kufre Carter to bail. Even so, he agreed to meet with the CLO team on Wednesday, 27th May, 2020.
On Tuesday, 26th May, 2020 at about 1:00 p.m., Barr. Inibehe Effiong in company of one Barr. Augustine Asuquo kept an appointment with the CLO Public Complaints Committee in the CLO’s office in Uyo on his complaint. The meeting was attended by the Chairman of the Committee, Comrade Nsemeke Udoakpan, Secretary; Barr. Christopher Ekpo; Barr. Godknows Njoku; Barr. Eyibio Okon, Barr. David Augustine, and Rev. David Essien and was presided over by the State Chairman of the CLO, Otukeong Franklyn Isong. The meeting lasted for about 3 hours.
Having heard from Kufre Carter’s lawyers, Barr. Inibehe Effiong and Barr. Augustine Asuquo, the CLO team specifically asked them what they want the CLO to do in the matter and they responded that the CLO should intervene. Kufre Carter’s lawyers repeatedly told the CLO team that they had perfected the bail conditions of their client before the Attorney General filed his Notice of Appeal and Motion for Stay of Execution. They also informed CLO that they have been denied access to their client by the DSS. CLO informed Carter’s lawyers of CLO’s effort to meet with the director of the DSS on Monday, 25th May, 2020.
CLO also informed Carter’s lawyers of the proposed Wednesday’s meeting with the Attorney General.
To help facilitate CLO’s meeting with the State Director of the DSS, it was Kufre Carter’s lawyer, Barr. Augustine Asuquo, who gave out the mobile phone number of the Deputy Director of the DSS to the State Chairman of CLO.
On Wednesday, 27th May, 2020, the meeting of the CLO with the Director of DSS was secured through the Deputy Director of DSS, whose phone number was given to the CLO chairman by Kufre Carter’s lawyer, Barr. Augustine Asuquo. Due to indisposition, the meeting with the Attorney General was shifted to Thursday, 28th May, 2020.
At about 2:00 p.m. of Wednesday, 27th May, 2020, the CLO team made up of the State Chairman, Franklyn Isong; Vice Chairman, Nsemeke Udoakpan; Secretary, Barr. Christopher Ekpo; Treasurer, Barr. Godknows Njoku, and Rev. David Essien, met with the Director of the DSS and his team at the DSS office, Uyo.
At the meeting with the DSS director, the CLO stated their mission, requesting the immediate release of Mr. Kufre Carter. The CLO observed that the continuing detention of Mr. Kuifre Carter after the fulfilment of his bail conditions at the court was unlawful and against the principle of the rule of law.
The Director of the DSS stated that Mr. Kufre Carter remained in the custody of the DSS following the service on the Command of the Notice of Appeal and the Motion for Stay of Execution by the Attorney General of the State. The director of DSS further explained that the legal department of the DSS had advised that the Notice of Appeal and the Motion for Stay of Execution effectively stayed the warrant of release issued by the trial magistrate court.
Reacting, the CLO argued that the bail conditions having been fulfilled and the executed bail bond with the warrant of release having been signed and issued by the trial magistrate for service on the DSS, the order admitting Kufre Carter to Bail had been executed, hence, there was nothing to be stayed. The CLO, therefore, demanded that Kufre Carter should be released, especially considering that the order of the high court varying his bail conditions had stated, for the avoidance of doubt, that upon the fulfilment of the bail conditions, Kufre Carter should be released without any further condition.
After several hours of interaction with the DSS director and his team, the Director of DSS told the CLO that he was inclined to release Mr. Kufre Carter to the CLO on good counsel and that he has no personal reason for keeping Mr. Kufre Carter in the custody of the DSS beyond the court order.
Mr. Kufre Carter was immediately brought to the meeting hall and a medical doctor was invited by the DSS Director to examine him in the presence of members of the CLO and the DSS team. At that point, the CLO asked Mr. Kufre Carter if he was willing to go home with the CLO to which he answered in the affirmative, stating that he wants to leave immediately with the CLO as he is asthmatic and allergic to cold. The CLO team left the DSS premises with Mr. Kufre Carter to the CLO’s office where Mr. Kufre Carter was formally handed over to his lawyers, Barr. Inibehe Effiong and Barr. Augustine Asuquo, who came in company with a man they said was Mr. Kufre Carter’s relative and surety.
Notwithstanding the release from the DSS custody, the previous day, of Mr. Kufre Carter, on Thursday, 28th May, 2020, at about 11:00 a.m. the CLO team met with the Attorney General in his office at the State Secretariat, Uyo. In the team were: the CLO Chairman, Franklyn Isong; Vice Chairman, Nsemeke Udoakpan; Secretary, Christopher Ekpo; Treasurer, Barr Godknows Njoku; former State Chairman of CLO, Barr. Ibrahim Muhammed, and Rev. David Essien.
At the meeting, the CLO sought to hear from the Attorney General his response to the complaint brought to CLO by Barr Inibehe Effiong on the unlawful detention of his client, Mr. Kufre Carter, even after the conditions of his bail had been fulfilled.
The Attorney General explained to the CLO that he had filed and served on Barr. Inibehe Effiong his Notice of Appeal and Motion for Stay of Execution on the 18th May, 2020, immediately after the ruling of the high court varying the bail conditions imposed by the trial magistrate court, which ruling he (Attorney General) disagreed with. The Attorney General said he had also served the Director of the DSS with the Notice of Appeal and the Motion for Stay of Execution on the same 18th May, 2020. He said that Barr. Inibehe Effiong perfected the bail conditions and secured the warrant of release of his client, Kufre Carter, from the trial magistrate on the 22nd of May, 2020, about five days after he had been served the Attorney General’s Notice of Appeal and Motion for Stay of Execution, the latter of which he (Inibehe’s) had filed his response. The Attorney General further said that he had not done any wrong but was only exercising his right of appeal. He also stated that the trial magistrate was wrong to have signed and issued the warrant of release days after being served the Notice of Appeal and Motion for Stay of Execution. The Attorney General wondered whether an accused person convicted and sentenced to death by a trial court could be executed while his Notice of Appeal and Motion for Stay of Execution were pending at the appellate court. The meeting of the CLO with the Attorney General ended at about 12:15 p.m.
The issues of the bail and the release pursuant to the bail of Mr. Kufre Carter having been now resolved, the CLO calls for an amicable resolution of the substantive matter at the trial magistrate court. As far as the CLO is concerned, the CLO is neither a party nor a Counsel in the matter. The CLO only intervened in the interest of the civil society and in furtherance of the course of justice following the complaint presented to the organisation by Barr. Inibehe Effiong, lead counsel to Mr. Kufre Carter.
The CLO recalls that it had executed similar mandates in the past, including its mediatory role in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly crisis in 2018, its intervention in the fracas between the Itam Motor Park Monitoring Committee and Julius Berger in 2019, to mention but a few. The CLO in the State is actively involved in advocacy and the demand for good governance and has been a regular participant at public hearings in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, the latest of which public hearings the organisation attended on Wednesday, 27th May, 2020 on a Bill for a Law for Tuition Free Education and Examination and Other Related Matters.
For the avoidance of doubt, the CLO, in the course of its interventions, does not seek glory, crave for knighthood or canvass for medals or even publicity.
Comrade (Barr) Christopher Ekpo