The Presidential Election Petition Court yesterday refused a to grant a request sought by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and candidate, Mr. Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party (LP) and its standard bearer, Mr. Peter Obi, for a live broadcast of its proceedings.
The five-member panel of the court headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani held that the application lacked merit adding that Nigeria’s judicial policies and legislative framework have no provision for live broadcast of court sessions.
In their respective motions, Atiku and Obi had prayed the court for an order directing its registry and the parties on modalities for admission of media practitioners and their equipment into the courtroom.
They equally argued that the live broadcast of the proceedings would remove any doubts about the transparency of the judiciary and promote fairness.
But the respondents the Independent National Electoral Commission, the president-elect and the APC – opposed the applications, insisting that they related to policy formulation of the court, which is outside the PEPC’s jurisdiction as constituted.
Arguing the motion, counsel for Atiku and the PDP, Mr. Chris Uche, said, “There is no single legislative or statutory position against it.”
According to him, a live broadcast doesn’t necessarily mean the faces of the justices would be shown.
In his submission, Counsel for INEC, Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud, counsel for the electoral commission, averred that a live broadcast “will only defeat the solemn atmosphere of the court.”
The president-elect represented by Mr. Wole Olanipekun, expressed surprise over the application saying, “The court is not a stadium or a crusade ground. It is not a theatre or circus.”
Ruling in the application, PEPC stated that there was no legal basis for its proceedings to be broadcast live.
Citing section 36 of the Nigerian constitution, Tsammani held that fair hearing of court proceedings “does not amount to conducting court sittings on television or in a stadium.”
“The request (for a live broadcast of the court proceedings) has no utilitarian value. Live broadcast of court proceedings has no provisions in our statutory books.
“There is nowhere in the constitution and Electoral Act for televising court sittings,” he said.
The court further held that the issue of live broadcast of court hearings has to be “a judicial policy” that would be put in place by the heads of courts.
“Live broadcast of proceedings is a judicial policy.
“We cannot permit a procedure that dramatises the court’s proceedings.
“This application is devoid of merit and it is accordingly dismissed,” he said.
Reacting to the court’s ruling, the PDP said appealing against the tribunal’s decision was not on the cards.
The party’s national youth leader, Mr. Timothy Osadolor, said it would be a waste of time to appeal against the ruling.
“There is no need to appeal this ruling. It would be a sheer waste of time. The position the tribunal has taken should be respected but if truly they had nothing to hide, they would have granted this request.
“We recall the Human Rights Violation and Investigation Commission presided over by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa many years ago. Despite the sensitive issues the panel interrogated, the proceedings were transmitted live. So, what is too hard to televise in an election in which people want to see and know the truth?’’
The acting national publicity secretary of the LP, Mr. Obiora Ifoh, also reacted saying the party would abide by the position of the court.
He told Punch that though live-streaming the proceedings would afford Nigerians the opportunity to have a clear idea of what is going on in the court, appealing the ruling would prolong the case.
“We won’t appeal the ruling. There is no time because we want this case. We actually wanted that live telecast because we want Nigerians to see how transparent the process will be. We are apostles of transparency,” he said.