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Presidential Tribunal Reserves Ruling On Live Broadcast Of Proceedings

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal yesterday in Abuja, told Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, lead lawyer to Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that he was citing Old laws against the request of the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), H.E. @atiku Abubakar for live coverage proceedings of the court.

Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Haruna Tsammani, drew the attention of Olanipekun to a portion of the code of conduct for Judicial Officers being wrongfully cited to justify Tinubu’s opposition to live coverage of proceedings in Atiku’s petition.

At yesterday’s proceedings, Tinubu, APC and INEC had separately kicked against the request by Atiku for live coverage of proceedings to engender public trust and confidence in the court.

Atiku, through his lead counsel, Chief Chris Uche SAN, had cited the monumental importance of the petition nationally and internationally to back up his demand for a live telecast of the proceedings.

But in his bid to justify his vehement opposition, Olanipekun had cited paragraph 4.6 of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers, which he claimed prohibited Judicial Officers from broadcasting, televising proceedings sessions court sessions when he cited the disputed law following the submissions by Chief Chris Uche SAN, that there was no law or statute barring live telecast of court proceedings.

As Olanipekun was about to read the portion of the law, Justice Tsammani cut in and told the legal luminary that he was Citing the wrong law.

Justice Tsammani told Olanipekun SAN that the portion he was citing to justify his arguments against live coverage had been amended, and the cited portion had been deleted entirely. Accordingly, the Chairman of the Tribunal maintained that the portion claimed by Chief Olanipekun SAN was no longer in the new Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers and, as such, was not applicable.

While making a case for the live broadcast of Atiku’s petition, Chris Uche SAN had drawn the attention of the Court to Justice Oputa Panel of Inquiry that was telecast live and hailed all around the country.

The Senior lawyer said no respondent would be prejudiced if the petition was broadcast live. Specifically, he said that there was no single law or statute against the live broadcast of court proceedings adding that the fact that it has never been done before should be understood to mean that it cannot be done this time.

The submissions of Chris Uche SAN had drawn thunderous applause from the crowd, who clapped for sometime. However, the court announced that clapping was not allowed in Courts.

Atiku had approached the Court hearing his case against the outcome of the February 25 presidential polls for an order allowing live broadcast of the day-to-day proceedings regarding his petition because of its monumental importance.

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Atiku and the PDP, in the application, specifically prayed to 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 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 of which millions of Nigerian citizens and voters are stakeholders with a constitutional right to receive.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress APC in response, kicked against the request of the former Vice President for a live telecast of his petition challenging the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of The 2023 presidential election.

In their separate objections, the trio insisted that the solemn nature of the court would be put in jeopardy if granted.

Tinubu, in his vehement objections raised by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN on his behalf, said that Atiku’s request was not only surprising but dangerous as it was capable of prejudicing the Court itself.

Olanipekun said that the request for live coverage could turn the Court into a football stadium, a crusade ground, a theatre or film grounds where all manners of telecast could be permitted.

The Senior lawyer said that the Court should not grant an order that cannot be enforced or supervised, adding that the present moment is not the best time for such a request to be granted. However, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, which opposed on behalf of APC, faulted the request, adding that the facility and policy documents must be there for the application to be granted.

Fagbemi insisted that Atiku did not deserve to be granted the request. In its objections by its counsel, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud SAN, the electoral body said that Courtroom is for serious business and not a marketplace where anything goes adding that the request for live coverage is unnecessary and uncalled for and should not be granted.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Court, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, has reserved a ruling on the motion for a later date.