Indications emerged yesterday that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), All Progressives Congress (APC), and the president-elect, Bola Tinubu, might oppose request by the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, for live broadcast of the proceedings of the Presidential Election Petition Court sitting in Abuja.
PDP insisted on the live broadcast, saying because it has a watertight case against APC and Tinubu.
At yesterday’s pre-hearing session, lead lawyer to Atiku and PDP, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, while informing the court of the various processes and applications of the petitioners before the court and their dates of filing, urged the court to give priority to the application for live media coverage of the proceedings.
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“The application is innocuous, it will facilitate the hearing of the case,” Uche said, while urging the court to set it down for adoption.
But the respondents, which included INEC, Tinubu, and APC, acknowledged that they had been served the application, and they would respond accordingly and within the timeframe permitted by the law.
INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, in the course of adopting the answers in his pre-hearing information sheet, as his response to the petitioners’ case, admitted service of the application, adding, “We need time to respond.”
Similarly, Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujimi, SAN, referring to the “innocuous application”, said the second respondent was still within time and would respond to it.
Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, counsel to APC, while acknowledging service of the “innocuous application”, disclosed, “We are taking steps to respond appropriately.”
After all parties had identified their various processes in the case, presiding justice of the five-member panel, Justice Haruna Tsammani, announced that the matter had been adjourned till Thursday for continuation of pre-hearing.
Tsammani appealed to all parties to sustain the smooth relationship established at the inaugural sitting on Monday, and added that parties should meet to identify documents they were objecting to and those they were not, as well as harmonise on the issues for determination.
Atiku and PDP had on Monday filed a fresh application, seeking the court’s permission for television stations to carry live broadcast of the day-to-day proceedings regarding their petition.
In the motion dated May 5, and filed May 7, the petitioners specifically prayed 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.”
They predicated the application, among others, on 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 was a matter of public interest whereof millions of Nigerian citizens and voters were stakeholders with a constitutional right to receive.
Atiku and PDP stated, “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.”
But the PDP, which reiterated its demand for a live telecast, explained that it would enhance public confidence and transparency.
PDP said since INEC declared the results of the presidential election through a live telecast, there would be nothing wrong with a live telecast, as it would enhance public confidence in the entire process.
Addressing newsmen at the party’s secretariat, National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Debo Ologunagba, said, “The PDP and Atiku Abubakar have a watertight petition. Our facts and body of evidence are incontrovertible.
“Our party restates its confidence in the ability of the judiciary to discharge its constitutional duty dispassionately based on the evidence before it. At the pre-hearing session today, our legal team announced the filing of a Motion on Notice before the PEPC requesting for a live broadcast of the proceedings of the Court.
“This application, which is innocuous, is in the interest of openness, which is an essential ingredient of participatory democracy, especially as Nigerians are desirous of being directly involved at every stage of the electoral process.
“The PDP calls on Nigerians to remain at alert, informed and law-abiding as we commence this crucial phase in the quest to rescue, rebuild and redirect our nation from the misrule of the APC.
“The party commended all lovers of democracy for their solidarity and support in the bid by the PDP to retrieve the presidential mandate freely given to our party at the February 25, 2023 presidential election but brazenly stolen by the APC, aided by INEC.
“This solidarity is borne out of the fact that majority of Nigerians voted massively for Atiku Abubakar and they want that mandate retrieved and restored to the PDP and its candidate
“As you are aware, the pre-hearing session in our petition before the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) commenced today, Tuesday, May 9, 2023,” Ologunagba stated.