The Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja on Monday rejected the applications for live broadcast of proceedings in Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi’s petitions challenging Bola Tinubu’s victory as Nigeria’s president-elect.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku and Labour Party’s Mr Obi had urged the court to allow a live broadcast of its sessions owing to the magnitude of the dispute.
But a five-member panel of the court headed by Haruna Tsammani ruled on Monday that there was no legal basis for its proceedings to be broadcast live.
Citing section 36 of the Nigerian constitution, Mr Tsammani held that fair hearing of court proceedings “does not amount to conducting court sittings on television or in a stadium.”
“The request (for a live broadcast of the court proceedings) has no utilitarian value. Live broadcast of court proceedings has no provisions in our statutory books,” Mr Tsammani noted. “There is nowhere in the constitution and Electoral Act for televising court sittings.”
The court further held that the issue of live broadcast of court hearings has to be “a judicial policy” that would be put in place by the heads of courts.
“Live broadcast of proceedings is a judicial policy,” he said.
Mr Tsammani said, “We cannot permit a procedure that dramatises the court’s proceedings.
“This application is devoid of merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” the court said.
Atiku’s lead counsel, Chris Uche, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), argued that his client’s petition against Mr Tinubu’s victory “is a matter of national concern…”
Mr Uche explained that the suit concerns the Nigerian electorate and should be televised to afford them the opportunity of getting first-hand information about the Presidential Election Petition Court.
Similarly, Mr Obi urged the court to grant his request for a live broadcast of its sessions.
However, Mr Tinubu and the APC opposed the application to have the court’s proceedings televised.
They argued that “the court of law must and should always 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,” Mr Tinubu contended.
APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, similarly urged the court to dismiss PDP’s application which he likened to a call for a reality television show known as Big Brother Naija.
He said the court should not allow such a live broadcast like it is done in a show called “Big Brother Naija,” a submission that triggered laughter across the packed courtroom.
But Mr Uche, in his reply, cautioned that Mr Fagbemi was trying to trivialise his application by likening it to a call for a show like Big Brother Naija.
The five-member panel led by Haruna Tsammani subsequently reserved a ruling on the application. The panel did not fix any particular date for the ruling.
The president of the body of Nigerian lawyers, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Yakubu Maikayu, in March, called for the live broadcast of court hearings of all election petition cases across the country to boost the disappearing public confidence in the judiciary.
Apart from the presidential election petition court, there are election petition tribunals set up across the country to hear disputes arising from this year’s governorship, National Assembly, and state assembly elections.
There are three petitions pending at the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja to challenge Mr Tinubu’s victory in the 25 February presidential election.
Apart from the petition filed by Atiku, the other petitioners are the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM).
Alleging various infractions and various forms of manipulation of results during the disputed poll, Atiku and Mr Obi have called on the court to declare them the winner of the election or cancel the election and order a fresh one.
APM, on its part, called on the court to declare Atiku, the candidate of the PDP, as the winner of the election.
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