The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President-elect Bola Tinubu, and Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima have petitioned the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) to dismiss Atiku Abubakar’s and the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) request for a live broadcast of proceedings.
Meanwhile, Atiku and the PDP have asked the tribunal to broadcast its proceedings with the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, supported this.
Tinubu and Shettma, in their response to the application filed on Monday by their team of lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), described it as frivolous and an attempt to waste the court’s time.
The court, according to the APC candidates, is not a soapbox, stadium, or theater where the public can be entertained.
They characterized the application as an abuse of the presidential election petition tribunal’s processes.
They were perplexed as to why a petitioner desiring a prompt hearing would file an application that would distract the court and waste its valuable time.
Tinubu and Shettma argued that the relief sought by the applicants is not one that the court could grant, and that the application relates to the court’s policy formulation, which is outside the PEPC’s jurisdiction as it is currently structured.
The application also touches on the powers and jurisdiction invested in the President of the Court of Appeal by the Constitution, over which this honourable court as presently constituted cannot entertain.
The application touches on the administrative functions, which are exclusively reserved for the President of the Court of Appeal.
The application is aimed at dissipating the precious judicial time of this honourable court.
The said application does not have any bearing with the petition filed by the petitioners before this honourable court.
It is in the interest of justice for this honourable court to dismiss the said application filed by the petitioners, they said.
Tinubu and Shettma criticized the applicants’ use of virtual proceedings permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They claimed that Atiku and his supporters failed to bring to the court’s attention the fact that the respective courts issued practice directions for the exercise.
They also stated that the practice directions were written by the heads of courts rather than individual judges or Justices.
Another angle to this very curious application is the invitation it extends to the court to make an order that it cannot supervise.
The position of the law remains, and we do submit, that the court, like nature, does not make an order in vain, or an order which is incapable of enforcement, the respondents stated.
Tinubu and Shettma added:
At the very best, this application is academic, very otiose, very unnecessary, very time-wasting, most unusual and most unexpected, particularly, from a set of petitioners, who should be praying for the expeditious trial of their petition.
Petitioners have brought their application under Section 36(3) of the Constitution which provides that the proceedings of a court/tribunal shall be held in public.
The word ‘public’ as applied under Section 36(3) of the Constitution has been defined in a plethora of judicial authorities to mean a place where members of the public have unhindered access, and the court itself, sitting behind opened doors, not in camera.
Even in situations where a class action is presented, the particular people constituting the class being represented by the plaintiffs or petitioners are always defined in the originating process.
Here, in this application, the public at whose behest this application has been presented is not defined, not known, not discernable.
Beyond all these, it is our submission that the court of law must and should always remain what it is, what it should be and what it is expected to be: a serene, disciplined, hallowed, tranquil, honourable and decorous institution and place.
It is not a rostrum or a soapbox. It is not also a stadium or theatre. It is not an arena for ‘public’ entertainment.
With much respect to the petitioners, the motion is an abuse of the processes of this honourable court.
Also, in its counter affidavit filed last on Monday, INEC raised similar arguments and prayed the court to reject the application by Atiku and his party.
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