Tribunal chairman bars journalists from covering election petition proceedings

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“Please, all press men that are here, there is no camera recording, audio recording , phone recording nor reporting of the panel, Thank you.”

The Chairman of the Local Government election petition tribunal in Ogun State, Rotimi Onafadeji, on Wednesday barred journalists from covering proceedings at the panel.

Journalists had gone to the Court 1 of the Magistrate Court in Isabo, Abeokuta, the state capital, the venue of the panel.

At around 8:46 a.m., journalists had arrived the court room, waiting for the panel members to arrive.

As soon as the panel members arrived and set their eyes on journalists, the chairman instructed journalists not to record or cover the proceeding.

“Please, all press men that are here, there is no camera recording, audio recording , phone recording nor reporting of the panel, Thank you,” Mr Onafadeji said.

But Monday Mawah, a lawyer representing the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) at the panel, opposed the chairman, insisting that journalists must be a part of the proceedings.

“Media is part of the system, they must be allow to see what is going on,” the lawyer said.

“Because it is all about transparency. It is not all about justice, it must be justice that is seen to be done by the common man and not just we in the court. How will the common man see what is being done here if the media is barred from covering proceedings.”

The tribunal begun sitting in Ogun State with the petitions filed by the NNPP and other political parties to seek redress over an alleged electoral fraud in the last council poll in the state.

NNPP, among others, had approached the tribunal with petitions to challenge the LG polls held in the state on July 24.The council polls, in which the All Progressives Congress won in all the local governments, was marred by allegations of electoral fraud.Several political parties in the state, including the NNPP and the Action Alliance are challenging the APC’s victory at the panel.

Sitting

On Wednesday, Mr Mawah told the panel that the Ogun State Independent Electoral Commission (OGSIEC) has not filed a response to the petition filed by his client, the NNPP.

Responding, the tribunal chairman gave OGSIEC one week to file a response to the NNPP.

Speaking with journalists after the sitting, the NNPP lawyer said the tribunal had adjourned the case till October 29 to allow the respondent reply to the petition.

“For today, we are okay. Just as I made it known to the tribunal that there is no need for them to waste anytime in responding,” he said. “We expected that by the next date, and I have also told the tribunal not to waste anytime, file everything they need to file, so that we will not waste anytime when we are coming for the trial.”

In his reaction, the counsel to OGSIEC, Adeola Olatoye, promised to file all the necessary responses before the next adjourned date saying that the electoral body wants a speedy trial.“The tribunal gave us the whole week and advised us to be time conscious so as to ensure a speedy trial of the petition,” he said.“It has been adjourned so that we can do the needful. We have not filed our reply so will do that before the next date, 29th of October. Before then, we will have done the needful and we hope, very soon, the court will decide.”

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