By Vivian Okejeme Abuja
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has withdrawn herself as a chairman and member of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
This is sequel to the application filed the Peoples Democratic Party and its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, seeking the withdrawal of tribunal Chairman, Bulkachuwa, from the panel, alleging the likelihood of bias.
In a 19-paragraphed affidavit, Atiku and the PDP claimed that they were not comfortable that Justice Bulkachuwa, who they described as “a wife and mother of card carrying members of the All Progressives Congress”, nominated herself to head the panel.
At the resumed proceeding yesterday, the lead counsel to President Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, submitted that Atiku and the PDP, had no reason whatsoever to be apprehensive about the involvement of the Court of Appeal President in the adjudication of their dispute with regards to the outcome of the 2019 presidential election.
In his argument, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (1st Respondent) Yunuz Uztaz, urged the tribunal to dismiss Atiku and PDP’s motion.
He insisted that it contrabands section 42 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, adding that it is discriminatory.
Counsel to the All Progressives Congress, APC, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, accused the PDP and Atiku of engaging in “cheap blackmail”.
He argued that PDP is in the habit of engaging in “unpardonable and regrettable attacks” on Judges.
“This application is nothing but cheap blackmail. On facts and law, the application is most unmeritorious”, Fagbemi argued.
In its ruling, the five-man panel of the tribunal, in a unanimous ruling dismissed the application, however, Bulkachuwa said she was withdrawing for “personal reasons.”
“I am recusing myself from the panel for personal reasons.” I am happy that the matter had been settled “based on facts and the law” so that “another female judge will no longer have to face what I have faced.”
‘’A new presiding Justice would be appointed for the panel,’’ Reading the ruling, Justice Olabisi Ige, held that the relationship between Justice Bulkachuwa and her husband, Adamu Bulkachuwa, who is a senator-elect, and her son Aliyu Abubakar, a governorship aspirant, both on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, was not enough reason to conclude that she would be biased.
Justice Ige also ruled that no inference of likelihood of bias could be inferred from the speech delivered by Justice Bulkachuwa at the inaugural sitting of the tribunal on May 8 that she had pre-judged the petitioners’ petition.