There is an ongoing debate in Nigeria over whether or not to broadcast live proceedings of the presidential election petitions tribunal. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) president stated on March 24 that a live broadcast is in the interest of the people, and Section 36 (1) and (3) of the Nigerian constitution also supports the argument for public access to judicial proceedings.
Although live broadcasts of court proceedings are not currently entrenched in the Nigerian judicial system, the National Industrial Court had recently live-streamed some of its proceedings, and the National Judicial Council had issued guidelines for virtual sittings of the courts with platforms such as MS365, Zoom, Google Meetings, and other tools with electronic recording functionalities.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice had also announced new guidelines for court proceedings, part of which included TV broadcast.
The decision on whether to air live or not rests with the justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, and while it is seen by the NBA and other advocates as promoting transparency and restoring confidence in the judiciary, the live broadcast or not is the prerogative of the judiciary.
The constitution allows live broadcast except where there is a need to preserve public order and morality in certain matters. Similarly, the Nigerian people through the government set up the system, and it is the public fund that is used to run the government, therefore, it is not negotiable to inform the people what goes on in court or tribunal. There are seat reservations for the press, and they should be allowed to cover live in all the stations.
The live broadcast of the proceedings of the election petitions tribunal would enhance the credibility of the judiciary and be in the public interest. It is something the Bar should look at and work on, and the televised broadcast of the presidential elections petition tribunal will increase the public confidence in the judiciary.
If public confidence in the judiciary is eroded, the country will descend into a state of anarchy, and it is in our collective interest that Nigerians seek to resolve issues legally.