By Ime Silas

Following the arrest and arraignment of a social media influencer, Mr. George Udom, reportedly on charges of defamation on the prompting of the Akwa Ibom state government, his lawyer, Imo Akpan, Esq, has demanded that adequate conditions be provided to guarantee the safety of his client.

Barr Imo, who stated this in a press release today, Monday, a copy of which was obtained by TheProfile Newspaper, noted that his concerns were pertinent in view of the surrounding circumstances of the deadly Corona Virus, popularly known as Covid-19 in the state.

The statement reads: “We represent Mr. George Udom and hereinafter refer to him as “our client” and we write on his instructions and behalf.

Our client was arrested today at about 2.00am at his residence in Uyo by Policemen. The officers who came for his arrest at that curious hour forced their way into his apartment, causing some damage to property in the process and forcefully took him away”.

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While noting that the offenses alleged to have been committed by his client were bailable, the lawyer continued: “He was subsequently arraigned before the Chief Magistrates Court, sitting at FULGA street, Uyo on a 2-count charge bordering of Defamation. While in Court, he developed an allergy and coughed uncontrollably suggestive of a possible contagious infection. Consequently, the presiding Chief Magistrate ordered that he be isolated for 14 days and subjected to a medical test for COVID -19 at the Ibom Specialist Hospital. The offences for which our client was arraigned are ordinarily bailable offences.

“At Ibom Specialist Hospital, our client has been assigned to a room pending when his samples will be taken and the test conducted.

Of immediate concern to us is that our client has been denied access to and visits from Counsel, friends and family. Furthermore, our client has raised concerns about his safety given the general clinical condition of the room. Our client complains of lack of toiletries and beddings. We are informed that the immediate past occupant of the room was treated for COVID -19 thus fuelling compelling speculations of possible exposure to the virus. This view is not totally unfounded since many infections now take place within the four walls of the hospital environment and from caregivers to patients.

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“We note also that our client is “under isolation” and not “in detention” and therefore the ambience of his stay within the facility must reflect this reality. We decry a situation where discussions will hold between Lawyers of the Ministry of Justice and Medical personnel in the hospital touching on our client in our absence and without our participation.

It is necessary that we raise these concerns timeously to protect our client’s rights under the Law while we take further steps in that regards”.

Meanwhile, activists across the state have continued their call for an unconstitutional release of the Etinan-born social media influencer.