ABUJA, Nigeria – The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja on Monday, May 22, 2023, denied the request by the Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party to live stream the court proceedings, citing a lack of policy framework, budget, and applicable local law.
The decision, which has stirred a national debate on judicial transparency, came after a motion in opposition by Wole Olanipekun, SAN, lead counsel representing Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Every aspect of our judicial process should be open to the Nigerian people,” said Dr Livy Uzoukwu (SAN),the lead counsel for Mr Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party. “This case is of national importance, and its proceedings should be available for public viewing.”
The denial came as a blow to a significant number of Nigerians and influential figures who publicly supported the motion.
Cardinal John Onaiyekan, one of the most prominent voices in the country, also expressed his support for the live streaming of the court proceedings.
“The Nigerian judiciary should not be shrouded in secrecy. Now more than ever, we need transparency,” the respected cleric declared on Sunday at a special Mass to commemorate the 2023 World Communication Week of the Catholic Church held at St. Gabriel’s Chaplaincy, Durumi, Abuja.
“It is in the interest of the judiciary to allow the people to see what is happening, even if it means adjusting their rules. Voters don’t have the locus standi in court to challenge election outcomes. The matter is left to the candidates. That’s why it’s important that the court proceedings are seen live on TV,” the Archbishop contended.
The case before the Presidential Election Tribunal, which has drawn national and international attention, concerns the conduct of the most recent presidential election held on February 25, 2023.
With the decision to deny live streaming, critics argue that the veil of secrecy that has often characterized the Nigerian judiciary continues to hold, leading to increasing public calls for reform.
Opposing the motion, the counsel to Tinubu and the APC argued that the lack of a comprehensive policy framework and budget rendered the motion inappropriate.
“The court’s proceedings are not a spectacle for public consumption without due process,” argued Mr Olanipekun, counsel to Tinubu and APC. “We must respect the existing legal and procedural framework.”
As the decision reverberates across the nation, many are left to wonder about the future of judicial transparency in Nigeria and the implications for the ongoing election case.
While today’s decision may be a setback for those pushing for more openness, it is likely to galvanize further discussion and possibly reform within the Nigerian judicial system.