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
The Presudential Election Petition Court (PEPC) has reserved ruling in the application filed by Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for a live broadcast of the proceedings.
The court took the decision after the application was moved and argued by respective counsel for the petitioner and the respondents.
Although the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC); the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his political platform(APC), all urged the court to dismiss the application, counsel to Atiku and PDP, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), expressed the importance of the application in urging the court to grant it.
Counsel to INEC, Abubakar Mahmoud(SAN); Wole Olanipekun (SAN) for Tinubu and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) for APC all attacked the competence of the application and urged the court to dismiss same.
The respondents counsel submitted in their counter affidavit that the application is outside the jurisdiction and competence of the election tribunal as the issues raised touches on policy formulation.
“The application also touches on the powers and jurisdiction invested in the President of the Court of Appeal by the Constitution, over which this honourable court as presently constituted cannot entertain.
“The application touches on the administrative functions, which are exclusively reserved for the President of the Court of Appeal.
“The application is aimed at dissipating the precious judicial time of this honourable court.
They equally submitted that the court is not a rostrum or a soapbox and not also a stadium or theatre. It is not an arena for ‘public’ entertainment.”
In application dated May 5, 2023, Atiku and his political party, the PDP, are 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.