Judiciary reporters in Abuja, under the aegis of the National Association of Judiciary Correspondents (NAJUC), have condemned in the strongest term, the directive by the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, restraining some media organizations from covering proceedings of the 2023 Presidential Election Petition Court, which begins on Monday, May 8.
A statement by the Secretary General of NAJUC, Mr Paschal Njoku, and made available to newsmen on Saturday, expressed shock, over the unlawful directive.
Njoku hinted that before the 2023 general elections, judiciary reporters had the herculean task of covering pre-election matters from the Federal High Court up to the Supreme Court without any form of restriction on media houses.
The group posited that as members of the fourth estate of the realm, the role of the media in the coverage of election matters cannot be underestimated.
“As customary, Nigerians and the international community are looking unto the media for the coverage of the 2023 Presidential Election Petition Court, Njoku said.
However, NAJUC wonders why the Court of Appeal has decided to shut its door against some accredited judiciary reporters who are duty-bound to cover proceedings of PEPC for their various media houses.
According to the statement, “Judiciary Reporters were jolted on Friday, May 5, by a directive from the Court of Appeal that only a few of them would be permitted to cover the Presidential Election Petition Court.
“The Court of Appeal directed the few media houses to pick Accreditation Cards from one Bukola Garr, who claimed to be Personal Assistant to the President, Court of Appeal”.
“It is instructive to note that Bukola Garr did not contact the leadership of the National Association of Judiciary Correspondents (NAJUC) in Abuja, before restricting some reporters from coverage of PEPC.
“Worse still, the well-known friendly and recognised Information Officer of the Court of Appeal, Hajiya Saadatu Musa, was not in the know of Bukola Garr’s ban on some judiciary reporters.
“Following Bukola Garr’s unilateral decision, the leadership of NAJUC, led by its Chairman, Kayode Lawal tried to meet with the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal on Friday evening to lodge our complaints but he was said to be out of Abuja and has not been picking up calls.
“My Lawal spoke with the Secretary of the PEPC, Mrs Josephine, the same Friday, and she promised to look into the matter immediately but unfortunately, the man printing the cards was said to be away to Jos and will be back on Saturday” NAJUC states.
In view of the foregoing, judiciary reporters in Abuja want Nigerians to ask Bukola Garr and her instructors in “this morally debasing act” the following questions.
“Firstly, How and what criteria did she use in selecting 26 reporters out of 44 accredited judiciary reporters in Abuja?
“Secondly, who gave her the list which she forwarded to the Secretariat of the PEPC?
“Thirdly, Is Bukola Garr a greenhorn who does not know that the court is a public place where the media men perform their legitimate duty unhindered?
“Why would the Court of Appeal and the Secretariat of PEPC knowing that the Presidential Election Petition is a matter of national importance, decide to shut out media houses from covering the proceedings?
NAJUC queried if the Court of Appeal and the Secretariat of PEPC are subtly blocking media organizations not favourable to them and the government.
In addition, the group is asking whether Bukola Garr is unaware of the fact that the Presidential Election Petition Court is not for trial of terrorism matters.
The Secretary-General said it has become imperative for the Association to notify Nigerians and all political parties of the directive by the Court of Appeal, Secretariat of PEPC and Bukola Garr restricting some media outfits from covering the Presidential Election Petition Court.
Consequently, NAJUC “demands an immediate call to order of Bukola Garr and her removal as the link between the Court of Appeal and the media.
“We also demand that the Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal should immediately reverse the obnoxious and irritating directive of Bukola Garr restricting some media houses from accessing the Court of Appeal”.
NAJUC argued that the Court being a public place, should be accessible by accredited judiciary reporters identified by the leadership of the group, upon first to arrive the courtroom basis.
“Lest we forget, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Federal High Court, etc even the Court of Appeal, before now, recognize the existence of our group as Judiciary Correspondents in Abuja” NAJUC’s Secretary General stated.