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Atiku Vs Tinubu: Court reserves ruling on request for live broadcast

The Presidential Election Petition Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, reserved its ruling on the application seeking an order for live broadcast of day-to-day proceedings on petitions challenging the declaration of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as winner of the presidential election that held on February 25.

A five-member panel of the court, led by Justice Haruna Tsammani, adjourned to rule on the application that was brought by a former Vice President and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, after all the parties adopted their processes for and against the request.

Moving the application through his team of lawyers led by Chief Chris Uche, SAN, Atiku, who came second at the election, maintained that the petition was of “a monumental national importance”.

Uche, SAN, argued that no single legislation is the country forbade the court from allowing its proceedings to be televised.

“Election cases are suis generis and the fact that it has never been done before does not mean that it cannot be done.

“My lords should remember that there has been an Oputa panel that was televised and the nation benefited immensely from it.

“The whole nation is interested in this matter and there is no one that will be prejudiced in any way.

“If the results that we are contending before this court was not transmitted, at least, let the proceedings be transmitted,” Uche, SAN, added, with his submission drawing applause from the gallery.

Not happy with the clapping, Chairman of the panel, Justice Tsammani warned that such conduct was not permissible in court.

In his response, Uche, SAN, said: “My lords, I apologise on their behalf and that is exactly the point we are making here. If they have the benefit of watching the proceedings from home, they will learn that clapping is not allowed in the courtroom and even if they clap, it will be from their home.

“Granting this application will even make counsel to be more committed and regulate themselves better knowing that the eyes of the public are on what we are doing here. It is very important, for the development of the law,” Uche, SAN, added.

On its part, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, through its lead counsel, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, told the court that it had on May 12, filed a counter-affidavit to oppose the request for live telecast of the proceedings.

Mahmood, SAN, sought the dismissal of the application on the premise that it must be backed by an administrative practice direction from the President of the Court of Appeal.

“My lords, the courtroom is a public place that is accessible to all, subject to the availability of space.

“Moreover, live streaming is different from televising. The one that is done in the United Kingdom is strictly managed by the court itself.

“The courtroom is not for theatrics. It is for serious business and in all jurisdictions that it is done, there are clear guidelines and procedures.

“We don’t want to be put on pressure of having cameras being on our faces. The application is a matter of judicial policy that should be executed properly and not on adhoc basis. It is unnecessary, uncalled for and will defeat the essence of justice.

“We humbly urge my lords to dismiss it,” INEC’s lawyer added.

While opposing the application, Tinubu’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipeku, SAN, urged the court to dismiss it with substantial cost.

“The court is not a stadium. It is not a crusade ground. It is not a theater or a cinema. My lords we are not here for a circus show,” he added.

He argued that the code of conduct for legal practitioners which he said barred lawyers from broadcasting, recording or televising court proceedings.

“The court should not make an order that it cannot supervise. Our profession is a very sober one. The UK only recently issued a practice direction for proceedings to be televised only during sentencing.

“It is rather embarrassing that the petitioners who should be concerned about the expeditious hearing of their case, chose to bring this application,” Olanipekun, SAN, added.

Likewise, counsel for the APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, argued that there is a difference between trial in public and trial by the public.

He accused Atiku of attempting to reduce the proceedings of the court to a Big Brother show.

“My lords if this application is not dismissed, it will get to the point where even when my lords are going to the toilet, the cameras will zoom in.

“That is what they do in the Big Brother show. The court is for serious business, so, we urge my lords to refuse the application”.

After it had listened to the parties, the Justice Tsammani-led panel reserved its ruling on the issue.

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