The Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the just concluded presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has approached the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) hearing his case against the outcome of the February 25 presidential polls, for an order allowing live broadcast of the day to day proceedings regarding his petition.
Atiku and the PDP in an application dated May 5, is specifically praying the tribunal 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 filed on their behalf by their team of lawyers led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, is predicated amongst other grounds 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 International Community as regards the workings of Nigeria’s Electoral Process”.
They contended that being a unique electoral dispute with a peculiar constitutional dimension, it is a matter of public interest whereof millions of Nigerian citizens and voters are stakeholders with a constitutional right to receive.
“An integral part of the constitutional duty of the Court to hold proceedings in public is a discretion to allow public access to proceedings either physically or by electronic means.
“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.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), had in its communique at the end of its National Executive Committee meeting in Birnin Kebbi March 23 urged the judiciary to allow for live broadcast of court hearings on election petition, particularly the presidential election cases.
Also, a group, under the aegis of Leaders of Thoughts and Legal Icons, had supported the initiative. To this end, the group had invited Nigerians to sign up on an appeal on commonbliceng, a non-partisan online platform, in support of the initiative.
Similarly, leading human rights lawyer, Femi Falana 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 election petition trials.
In the same vein, former Director General of Nigeria Television Authority and communications scholar, Prof Tonnie Iredia had in an incisive published paper called for televising election petition proceedings in Nigeria in the interest of national concern and public interest, as envisaged by the 1999 Constitution (As Amended).
No date has been fixed for hearing in the fresh application.