Why Tribunal Declined Live Broadcast of Election Petitions Proceedings

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The Presidential Election Petition Court has declined a request for a live broadcast of its proceedings, stating that the application lacks merit.

Justice Haruna Tsammani, who heads the five-member panel of the court, explained that Nigeria’s judicial policies and legislative framework do not support live telecasts of court sessions.

On Monday, the court rejected applications filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as well as the Labour Party and its candidate, Peter Obi. This decision came as the Supreme Court announced that it would deliver judgment on Friday regarding a suit seeking the disqualification of President-elect Bola Tinubu and Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima.

The PDP, through its counsel Mike Ozekhome, SAN, brought the suit, alleging that Shettima had received double nominations as a senatorial candidate and later as a presidential running mate. The party is requesting the apex court to overturn the Court of Appeal’s verdict, which dismissed the appeal on grounds of locus standi.

Atiku and Obi had separately requested the court to allow media practitioners and their equipment into the courtroom and enable live broadcast of the proceedings. They argued that such transparency would dispel doubts and promote fairness in the judiciary.

However, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the president-elect, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) opposed the applications, asserting that they pertained to the court’s policy formulation, which falls outside the jurisdiction of the Presidential Election Petition Court.

During the argument, Chris Uche, counsel for Atiku and the PDP, stated, “There is no single legislative or statutory position against it.” He emphasized that a live broadcast does not necessarily mean revealing the faces of the justices.

Abubakar Mahmoud, counsel for the electoral commission, contended that a live broadcast would “defeat the solemn atmosphere of the court.”

Wole Olanipekun, SAN, representing the president-elect, expressed surprise at the application, remarking, “The court is not a stadium or a crusade ground. It is not a theatre or circus.”

However, the court ruled that the petitioners’ argument regarding public proceedings “does not mean the court must sit in a stadium or a market square.”

“The application is a novel one in this country. It is not provided for in any of our rules or procedures,” the Presidential Election Petition Court declared.

Additionally, the court determined that the cases of Oscar Pistorius, O.J. Simpson, and others cited by the petitioners in their application did not apply to the Nigerian judiciary.

The panel emphasized that if the court were to allow the application, it would require the establishment of judicial policies and regulatory frameworks.

In a separate ruling, the court also dismissed the application by the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, seeking to televise the court proceedings. The grounds for rejection mirrored those of Atiku and the PDP.

When asked if Atiku planned to appeal the ruling, his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, stated that the demand for live telecasts was in the interest of the people. However, Atiku would focus on the main issue rather than expend energy on an appeal.

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