Presidential Election Petition Court: Five-man panel says no to live broadcast of proceedings

Presidential Election Petition Court: Five-man panel says no to live broadcast of proceedings

The petition filed by legal counsels of the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party’s (LP) Peter Obi, has been rejected by the five-man panel of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) led by Justice Haruna Tsammani on Monday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. 

Gossip Mail reports that the panel rejected the petition because it lacked merit.

The court in its position held that it is not under obligation to grant such request because no regulatory framework guiding it.

It added that request such as this where cameras will be allowed into the court room is a major judicial policy that must be backed by law.

Justice Tsammani held that the “The court can only be guided and act in accordance with the practice directions and procedures approved by the President of the Court of Appeal.

“We cannot permit a situation that may lead to dramatization of our proceedings.”

The court said that the request will not any way aid the judges in determining their verdict on the matters before it saying the request presented on unsubstantial claim that it would benefit the electorates.

Another reason for rejecting the petition was that the petitioners – Atiku, Obi and their parties failed to establish how live broadcasting of the proceedings would enhance their case adding that it would add relevance in determining the petitions brought before it.

Meanwhile, Atiku and Obi had through their counsels Chief Chris Uche, SAN, and Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, SAN had reiterated that the result declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) stating Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is the winner of the February 25 presidential election was a matter of monumental national concern and public interest.

They said the case challenging Tinubu as winner should be a matter of interest of the millions of Nigerians who participated in the election.

In the petition they filed, they want “An order, directing the Court’s Registry and the parties on modalities for admission of Media Practitioners and their Equipments into the courtroom”.

“With the huge and tremendous technological advances and developments in Nigeria and beyond, including the current trend by this Honourable Court towards embracing electronic procedures, virtual hearing and electronic filing, a departure from the Rules to allow a regulated televising of the proceedings in this matter is in consonance with the maxim that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.

“Televising court proceedings is not alien to this Honourable Court, and will enhance public confidence.”

But in a counter-affidavit filed by Tinubu’s legal team, they want the court to dismiss the application describing it as an abuse of the legal process.

Also, they accused Atiku and Obi of deliberately attempting to expose the judiciary to public opprobrium.

The court “is not a rostrum or a soapbox. It is not also a stadium or theatre. It is not an arena for public entertainment,” the team said.

“Another angle to this very curious application is the invitation it extends to the court to make an order that it cannot supervise.

“The position of the law remains, and we do submit that the court, like nature, does not make an order in vain, or an order which is incapable of enforcement,” the respondents added.

The application was at best, “academic, very otiose, very unnecessary, very time-wasting, most unusual and most unexpected, particularly, from a set of petitioners, who should be praying for the expeditious trial of their petition.”

“Petitioners have brought their application under Section 36(3) of the Constitution which provides that the proceedings of a court/tribunal shall be held in public.

“The word ‘public’ as applied under Section 36(3) of the Constitution has been defined in a plethora of judicial authorities to mean a place where members of the public have unhindered access, and the court itself, sitting behind open doors, not in the camera.

“Even in situations where a class action is presented, the particular people constituting the class being represented by the plaintiffs or petitioners are always defined in the originating process.

“Here, in this application, the public at whose behest this application has been presented is not defined, not known, not discernable.

“Beyond all these, it is our submission that the court of law must and should always remain what it is, what it should be and what it is expected to be: a serene, disciplined, hallowed, tranquil, honourable and decorous institution and place.

“It is not a rostrum or a soapbox. It is not also a stadium or theatre. It is not an arena for ‘public’ entertainment.

“With much respect to the petitioners, the motion is an abuse of the processes of this honourable court,” Tinubu argued.

Meanwhile, counsel to the APC led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, told the court that contrary to Atiku’s claim, the presidential election “is not subject matter of any national concern”, insisting that the election was “well managed by INEC with turnout of voters in their millions”.

“There is nothing unique or peculiar in the electoral dispute that emanated from the outcome of the 25th February 2023 election that is different from the earlier five presidential elections in the country since the Advent of the Fourth Republic and if anything, the February 25 2023 election referred to, has the least litigation since 1999,” APC added.

“It will subject the proceedings of the court to unnecessary sensationalism and undue social media trial, which distracts from the kernel of the serious business before the court”.

Continuing its argument against the application, APC, averred that allowing live televising of the proceedings, “will defeat the protection afforded to witnesses, expose them to avoidable censure and put them in a precarious situation.

“Televising of election tribunal proceedings (live) will only cause unnecessary tension, violence and unrest among the public, which may lead to breach of peace”, APC added, even as it urged the court to dismiss the application in the interest of justice.

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