Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the presidential election held on February 25, has petitioned the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) for an order allowing live broadcast of the day-to-day proceedings of the Court regarding his petition. This request was made to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT).
In their application that was submitted to the Tribunal on May 5th, Atiku and the PDP specifically prayed for “An order directing the Court’s Registry and the parties on modalities for admission of Media Practitioners and their equipment into the courtroom.”
The application that was filed on their behalf by their team of lawyers led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN was predicated on, amongst other grounds, the fact that the matter before the Honourable Court is a dispute over the outcome of the Presidential Election held on 25th February 2023, a matter of national concern and public interest, involving citizens and voters in the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, who voted and participated in the said election; and the Independent National Electoral Commission
They argued that because it was a one-of-a-kind electoral dispute with a one-of-a-kind constitutional dimension, it was a matter of public interest, and that millions of Nigerian citizens and voters had a constitutional right to receive information about it.
“The Court has the discretion to allow the public access to proceedings either physically or through electronic means. This is an essential component of the Court’s constitutional duty to hold proceedings in public, which requires the Court to hold proceedings in public.
“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 also be seen to be done. This is in accordance with the maxim that justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done.”
They made the following statement: “Televising court proceedings is not foreign to this Honourable Court, and doing so will increase public confidence.”
You may recall that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), in a communique issued at the conclusion of a meeting of its National Executive Committee (NEC) on March 23 in Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, asked the judiciary to permit live broadcasting of the court hearings on election petitions, particularly the cases involving the presidential election.
In addition to that, a group that went by the name Leaders of Thoughts and Legal Icons had shown their support for the initiative. In order to accomplish this goal, the organisation had extended an invitation to citizens of Nigeria to lend their support to the initiative by signing an appeal that was posted on commonbliceng, an online platform that is non-partisan.
In a similar vein, leading human rights attorney Femi Falana, SAN and key leaders of thought of Project Nigeria Movement (PNM), a body of eminent leaders of thought in the country led by foremost constitutional lawyer Prof. Ben Nwabueze, have backed calls for live broadcast of the election petition trials. These individuals are members of Project Nigeria Movement (PNM).
In a similar vein, former Director General of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and communications scholar, Professor Tonnie Iredia, had called for televised election petition proceedings in Nigeria in the interest of national concern and public interest, as envisaged by the 1999 Constitution (As Amended). This was done in an insightful published paper.
However, there has not yet been a date decided upon for the hearing on the new application that Atiku and the PDP have submitted.
Reports indicate that the Presidential Electoral Petition Tribunal (PEPT) will begin hearings on the petitions submitted by candidates who were dissatisfied with the results of the presidential election held on February 25 on this coming Monday.