The incarcerated human rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, has been abused in the Uyo prison, with his hair and beard forcefully scraped by prison officials, a lawyer has said.
The lawyer, Augustine Asuquo, is the head of the Inibehe Effiong Chambers in Uyo.
“When I met him that yesterday (Wednesday) I hardly could recognise him if not that he is a familiar person to me,” Mr Asuquo told PREMIUM TIMES, Thursday, while narrating how Mr Effiong’s right to human dignity has been allegedly abused by prison officials.
“You know, he has his identity through his beard. So, when he came out walking barefooted, I said, why are you like this? He said, ‘Look at me, they just brought me here and I was forced to sit on the bare floor. They brought a clipper to scrape my hair and my beard.
“He said he did not consent to it. He said he insisted he doesn’t want his hairs to be cut, he doesn’t want his beards to be scraped, and they said no, that for medical reasons he must not keep his beard, while he is inside the prison,” Mr Asuquo said.
“They pushed him to sit on the bare floor, brought out a clipper and cut his hair, and beard.”
The lawyer said the person who came to cut Mr Effiong’s hair and beard ironically had long hair and beard.
“It was so pathetic that I deliberately refused to write about this on Facebook,” he said. “He has used that beard for several years. It had become his identity.”
“Someone who had committed no offense shouldn’t be subjected to this kind of treatment,” Mr Asuquo said, adding that the action of the prison officials was clearly to demoralise and weaken the human rights lawyer.
“He (Effiong) said the prison officials were telling him, here we don’t care about who you are. Here, we don’t treat you as a human being.”
The Chief Judge of Akwa Ibom State, Ekaette Obot, committed Mr Effiongto prison on 27 July after the lawyer, who is handling a defamation suit for a client, objected to the presence of two armed police officers in the court.
Mr Effiong was meant for Uyo prison, but because of COVID-19 he was taken to Ikot Ekpene, where he served for 14 days.
He was moved to Uyo prison on Wednesday, where he would serve the rest of his 30 days’ imprisonment.
“He was handcuffed and bundled inside the van as if he were a common criminal,” Mr Asuquo said. “They didn’t even give him time to take his bath.”
Why we cut his hairs, beard – Prison official
A spokesperson for the Nigerian Correctional Service in Akwa Ibom, Richard Metong, said in a statement on Friday that Mr Effiong’s hairs and beard was scraped “as a security measure as well as a routine practice in the facility”, and that the lawyer “obliged and willingly allowed the barber using a clipper and not a blunt instrument as speculated on the social media”.
He said it was not true that Mr Effiong was handcuffed and assaulted while being transported from Ikot Ekpene to Uyo.
“For the purpose of clarity, Barr. Inibehe Effiong is safe, secured, unhurt and not tortured or humiliated. His dignity and human rights are not violated in any way,” Mr Metong said.