Monday, April 15, 2024

PRESIDENTIAL POLL TRIBUNAL: Tinubu, APC record first major victory

… as Court rejects being ‘turned to market square’

  • .Refusal not a setback for us – PDP
  • .S’Court to deliver verdict in PDP’s suit against Tinubu, Shettima May 26

The Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal, led by Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, has dismissed the application for live broadcast of its proceedings.

Justice Tsammani who read the ruling on Monday dismissed the application for lack of merit.

He said the application was a policy issue that could only be established by the Judiciary, but added that no such judicial policy or regulatory framework had been put in place to support the application.

Atiku and the People’s Democratic Party, in an application dated May 5, filed by their counsel, Chris Uche, specifically prayed the court for an order directing the court’s registry and the parties on modalities for admission of media practitioners and their equipment into the courtroom.

Similarly, the Labour Party and its Presidential candidate, Peter Obi, filed an application in which they argued that Nigerians, being stakeholders, have a right to real-time information about the election petition proceedings.

A five-member panel of justices of the court had on Thursday, last week, announced that: “Judgment is reserved”, shortly after lawyers to the parties in the petition argued for and against the granting of the application.

The PDP and Atiku, who came second in the February 25 presidential election, are pleading with the court to “allow the televising of the proceedings in this petition given its significant monumental importance”.

Their lawyer, Chris Uche (SAN), in moving the application, also prayed the court for an order directing the modalities for the implementation of the live telecast.

However, the three respondents — the Independent National Electoral Commission, President-elect, Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress, opposed the request, arguing that the request was inappropriate.

INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), noted that if granted, it would defeat the solemn atmosphere and the seriousness of the court.

Mahmoud in addition argued that with the flooding of the courtroom with all kinds of cameras on their faces, including the justices, the proceedings would be brought under undue pressure.

Similarly, Tinubu’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), stated, “Live telecast of the proceedings is not necessary, because the proceedings are already being given effective coverage with the array of journalists seated in court.”

While arguing further that it was not a good time for the profession, Olanipekun submitted that granting the request could put court staff, lawyers and even witnesses at risk.

In addition, he observed that Nigeria was not yet ripe for the live broadcast of court’s proceeding because necessary facilities and laws were not in place to guide its implementation.

On his part, APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), who equated the televising of court’s proceedings to the ‘Big Brother Naija’ series, said that the application if granted would invade the privacy of even the judges.

Fagbemi further claimed that if granted, it would lead to a situation where petitioners in Governorship, National and State Houses of Assemblies elections would be demanding live streaming of their proceedings.

“We don’t have the structure and facility, no policy document,” he said, adding that even in climes where televising of court’s proceedings was permitted, it was still limited; “excluding when witnesses are giving evidence.”

After listening to the submissions of counsel, Justice Haruna Tsammani announced that judgment was reserved to a date that would be communicated to the parties.

However, delivering ruling in the motion on Monday, Justice Tsammani, held that the request was not rooted from the petition Atiku filed before the court.

Besides, the court stated that if granted, the request was capable of turning the court to a stadium or a market square, adding that public proceedings “do not mean the court must sit in a stadium or a market square.”

In addition, the court observed that the case of Oscar Pistorious, O.J Simpsons and others, cited by petitioners in their application, does not apply to the Nigerian Judiciary.

While Justice Tsammani observed that “the application is a novel one” in the country and had not been provided for in any of the court’s rules or procedures, he held that for the court to do that, judicial policies and regulatory frameworks had to be put in place.

The panel accordingly dismissed the motion for lacking in merit.

Refusal not a setback for us – PDP

However, the PDP said that the refusal of its application for a live broadcast of the presidential election petition proceedings was not a setback.

Speaking with journalists after the tribunal’s decision, Eyitayo Jegede, counsel to the PDP, said instead of dwelling on refusal, the party and its candidate were ready for the pre-hearing report.

“There is no setback here. The court, in its wisdom, decided that the subject of our application on the live streaming and open telecast did not, in any way, connect with the merit of our petition.

“The petition is separate; it is ongoing. The application did not succeed to have the televised version of the proceedings.

“As far as we are concerned, we are now set for hearing.

“Tomorrow, we will be here by God’s grace for the pre-hearing report that will determine the progress of the petition and the time the petition will be heard and concluded,” Jegede said.

On whether the party still has confidence in the court, the lawyer replied, “For us, we are prepared for hearing.”

On the merging of all the petitions challenging the election of Tinubu, Jegede noted that the issue was compelled by statute, adding that they had no objection to it.

Why we kicked against merger of petitions – Tinubu, APC

Similarly, the APC and its standard bearer, Bola Tinubu, on Monday, rejected the proposal to consolidate the three surviving petitions being heard at the Presidential Election Petition Court.

Earlier on Saturday, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Haruna Tsammani, had referred counsels to the petition to consult paragraph 50 of the 1st Schedule of the Electoral Act on the idea of consolidating the three surviving petitions to determine them as one.

It directed the counsels to consult their clients and report back the outcome of the meeting.

Upon the resumed sitting on the matter, counsel for the APC, Charles Edosomwam, SAN, said consolidating the petitions would be against the interest of justice.

He said the justice factor was a major issue for consideration adding that “the grounds are different and the wide ranges of issues raised by parties were also different.”

He said, “Major issues before this court will be lost like a pin in a haystack if the consolidation is considered.

“Moreover, it will be pragmatically impossible for the respondent to effectively defend the case.

“It is our position that the issue of justice cannot be sacrificed at the altar of convenience.”

In a similar vein, Tinubu, through his team of lawyers led by Akin Olujinmi SAN, argued that consolidating all the petitions would strongly affect his ability to defend all the issues that were raised against him.

He asserted that “the petitioners are seeking different reliefs.”

“The issue of justice should be a restraint on the power of this court to exercise its discretion in granting the order for consolidation,” Olujinmi said.

He argued that the provision of the Electoral Act the court referred to was not absolute.

“My lords, when the exercise of power is subject to the limitation of some conditions, then it cannot be said that the exercise is mandatory.

“There are issues raised in one petition that are not there in others. The issues vary. The same goes for evidential issues that are based on pleadings that have been exchanged by parties in this case.

“We want to make it clear at this stage that it will be absolutely difficult for us to consent to consolidation of the petitions,” he said.

However, the Independent National Electoral Commission said it would leave the issue of the consolidation to the court’s discretion.

Although, the court had begun the proceeding with five aggrieved parties challenging the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, however, the Action Alliance withdrew its case, with the Action Peoples Party following suit two days later, thus leaving the PDP, the Labour Party, and the Allied Peoples Movement as the three surviving petitioners.

Supreme Court to deliver verdict in PDP suit against Tinubu, Shettima May 26

In another development, the Supreme Court has fixed May 26 for the judgment delivery in a case by the PDP praying for the disqualification of the President-elect, Bola Tinubu and Kassim Shettima, the Vice President-elect.

Also, the party implored the court to reverse the Court of Appeal judgment, led by Justice James Abundaga, which held that the party failed to establish its locus standi.

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