On Monday, a magistrates’ court in Calabar ordered that nine men be remanded for kidnapping Ekanem Ephraim, a lead consultant in neurology at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH).
Police charged Effiom Asuquo, 60, Ndifreke Akpan, 29; Effiom Edet, 20, Asuquo Edet, 45 and Okon Okon, 37, with four counts related to unlawful possession of dangerous weapons and kidnapping.
Other suspects are Emmanuel Bassey, 35, Bassey Edet, 20, Effiong Edet, 35, and Patience Etim, 21.
Magistrate Mercy Ene did not take the suspects’ plea for want of jurisdiction.
The magistrate said the suspects were charged under section 4(1)(2), section 2(b), and section 5(1) of the Kidnapping Prohibition Law of Cross River State 2015.
She noted that under 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 ex parte motion for the suspects to be remanded in prison custody, brought before the court by counsel to the prosecutor, SP Edosa Ufumwen.
Mr Ufumwen had argued that the ex parte motion was pursuant to Section 290 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of the state, requiring the suspects to be remanded pending their arraignment before a high court.
This position was, however, challenged by the counsel to the defendant, Mustapha Igweshi, who argued that his clients were entitled to bail.
Mr Igweshi insisted that under section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, defendants should be presumed innocent and entitled to bail.
While arguing against bail for the defendants, the prosecutor said, “The defence counsel has no right of audience as the application before the court was made ex parte,” explained Mr Igweshi.
He added, “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 cannot grant bail but remand as enshrined under Section 290 of the ACJL of Cross River state.”
The magistrate subsequently ordered the suspects to be remanded in prison custody and adjourned the matter until September 25 for a ruling on the admissibility of bail.
There has been a public outcry regarding the kidnapping of Ms Ekanem on July 13, around the Atimbo area of Calabar.
The state chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) recently suspended a 40-day strike over her kidnap.