Inibehe Effiong, a lawyer and human rights activist, has rejected a “Freedom and Justice Award” that was to be given to him by a local branch of the African Church in Akwa Ibom State.
The award ceremony took place on Sunday, without Mr. Effiong showing up.
Mr. Effiong said he rejected the award from the St. Paul’s Parish of the church, Eket, because of “unnecessary expectation” from the church.
“I cannot accept an award that violates my principles and values,” Mr. Effiong said.
“My work as a human rights lawyer cum activist is totally humanitarian and selfless. I believe that any recognition or appreciation of my modest humanitarian activities by any individual or group should be without a request or expectation of reward.”
The young lawyer explained that he took to Facebook to publish his “Notice of Rejection” because he had previously used the same medium to publicise the church’s decision to bestow the award on him.
Richard Peter, the priest in-charge of St. Paul’s Parish, in his response to Mr. Effiong, explained what the lawyer meant by “unnecessary expectation”.
Mr. Peter said Mr. Effiong and others who were to receive different categories of awards from the church were expected to assist the church complete a “small project”. He did not mention what the project was all about.
“It was never a condition (for the award) or compulsory. But (just) an appeal for support,” Mr. Peter said.
The clergy told PREMIUM TIMES, Tuesday, that he was embarrassed by Mr. Effiong’s action.
He said he had never met with Mr. Effiong before, but that he had followed his activism through the social media, and that his nomination of the lawyer was to encourage him to touch the lives of people.
He said he called Mr. Effiong to brief him in advance that during the award ceremony the awardees would likely raise money publicly to support a church project, and that he did not want the lawyer to be surprised or embarrassed when it happened.
Buying of titles, awards and honours is a common practice among rich and influential Nigerians.
“Though I feel so sad about it, I want us to forget about what happened,” the clergy, Mr. Peter said.