The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, has decried the attacks on justices of the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja.
Mr Fagbemi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), represented the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the court where President Bola Tinubu’s victory at the February presidential poll was being challenged by Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi.
The AGF spoke on Monday at a ceremony marking the commencement of the Court of Appeal’s 2023/2024 legal year in Abuja.
One of Atiku’s media aides, Phrank Shaibu, had sparked a controversy that trended on Nigeria’s social media space where it was insinuated that the five-member presidential election court decision affirming Mr Tinubu’s election was drafted by the president’s legal team.
An imprint, ‘President Tinubu Legal Team,’ surfaced on a copy of the decision couple of days after the court delivered its judgment on 6 September.
The Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Umar Bangari, where the presidential election court is domiciled has since denied the allegation.
But in a veiled reference to Mr Shuaibu’s criticism of the Haruna Tsammani-led presidential election court, Mr Fagbemi said litigants and lawyers have a duty to “insulate the judiciary” from “undue media vilification and partisan criticism.”
He noted that it was unacceptable to engage in “extreme, outlandish criticism, inclusive of direct…threat on judges in the discharge of their judicial duties.”
Acknowledging the entitlement of individuals to freedom of expression, the AGF, however, said, “it is abhorrent of any legal practitioner or judicial officer to be threatened …or worse still attacked for doing their job.”
The minister urged “political gladiators and their supporters to exercise restraint and demonstrate respect for the judiciary.”