The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has demanded for the withdrawal of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, from the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal panel.
According to the PDP, Justice Bulkachuwa would likely be biased in her judgment at the tribunal because her family members are members of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The PDP in its petition issued on Thursday noted that Bulkachuwa’s husband, Adamu Bulkachuwa, is an APC senator-elect.
Mr. Adamu won the Bauchi North Senatorial District Election under the platform of the APC.
PDP noted that it would be impossible for her not to have discussed the PDP petition against her husband’s party with her husband.
“We are reasoning that, armed with this golden rule of justice and fair hearing and given your direct intimacy, through your dear husband, with the APC, one of the parties in this election petition, Your Lordship, would have exercised your constitutional right and powers guardedly, judiciously and judicially, by excluding yourself from the panel of this honourable court’s sitting over this particular petition,” PDP stated in its petition signed by its National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
“Furthermore, My Lord, in your address at the opening of the pre-hearing, you made some remarks that were both frightening and heartwarming. For instance, in your opening paragraph you said: ‘Elections are held in Nigeria every four years into elective positions. No matter how well the election is conducted, there are bound to be complaints…’
“This remark rocked our confidence in a panel led by Your Lordship to determine our fate in an election which could be one of the ones that were very well ‘conducted’ in Your Lordship’s opinion.
“The question then is how can a petitioner convince Your Lordship otherwise over an election, which in Your Lordship’s opinion, was very well ‘conducted’?”
“On March 7, 2019, when our ex parte application in Suit No. CA/A/P/EPT/1/2019 seeking the leave and the order of this honourable court for us to inspect polling materials in the custody of the 1st respondent (INEC) used for the election of February 23, 2019, came up, it was heard by a panel of this honourable court led by His Lordship, Hon. Justice Abdu Aboki. We did not complain as there was no reason for us to do so.
“However, we were totally nonplussed, jolted and extremely surprised today, May 8, 2019, when Your Lordship sat and presided over the five-man panel of the court which conducted the opening of the pre-hearing session in our petition.
“We were surprised that Your Lordship, could choose to be part of the panel talk less of presiding over the petition which is between our Party, the PDP and the APC, a party which members of your family, especially your dear husband, are very active members.
“My Lord, it is no more a secret, that your dear husband, Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa, contested the February 23, 2019 election for the position of a Senator in Bauchi North senatorial District and won same on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
“This information is not just in the public domain but has dominated both public and private discussions to the extent that it has become a sore source, not just to members of our party, but to the generality of Nigerians because of your very unique and critical position as the President of the Court of Appeal, which is saddled with the sacred responsibility of hearing petitions arising from the presidential election.
“This fear was palpable enough just with you as the President of the Court of Appeal but has now been worsened and compounded by the discovery that you have decided to appoint yourself as the chairman of the panel to hear the petition.”
PDP further noted that Justice Bulkachuwa in her inaugural speech stated that; “Justice demands that Judges who will sit in the panel of a tribunal be divested from all forms of bias”.
Consequently, the opposition party noted that the Appeal Court President could have exercised her constitutional right and powers by excluding herself from the panel.
“This is the only way you could have divested yourself from all forms of bias and be seen to be fair, both to yourself, our party, that is contesting against your husband’s party in this petition, and indeed, all Nigerians, who are keenly interested in the just, transparently impartial and unbiased determination of this Petition over an election which outcome obviously did not respect their wishes as expressed through their votes.
“It is based on the above premises, therefore, that we are constrained to respectfully request your lordship to recuse yourself from presiding over and/or sitting as a member of the panel hearing the instant petition as it would be impossible for Your Lordship to convince any reasonable man that your dear husband never discussed this Petition, which he is patently interested in its outcome with you, throughout the trial.
“This is so because Justice must not only be done but it must be manifestly seen to be done.”