Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Court, has reserved ruling in an application for live broadcast of the proceedings regarding the petition by candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
A five-member panel of justices of the PREPEC, yesterday, announced that “judgment was reserved”, shortly after lawyers to parties in the petition argued for and against the granting of the application.
Atiku and PDP, who came second in the February 25 presidential election had pleaded with the court to “allow the televising of the proceedings in his petition given its significant monumental importance.”
Their lawyer, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, in moving the application also prayed the court for an order directing the modalities for the implementation of the live telecast.
However, the three respondents – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – opposed the request, arguing that it was inappropriate.
INEC’s lawyer, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, noted that if granted, it would defeat the solemn atmosphere and the seriousness of the court.
Mahmoud, in addition, argued that with the flooding of the courtroom with all kinds of cameras on their faces including the judex, the proceedings would be brought under undue pressure.
Similarly, Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, stated that live telecast of the proceedings was not necessary, because the proceedings was already being given effective coverage with the array of journalists seated in court.
While arguing further that it was not a good time for the profession, Olanipekun submitted that the granting of the request could put court staff, lawyers and even witnesses at risk.
He observed that Nigeria was not yet ripe for the live broadcast of court’s because necessary facilities and laws were not in place to guide its implementation.
On his part, APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who equated the televising of court’s proceedings to the ‘Big Brother Naija “, series, said that the application if granted would invade the privacy of even the judges.
Fagbemi further claimed that if granted, it would lead to a situation where petitioners in governorship, National and State Houses of Assemblies election would be demanding for live streaming of their proceedings.
“We don’t have the structure and facility, no policy document” he said, stating that even in climes where televising of court’s proceedings were permitted, it was still limited, excluding when witnesses were giving evidence,” he said.
After listening to the submissions of counsel, Justice Haruna Tsammani announced that judgment was reserved to a date that would be communicated to parties.
Meanwhile, during the report on harmonisation, it was disclosed that parties agreed not to oppose all documents that emanated from the INEC in the conduct of the February 25 presidential election.
The documents must, however, be certified as true reflection of the original copies in line with the provisions of the law guiding admissibility of documents.
These resolutions were conveyed to the 5-man panel of Justices of the Presidential Election Petition Court hearing the joint petition of Atiku and PDP challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the disputed election, yesterday.
In a related case, INEC, Tinubu, the Vice President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, APC and one Kabir Masari, who was initially nominated by Tinubu as Vice Presidential Candidate, have all asked the PREPEC to dismiss the petition of the Allied People’s Movement (APM) for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
APM is the third political party challenging Tinubu’s declaration as winner of the February 25, 2023 presidential election.
During the report on harmonisation, while stating that parties have agreed not to object INEC’s certified documents, Mahmoud observed that the petition of the APM was grossly incompetent, has no focus, lacked legal direction and liable for dismissal.
He based his call for dismissal on the grounds that the petition was challenging “place holder” and did not disclose any reasonable cause of action.
Tinubu and Shettima who were represented by Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, on their parts, argued that the petition was worthless and as such no energy ought to be dissipated on it.
It was the submission of the senior lawyer that the APM petition lacked focus or any clear direction and should be dismissed outright.
The APC, represented by Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN made similar demand for striking out or outright dismissal of the petition mainly on grounds of incompetence.
Akintola insisted that virtually all laws relating to election petition including the Election Judicial Procedure Practice Direction 2022 were violated thereby rendering the petition toothless.
But APM’s lawyer, Mr Sheu Abubakar, maintained that the petition met all requirements of the law and asked the court to discountenance the request for its dismissal.
Abubakar, who vehemently defended the competence of the petition told the court that the objections by the respondents were also not laid in line with provisions of the electoral laws.
Chairman of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani after taking arguments from the parties in the petition adjourned ruling indefinitely.