Human rights activist and lawyer, Barrister Inibehe Effiong, has written a petition to the Chief Judge Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, to complain about demands of security operatives that lawyers should surrender their phones at the entrance of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The lawyer said the order that legal practitioners should surrender their phones before being allowed to enter the court is undignifying and amounted to harassment of lawyers.
Inibehe further stated that lawyers are being ridiculed and always made to be at the mercy of mere security officials who belittle them while in their place of service through the order.
The lawyer added that the security operatives usually carry out the order which he described as 'degrading' without regard for the profession and with claim that they are acting based on instruction from above.
He questioned why workers of the court are allowed to go into the court premises with their mobile gadgets, while lawyers are prevented from doing so.
“My, Lord, it is somewhat embarrassing that legal practitioners are being treated as ‘security threats’ to the temple of justice where they are ministers by virtue of their call and enrollment as barristers and solicitors of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“Interestingly, staffs of the court are allowed to gain access to the court with their phones but lawyers, who are members of the bar an arm of the Nigeria judiciary are not,” Inibehe complained.
The activist lawyer argued that stopping lawyers from going into court with their phones amounted to denying them access to research and preventing then from attending to emergencies which may arise while they are inside the court.
“A lawyer who needs to meet with a bailiff of the court would be frustrated if he gets to the bailiff section only to realize that the particular bailiff he wanted to meet with is not within sight. A lawyer whose wife, child or other relation or client is in emergency situation would not be able to respond or attend to the situation because his phone which is the only means by which he could be contacted is not within reach, having been seized at the entrance of the court,” he argued.
While acknowledging that it is unethical for lawyers to operate their phones while in the courtroom or when a judge is on seat, lnibehe, however, urged the chief judge to consider reversing the order to give equal treatment to lawyers and other members of the society.