Fresh Controversy Surrounds “All Eyes on the Judiciary” Billboards Amid Election Petition Tribunal.
The impending judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) has thrown Nigeria into a state of anticipation, with a flurry of controversies emerging from various quarters. As citizens await the tribunal’s ruling, both Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) are challenging the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu from the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The PEPT, after receiving final arguments from all involved parties, has adjourned the case for judgment on a date yet to be communicated. However, the events leading up to the close of arguments have been marked by revelations and disturbances, adding to the growing awareness and political consciousness among Nigerians.
In light of the high-stakes situation, a campaign titled “All Eyes on the Judiciary” emerged, initially gaining traction on social media platforms. The campaign soon transcended the virtual world, with billboards bearing the campaign’s message popping up in major cities, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The aim of these billboards was to remind judges of the public’s expectations for a fair and just judgment.
The Nigerian government, led by the All Progressives Congress, reacted strongly to the All Eyes on the Judiciary campaign, perceiving it as an attempt to blackmail the presidential election petition tribunal. In response, the government ordered the complete removal of such billboards nationwide, issuing the directive through the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON). This move prompted a wave of criticism, as many questioned the government’s motivations.
ARCON dissolved its Advertising Standards Panel (ASP), the agency’s statutory body responsible for ensuring that advertisements adhere to prevailing laws and advertising ethics. The director and deputy director of ASP were suspended for failing to diligently carry out their roles as gatekeepers of advertising and marketing communications.
The government’s stance has triggered diverse reactions across the country. Some view the removal of billboards as an attempt to suppress free speech and hide underlying motives. Critics argue that the message’s intent was not malicious and merely encouraged vigilance in scrutinizing the judiciary’s proceedings.
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On the other hand, some individuals support the government’s actions, believing that the billboards indeed presented a threat and attempted to manipulate public opinion regarding the judiciary and judges.
Notable figures have also weighed in on the issue. Atiku Abubakar’s Special Assistant on Public Communications, Phrank Shaibu, criticized the government’s actions as authoritarian and reflective of President Tinubu’s abuse of power. He contended that the message, “All Eyes on the Judiciary,” is a call for accountability and transparency in the legal process.
Legal experts, such as human rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong, echoed the sentiment that the billboards’ message posed no threat or incitement and was well within the bounds of free expression.
All Eyes on the Judiciary trends on twitter
As Nigerians eagerly await the tribunal’s judgment, the debate surrounding the “All Eyes on the Judiciary” campaign continues to grow. The clash between the government’s directive and citizens’ demand for free speech underscores the broader issues of transparency, accountability, and the right to criticize those in power. As the nation stands on the brink of a crucial decision, it remains to be seen how these controversies will shape Nigeria’s political landscape.