Lawrence Nwimo, Awka
Human rights activist and lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, has condemned judicial policy banning the use of handsets and live broadcast of presidential poll tribunal handling the 2023 election petitions.
The Presidential Election Petition Court upheld the position of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); the president-elect, Bola Tinubu, and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), request to ditch the Labour Party (LP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) applications for a live broadcast of the court proceedings.
In a Twitter post Tuesday, Effiong who said the policy is against the international best practices, observed that it has contradicted Nigerians’ demonstrated desire to participate in election petitions proceedings since the electoral tribunal hearing began.
He maintained that there is nothing unusual about live broadcast of court proceedings and noted that in other African countries, live broadcasts of court proceedings are allowed.
“Those who follow presidential election petitions will attest to the fact that judgments are usually broadcast live. Have we not been watching the judgments of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in presidential petitions live on TV?
“I watched the Kenyan presidential election tribunal hearings live from Nigeria. Ghana did same in their presidential petitions. Even in Uganda and South Africa, live broadcast of court proceedings are allowed. There’s nothing unusual about live broadcast of court proceedings.
Recall that the Presiding Justice of the Presidential Election Petition, Haruna Tsamani had earlier placed a restriction on people including lawyers from accessing the court with their phones.
The lawyer said the order that legal practitioners should surrender their phones before being allowed to enter the court is undignifying and amounted to harassment of lawyers.
He further stated that lawyers are being ridiculed and always made to be at the mercy of mere security officials who belittle them while in their place of service through the order.
“Lawyers are not allowed to carry phone inside police stations in Nigeria. The State Security Service (SSS) regularly subjects lawyers to humiliating treatment when visiting clients. If we, as lawyers, are also barred from carrying phones inside the courtroom, something is wrong.
“I was remanded in prison for raising issues against the expulsion of a journalist from court. Prior to March 2018, lawyers were not allowed to carry phones inside the Federal High Court, Abuja. Lawyers were compelled to surrender their phones with the security at the entrance.
“Lawyers were given tags for identification and collection of their phones when exiting the court. I was the one who challenged the obnoxious policy through a petition to the then Chief Judge of the Federal High Court. The Hon. Chief Judge wrote to me that he will look into it.
“The phone restriction policy was abolished after my petition. If you think that my support for live broadcast of hearing in election petitions is due to political leaning, you’re just misinformed. Some of us will always side with transparency and openness in the judicial system,” he wrote.