The Chief Magistrate’s Court of Akwa Ibom State, Fulga Street, Uyo presided over by Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Archibong on Tuesday 24th January 2017 admitted three leading members of the Next-of-Kin of Late Primary School Teachers in Akwa Ibom State (1991 – date) to bail following their arraignment by the Nigeria Police Force. The accused persons are Eno-obong Kenneth; Benson Udo Benjamin and Utibe Sunday Okon, all male.
The three count charge brought against them read thus:
COUNT 1: “That you Eno-obong Kenneth Eshiet ‘M’; Benson Udo Benjamin ‘M’, and Utibe Sunday Okon ‘M’ and others now at large on the 23rd day in the month of January, 2017 at the Akwa Ibom State Government House Main Gate, Uyo in the Uyo Magisterial District did conspire amongst yourselves to carry out unlawful purpose to wit: unlawful assembly, attempt to commit suicide, serious assault on a Police officer and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 556 (1) (f) of the Criminal Code Cap 38 Vol. II Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria 2000.”
COUNT 2: “That you Eno-obong Kenneth Eshiet ‘M’; Benson Udo Benjamin ‘M’, and Utibe Sunday Okon ‘M’ and others now at large on the 23rd day in the month of January, 2017 at the Akwa Ibom State Government House Main Gate, Uyo in the Uyo Magisterial District with intent to commit felony did conduct yourselves in such a manner that causes fear to the neighbourhood and tumultuously disturb the peace of the Government House Workers by protesting without permit and without any reasonable occasion protest for benefits you are not entitled to and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 78/79 of the Criminal Code Cap 38 Vol. II Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria 2000.”
COUNT 3: “That you Eno-obong Kenneth Eshiet ‘M’; Benson Udo Benjamin ‘M’, and Utibe Sunday Okon ‘M’ and others now at large on the 23rd day in the month of January, 2017 at the Akwa Ibom State Government House Main Gate, Uyo in the Uyo Magisterial District did willfully unlawfully assault one Deina R. Abibo ACP on official duty as Police Officer and administering word of proclamation as regards your unlawful procession and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 365 of the Criminal Code Cap 38 Vol. II Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria 2000.”
After the charge was read, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty. A lawyer from Inibehe Effiong Chambers, Mr. Augustine Asuquo represented the accused persons and made an application for all of them to be admitted to bail on liberal terms.
Ruling on the application, the presiding Chief Magistrate, Emmanuel Archibong admitted the accused persons to bail on the condition that each or them will produce a surety who will sign a bail bond of N200,000.00 and present evidence of ownership of landed property within the jurisdiction of the court. They sureties were also ordered by the court to deposit copies of their identity cards and two passport size photographs.
The next-of-kin of late primary school teachers in Akwa Ibom State who lost their lives while in active service between 1991 to date have not been paid the entitlements of their late parents and relatives.
On Monday members of the group were at the Akwa Ibom State Government House to register their grievances only for the Nigeria Police Force to teargas, molest, harass, arrest, detain and arraign three leading members of the group in an attempt to stop the group from continuing with thier persistent agitation.
The case has been adjourned to the 21st of February 2017 for hearing.
Meanwhile, Lagos-based legal practitioner and human rights activist, Mr. Inibehe Effiong whose law firm has offered pro bono services to the accused persons in a statement on Monday berated the state governor over the matter.
“Rather than use the police to intimidate the group, Governor Udom Emmanuel should pay their entitlements without further delay. The State Government cannot allude to paucity of funds as an excuse for not paying the Next of Kin of those who spent several years imparting knowledge. Instead of dancing on the graves of the late teachers by arresting Benson, Kenneth and Utibe or any other member of the group, Governor Emmanuel should use part of N14.5billion he recently received as the State’s share of the part of the reimbursement for the over-deduction on the Paris Club loan to settle the entitlements of members of the group.” The fiery lawyer said.
“Since the inception of the current administration in Akwa Ibom State, there has been little respect for democratic values and human rights. Security agencies have been deployed indiscriminately to attack innocent citizens for merely exercising their fundamental rights. The reign of tyranny in Akwa Ibom State has to stop.
“Nigerian citizens have the right to freedom of expression under Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), including the right to protest peacefully without a police permit as was held by the Nigerian Court of Appeal in the celebrated case of INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE V. ALL NIGERIA PEOPLES PARTY (2007) 18 NWLR (Pt.1066) 457.” Effiong added.