PEPC: Atiku, PDP Seek Live Broadcast of Court Proceedings
The Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has approached the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) seeking an order allowing live broadcast of proceedings of his petition.
Atiku and the PDP in an application dated May 5, is specifically praying 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.
The application filed by their team of lawyers led by Mr Chris Uche, SAN, is premised on the grounds that the matter before the court is a dispute over the outcome of the Presidential Election held on Feb.25 and therefore a matter of national concern and public interest.
They also contended that being a unique electoral dispute with a peculiar constitutional dimension, it was a matter of public interest where millions of Nigerians were stakeholders with a constitutional right to receive.
“An integral part of the constitutional duty of the court to hold proceedings in public is a discretion to allow public access to proceedings either physically or by electronic means.
“With the huge and tremendous technological advances and developments in Nigeria and beyond, including the current trend by this court towards embracing electronic procedures, virtual hearing and electronic filing, a departure from the rules to allow a regulated televising of the proceedings in this matter is in consonance with the maxim that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.
“Televising court proceedings is not alien to this court, and will enhance public confidence.”
The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) recalls that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), had in its communique at the end of its National Executive Committee meeting in Birnin Kebbi on March 23 made a similar call.
The NBA had urged the judiciary to allow for live broadcast of court hearings on election petitions, particularly the presidential election cases.
Also, a group, under the aegis of Leaders of Thoughts and Legal Icons, had supported the initiative.
The group had invited Nigerians to sign an appeal an online platform in support of the initiative.
Mr Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer also backed calls for live broadcast of election petition trials.
No date has been fixed for hearing of the application.
NAN reports that the tribunal began pre-hearing in the petitions challenging the outcome of the Feb. 25 presidential election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission declared that Sen, Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress polled 8,794,726 votes to win the election.
The commission declared that Atiku came second with 6,984,520 votes, while it announced Labour Party’s Peter Obi as the second runner-up with 6,101,533 votes.
But Atiku, Obi and some other parties rejected the results announced by INEC and had approached the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to annul Tinubu’s victory.
NAN also reports that Atiku, in his 66-page petition, is praying the tribunal to declare him winner of the poll or order a fresh election.
On his part, Obi, in his petition, is also praying the tribunal to nullify Tinubu’s election. (NAN)
PDP Reserves Right to Suspend, Expel You, Court Tells Wike
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday told the immediate past governor of Rivers state, Barr. Nyesom Wike, that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the right to suspend or expel him if the action is done in accordance with the law.
Justice James Omotosho stated this in a judgement he delivered on a suit filed by Wike prior to the 2023 general elections to seek a court order to stop the PDP from taking action against him without a fair hearing.
The former governor had sued the PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC), and its National Executive Committee (NEC) as 1st to 3rd respondents.
Wike, in the suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/139/2023) dated and filed Feb. 2 by his lawyer, Joshua Musa, SAN, also joined the National Chairman of PDP, Dr.Iyorchia Ayu, National Secretary of PDP, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as 4th to 6th respondents, respectively.
He had prayed for an order directing all parties to maintain the status quo and stay all actions in the matter relating to the threat to suspend or expel him by the 1st to 5th respondents pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion.
Wike asked the court to enforce his fundamental right to freedom of association, which he alleged was about to be breached by the defendants.
However, the PDP through its lawyer, Johnson Usman, SAN, disagreed with Wike’s submission.
Usman argued that the case was only based on speculation, as Wike had failed to provide any evidence to substantiate that the respondents intended to suspend or expel him from the party.
He said the party had not contemplated suspending or expelling members of the G5 Governors or the Integrity Group, despite engaging in anti-party activities.
Usman said Wike and four other governors engaged in anti-party activities by forming the Integrity Group and campaigning for another presidential candidate in the Feb. 25 election.
The senior lawyer argued that a member who voluntarily joined an association must abide by its rules.
Usman, who argued that the ex-governor must have exhausted the internal mechanisms of the party first, said the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter, which, he said, was only within the realm of conjuncture.
He further argued that it was not enough for Wike to institute the suit on fundamental rights enforcement grounds.
Justice Omotosho had, on Feb. 2, given an interim order against the party and others listed in the face of Wike’s ex-parte motion.
The judge, who extended the restraining order on Feb. 14, held that all parties should maintain a status quo pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
Delivering judgement on Wednesday, Justice Omotosho said the court had considered the processes filed by parties and the arguments of counsel.
He held that suspending or expelling the applicant without affording him the right to defend himself would breach his fundamental rights as enshrined in the party’s and Nigeria’s constitutions.
Omotosho said that though the party had the right to suspend or expel its members, this must be done in compliance with its own laws.
