Presidential Election Tribunal: PDP Demands Appeal Court President Recuse Herself
Zainab Bulkachuwa

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has petitioned the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to withdraw as a member of the five-man panel of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.

The party, in the petition sent to the office of the Court of Appeal’s President on Thursday, laid out several reasons why they felt Bulkachuwa should not be part of the election tribunal.

In the petition signed by its National Chairman and National Secretary Uche Secondus and Umaru Tsauri respectively, PDP said the justice would likely be biased in the handling of the tribunal’s proceedings given that her husband won election as senator-elect under the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Adamu Bulkachuwa, the justice’s husband contested and won the Bauchi North Senatorial District election on the platform of the APC during the February 23, 2019 poll.

The PDP also argued that the justice had already shown bias by a comment she made during the inaugural sitting of the tribunal, a comment which it said was “frightening.”

The petition read in part: “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.

“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.

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“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.”

The party further quoted a part of Bulkachuwa’s inaugural speech where she said that “Justice demands that Judges who will sit in the panel of a tribunal be divested from all forms of bias” adding that the only way she could have “divested” herself of bias was to have exercised her “constitutional right and powers guardedly, judiciously and judicially,” by excluding herself from the panel sitting over the petition.

“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.”

The PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, are before the tribunal to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari and his party’s victory at the February 23, presidential poll.

Their petition is one of the four filed at the tribunal to challenge Buhari and APC’s victory at the poll.

Meanwhile, the pre-hearing session on the PDP’s petition has been fixed for May 15.