Don't Give Consent To Live Broadcast Of Court Hearing On The 2023 Presidential Election– Tinubu, APC Tell Tribunal

By Damilare Adeleye

The president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has opposed the request for live broadcast of day-to-day proceedings on petitions challenging his electoral victory at the just concluded presidential poll.

Recall that the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the February 25 poll, Atiku Abubakar, had in an application dated May 5, asked the Presidential Election Petition Court sitting in Abuja, to allow its proceedings to be televised.

The former vice-president of the country, who came second at the presidential election, through his team of lawyers led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, argued that the petition he lodged against the President-elect, was “a matter of national concern and public interest”.

He argued that the case involved the interest of citizens and electorate in the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, who he said voted and participated in the presidential poll.

On a similar note, the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, who is also challenging the outcome of the election, had also requested for live broadcast of the court proceedings.

However, in separate processes they filed before the court, both Tinubu and the APC, urged the court to dismiss Atiku’s application which they described as an abuse of the legal process.

Tinubu, in a counter-affifavit he filed alongside the Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, accused Atiku of deliberately attempting to expose the judiciary to public opprobrium.

They held that the court “is not a rostrum or a soapbox. It is not also a stadium or theatre. It is not an arena for public entertainment.”

The respondents maintained that Atiku’s request had no bearing with the petition, insisting that it was only aimed at dissipating the judicial time of the court

They stressed that Atiku failed to realise that the virtual court system that was adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic, was backed by a practice direction that was administratively issued by the President of the Court of Appeal.

“Another angle to this very curious application is the invitation it extends to the court to make an order that it cannot supervise.

“The position of the law remains, and we do submit that the court, like nature, does not make an order in vain, or an order which is incapable of enforcement,” the respondents added.

Besides, they argued that the application was at best, “academic, very otiose, very unnecessary, very time-wasting, most unusual and most unexpected, particularly, from a set of petitioners, who should be praying for the expeditious trial of their petition.”

“Petitioners have brought their application under Section 36(3) of the Constitution which provides that the proceedings of a court/tribunal shall be held in public.

“The word ‘public’ as applied under Section 36(3) of the Constitution has been defined in a plethora of judicial authorities to mean a place where members of the public have unhindered access, and the court itself, sitting behind open doors, not in the camera.

“Even in situations where a class action is presented, the particular people constituting the class being represented by the plaintiffs or petitioners are always defined in the originating process.

“Here, in this application, the public at whose behest this application has been presented is not defined, not known, not discernable.

“Beyond all these, it is our submission that the court of law must and should always remain what it is, what it should be and what it is expected to be: a serene, disciplined, hallowed, tranquil, honourable and decorous institution and place.

“It is not a rostrum or a soapbox. It is not also a stadium or theatre. It is not an arena for ‘public’ entertainment.

“With much respect to the petitioners, the motion is an abuse of the processes of this honourable court,” Tinubu argued.

On its part, APC, through its team of lawyers led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, told the court that contrary to Atiku’s claim, the presidential election “is not subject matter of any national concern”, insisting that the election was “well managed by INEC with turnout of voters in their millions”.

It argued that proceedings of the court was already being adequately coveted by the media.

“There is nothing unique or peculiar in the electoral dispute that emanated from the outcome of the 25th February 2023 election that is different from the earlier five presidential elections in the country since the Advent of the Fourth Republic and if anything, the February 25 2023 election referred to, has the least litigation since 1999,” APC added.

It further argued that live broadcast “will subject the proceedings of the court to unnecessary sensationalism and undue social media trial, which distracts from the kernel of the serious business before the court”.

Continuing its argument against the application, APC, averred that allowing live televising of the proceedings, “will defeat the protection afforded to witnesses, expose them to avoidable censure and put them in a precarious situation.

“Televising of election tribunal proceedings (live) will only cause unnecessary tension, violence and unrest among the public, which may lead to breach of peace”, APC added.