Nine suspects have been docked for allegedly participating in the abduction of Prof. Ekanem Ephraim, a lead consultant of neurology at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH).
The nine suspects were arraigned on four counts bordering on unlawful possession of dangerous weapons and kidnapping before a Magistrates’ Court in Calabar on Monday.
Prof Ekanem Ephraim was kidnapped by four hefty individuals pretending to be patients at her facility around the Atimbo area of Calabar at about 9:00 pm on July 13, 2023.
The Cross Rivers chapter of Nigerian Medical Association, NMA had declared a strike over the abduction of the Professor.
However, they were recently persuaded to call off their strike despite the fact that Prof. Ekanem has not been found.
There has been a public outcry over the abduction of Prof. Ekanem
The police identified the suspects as Effiom Asuquo, 60; Ndifreke Akpan, 29; Effiom Edet, 20; Asuquo Edet, 45 and Okon Okon, 37. The others are Emmanuel Bassey, 35; Bassey Edet, 20; Effiong Edet, 35 and Patience Etim, 21.
Magistrate Mercy Ene did not take the plea of the suspects for want in jurisdiction.
The magistrate said that the suspects were charged under section 4(1)(2), section 2(b) and section 5(1) of Kidnapping (prohibition) law, of Cross River State 2015.
She noted that by section 12 of the law, only the state high court has jurisdiction to try any offence charged under this law.
The magistrate subsequently granted the exparte 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 exparte motion was in pursuant to section 290 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of the state for the suspects to be remanded pending their arraignment before a high court.
This position was however 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, defendants are 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 exparte.
“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.”
The magistrate subsequently ordered the suspects to be remanded in Correctional Service and adjourned the matter to September 25, 2023, for a ruling on the bail admissibility.
The state chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) recently suspended a 40-day strike over the abduction of Prof. Ephraim.
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