The judge said that though Section 46(1) of the law vested jurisdiction on the court if one’s rights had been breached, he said the court would not dabble into the internal affairs of any political party, except where the rights of a member had been violated by the party without recourse to its own laws.
According to him, fundamental human rights are rights enshrined in the Constitution of Nigeria and are sacrosanct.
“Where this right ought to be enforced, the court will do everything within its reach to ensure this. However, as fundamental and sacrosanct these rights are, they are not absolute,” he said.
Justice Omotosho, therefore, agreed that any member of a political party who appeared before a disciplinary committee should be given the opportunity to defend himself.
“If not, any decision taken shall be null and void,” he said.
“This court is convinced that the applicant is entitled to a fair hearing and that the respondent also has the right to discipline its members in accordance with the law,” he added.
The judge further said that Wike had the right to associate and that the threat to dismiss him without inviting him to defend himself contravened Article 57 (1) (2) of the party.
He said that the party’s national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, and his agents were bound to promote constitutional democracy.
ICPC Docks Fire Official Over Job Racketeering
By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
A Deputy Superintendent of the Federal Fire Service, Augustine Abah has been arraigned in court by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), over allegations bordering on fraud and employment racketeering.
This was contained in a statement signed by ICPC Spokesperson, Mrs.Azuka Ogugua in Abuja on Wednesday.
ICPC in a Charge No: CR/283/2023, brought before Honourable Justice F.A. Aliyu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court 57, sitting in Apo, Abuja, accused the defendant of defrauding an unsuspecting job seeker to the tune of Six Hundred Thousand Naira (N600,000).
In a 2-count charge, the Commission through its counsel, Mr. Mashkur Salisu, told the Court that the accused person fraudulently induced his victim into parting with the said sum of money in the guise of securing employment for the victim in the Federal Fire Service.
His action is contrary to Section 8(i)(a) and punishable under Section 8(i)(b)(ii) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, and contrary to Section 320(b) and punishable under Section 322 of the Penal Code Act.
When the accused person was admitted to take his plea, he entered a “not guilty” plea.
The defense counsel, Mr. G.E. Ejekela, via a “Motion on Notice” thereafter moved a bail application on behalf of his client.
In the application which was supported by a 6-paragraph affidavit, the defense lawyer sought the relief of the Court to grant his client bail in the most liberal of conditions, stating that the accused person was willing to attend his trial.
Although the bail application was not opposed by ICPC counsel, he, however, urged the Court to impose conditions that will compel the defendant to attend his trial.
The trial judge after listening to both parties, admitted the accused person to bail in the sum of One Million Naira (N1,000,000) and a surety in like sum, who must be a civil servant on grade level 12 and above.
Hon. Justice Aliyu also ordered that the surety should submit his Appointment and Promotion Letters to the Court for sighting.
The matter was adjourned to the 13th of July 2023 for hearing.
Nasarawa, Benue Tribunal Chairman Warns Counsel on ”Frivolous Excuses”
The Chairman of the Nasarawa and Benue Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Ezekiel Ajayi, has urged counsel handling election cases to avoid frivolous excuses for adjournment.
Justive Ajayi gave the warning during the combined inaugural sitting of the three-member panel of justices.
He called for the cooperation of all the legal counsel for smooth and timely dispensation of justice.
‘We are here for justice, equity and quick dispensation of justice.We will not entertain frivolous adjournments.
”This tribunal is determined to work within the 14 days mandate,” he warned.
Mr Joe Gadzama, SAN who responded on behalf of all the counsel promised to cooperate with the panel of justices to enable them to do their work seamlessly in the interest of democracy and the rule of law.
When the first petition by the Nasarawa state governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2023 governorship election, David Ombugadu against the governor of Nasarawa state, Abdullahi Sule was mentioned for pre-hearing, the lead counsel to the petitioner, Gadzama adopted the petition.
While addressing the tribunal, counsel to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respondents, Ishaka Dikko, Adebayo Ade and Hassan Liman, SANs adopted their answers to the pre-hearing respectively.
Justice Ajayi fixed June 9 for the continuation of pre-hearing.
The tribunal also entertained the petition by the New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP challenging the declaration of Sule as the governor of Nasarawa state by INEC.
In the case between Gov. Hyacinth Alia of the APC and the PDP governorship candidate Titus Uba, the tribunal adjourned sitting until June 8 for continuation of pre-hearing.
Speaking with newsmen after the pre-hearing, Gazama said the adjournment was for the interest of the parties involved.
Gazama said all cases filed in respect of the governorship petitions are at the tribunal for pre-hearing conference.
On his part, counsel to INEC, Diko said all the counsel to the parties had agreed that instead of having staggered applications, all the petitions should be taken and treated within three days. (NAN)
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