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C’River: Court remands 9 over abduction of UCTH professor



From Judex Okoro, Calabar

A Magistrate Court sitting in Calabar yesterday remanded nine suspects over the abduction of Prof. Ekanem Ephraim.

Prof. Ekanem, a lead consultant of neurology at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), was abducted from her premises around Atimbo in Calabar Municipality, on July 13, 2023, about 9pm by gunmen.

Since her abduction, there has been public outcry from various groups, including the state chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA). The NMA went on a month-long strike to protest her kidnap and suspended it, following assurance from the state government that action would be taken to rescue her.

So far, the suspects arrested over the ugly incident and are facing trial include Effiom Asuquo, 60; Ndifreke Akpan, 29; Effiom Edet, 20; Asuquo Edet, 45, and Okon Okon, 37. They were arraigned on four-count charges bordering on unlawful possession of dangerous weapons and kidnapping.

Other suspects are Emmanuel Bassey, 35; Bassey Edet, 20; Effiong Edet, 35 and Patience Etim, 21. The suspects were remanded by Magistrate Mercy Ene, who  noted that her court lacked the jurisdiction to try the matter.

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The magistrate said the defendants were charged under Section 4(1)(2), Section 2(b) and Section 5(1) of Kidnapping (Prohibition) Law of Cross River State 2015. She said only the state High Court has jurisdiction to try any offence charged under the law, in line with Section 12 of the law.

The magistrate subsequently granted the ex parte motion for the suspects to be remanded in prison custody brought before the court by counsel to the prosecutor, SP Edosa Ufumwen. Ufumwen had argued that the ex parte motion was in pursuant to Section 290 of Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of the state for the suspects to be remanded, pending their arraignment before a high court.

However, his position was challenged by the counsel to the defendants, Mr Mustapha Igweshi, who argued that his clients were entitled to bail. He insisted that by section 36 of the 1999 constitution, the defendants were still presumed to be innocent and, therefore, entitled to bail.

The prosecutor, while arguing against bail to the defendants, said: “The defence counsel has no right of audience as the application before the court was made ex parte. Secondly, since section 12 of the Kidnapping Prohibition Law of the state has stripped the court of the jurisdiction to entertain this charge,

the court can not grant bail but remand, as enshrined under section 290 of ACJL of Cross River State.”

After listening to both counsels, the magistrate subsequently ordered the suspects to be remanded in Correctional Service and adjourned the matter to September 9, 2023 for a ruling on the bail admissibility.

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