As Nigerians await the final decision of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, PEPT, on the petitions challenging the election of President Bola Tinubu, some rumour peddlers are currently on rampage disseminating unverified news.
The petition filed by the Labour Party, LP, and its candidate, Peter Obi and his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, counterpart, Atiku Abubakar challenging the outcome of the February 25 poll are still pending in the court.
There are indications that the tribunal may announce the date for the judgement in no distant time.
However, while the political space is being enveloped with tension, the social media is being flooded with fake news.
On Wednesday, a report emerged online purporting that a member of the court’s five-member panel, Justice Boloukuoromo Ugo tendered his resignation following alleged pressure from the ruling party.
The development was later debunked by the court.
Prior to the report of Mr Ugo’s resignation, the Supreme Court had on Tuesday denied a similar allegations stating that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola purportedly had a telephone call with President Bola Tinubu in regards to the latter’s case before the presidential election court.
The reports had alleged that Tinubu and the CJN recently had a phone conversation discussing how to pressurise the presidential election court in a bid to rule in favour of the ruling party.
Also, social media reports said Mr Ariwoola had a phone call with the Director General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Yusuf Bichi, concerning proceedings involving Tinubu at the court.
However, a statement issued by the Supreme Court’s director of press, Festus Akande, said the apex court was not aware of the purported call allegedly meant to manipulate the outcome of the petitions.
In the same vein, Tinubu’s party, the APC, denied the allegation of a phone conversation between the CJN and the President.
There was also a report of former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike purportedly having a meeting with the judges in Haruna Tsamani in Malaga, Spain on how the tribunal judgement would favour Tinubu and his party.
Atiku and Obi in their separate suits, are praying the court to set aside Tinubu’s victory on account of electoral fraud allegedly carried out by the electoral umpire.
A third petition filed by the Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM) is also pending before the court.
Atiku and Mr Obi had accused the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, of manipulating the 25 February presidential election in favour of President Tinubu.
Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State had according to INEC’s final results, defeated Atiku, who came second in the race, while Mr Obi clinched the third position.
Lawyers to concerned parties in the petitions have last week exchanged final written addresses in preparation for the last sitting before judgement is delivered on or before 16 September, when the suits will lapse.
According to a popular radio personality in the nation’s capital, John Teddy, Nigerians no longer believe in the judicial system, hence some “persons feel it is cool to put the judges on their toes by monitoring all their activities.”
In a chat with DAILY POST, Teddy noted that the “reports coming out are planned.
“They are meant to let the judges know that eyes are on them and they should not bow to any pressure.
“I really don’t think that carrying fake news everywhere is the best way but it is good to put a little fear in them (judiciary) so that the highest bidders will not always have the final say.
“As it is right now, the destiny of this country depends on the decision of these judges and like it or not, it won’t be an easy judgement. There are pressures already.”
However, the Director General of Voice of Nigeria, VON, Mr Osita Okechukwu appealed to Nigerians to exercise patience and allow the tribunal to do their job.
Citing the weight of the matter in court, Okechukwu urged social media users to steer clear of misleading the public with fake news.
He said, “This is a very important matter as far as the country is concerned. Nigerians should pay more attention to what is coming from the mainstream media not what is flying here and there on social media.
“The truth is that social media has come to stay, you have nothing to do about that, but we should know that it is not every report dished out on the social media that is correct.
“This is a platform where someone will wake-up in the morning, pick up his smart phone and think of something he will write. So you can’t take the contents on social media seriously.
“Gone are the days when such reports emanated from the traditional media and the government would go and close down the platform, you can’t shut the social media. All we need to do is to guide ourselves on what to believe.
“If Justice Ugo had resigned as speculated on social media, the report would be everywhere, not just one person sitting somewhere and telling you that so-so person resigned.”