The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has petitioned the Court of Appeal over what he described as a deliberate ploy to truncate the constitutional calendar of the presidential election petition before the Tribunal.
This is coming 11 days after the President of the Court of Appeal and erstwhile Chairperson of the 2019 Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, disqualified herself from the Tribunal following the petition of the PDP and Atiku/Obi legal team.
The PDP and Abubakar had based their application, among other things, on the ground that Bulkachuwa is the wife of Mr. Adamu Bulkachuwa, a prominent card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and senator-elect for Bauchi north senatorial district, which is a political party involved in the suit.
However, in delivering the lead ruling on the application, Justice Peter Ige said not enough materials had been presented before the court to show that Justice Bulkachuwa will be biased in the hearing and the decisions on the petition.
He said that the fact that she is married to a senator-elect, who along with her son are in the APC, will not foist any room for bias in the case.
Bulkachuwa, however, withdrew from the tribunal for personal reasons after the court dismissed an application by the PDP and its candidate asking her to recuse herself from the tribunal
But Atiku in a letter through his counsel dated May 31, 2019, urged the President of the Court of Appeal to appoint a replacement forthwith, since he knows the Tribunal has a timeline to prosecute the petitions, adding that already, 76 days have been expended out of the 180 days allowed by law, as seen in Section 134 (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act (2010 as amended).
The petition’s lead counsel stated:
“I am one (Silas Joseph) of the Counsel in the Legal Team prosecuting the above Petition on behalf of the Petitioners.
“I have the authority of the Lead Counsel, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) to write this letter. My Lord will recall that on 22nd May 2019, the above-mentioned Petition came up for a motion requesting that my Lord to recuse herself from further presiding or participating in this Petition. At the end of the proceedings, my Lord graciously recused herself on personal grounds and promised to appoint another Justice to continue with the Petition.
“I am not aware of any new development. We have not been served with any hearing notice. But we have written to the President of the Court of Appeal to remind her of her promise to bring in a replacement, having recused herself. It is yet to be fulfilled. That is where we are.
“We are waiting to see what will happen, having done that.”
When asked if they were worried in the delay to appoint a replacement for Justice Bulkachuwa, he said: “Of course, we are bound to be.”