Published On: Thu, May 16th, 2019

Presidential election petition: Tribunal hears application for Bulkachuwa’s recusal, May 22

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By Vivian Okejeme Abuja

The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, will on May 22 hear an application by the Peoples Democratic Party and its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, seeking the withdrawal of tribunal Chairman, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, from the panel.
The tribunal asked the party to file a formal application requesting Justice Bulkachuwa’s withdraw as a member of the tribunal.
When the five-man panel of the tribunal convened for the pre-hearing in Atiku and the PDP’s petition, the lead counsel to Atiku, Dr Levi Uzoukwu SAN, informed the court of his application asking Justice Bulkachuwa to recuse herself from hearing of the petition.
Uzoukwu sought for a private audience between lead counsel in the matter and members of the panel. Sequel to the request, the court stood down for some time.
When the tribunal reconvened, Justice Bulkachuwa announced that the petitioners’ legal team led by Dr. Uzoukwu (SAN), asked her to recuse herself from the panel at the meeting held in chambers.
She drew the attention of the tribunal to an earlier letter she received from the PDP’s National Chairman, Uche Secondus, which is as well, demanding she disqualifies herself from further participation in the panel.
In the letter, the PDP had alleged that the Justice Bulkachuwa would likely be biased in the handling of the tribunal’s proceedings because of her ties to family members belonging to the All Progressives Congress.
The letter which was signed by its National Chairman, Uche Secondus, and it’s National Secretary, Umaru Tsauri, specifically said Bulkachuwa’s husband, Adamu Bulkachuwa, contested and won the Bauchi North Senatorial District election on the platform of the APC during the February 23, 2019 poll.
They maintained that the Chairman of the panel’s claim in her speech, that there would always be complaints no matter how an election was well-conducted, had “rocked” its confidence in the panel led by her.
In view of the later earlier received, Justice Bulkachuwa said the request of the petitioners is already in the public domain, adding that it would be better for the petitioners to come by way of a formal application.
Responding, Uzoukwu told the panel that the petitioners will unfailingly file their application tomorrow May 16, 2019 and sought for a short adjournment.
Reacting, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yunus Ustaz SAN, said they were not opposing the application.
However, Counsel to President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, said he was ready to respond to the application, if the petitioners were ready to move the application orally.

Meanwhile, Olanipekun submitted that if the petitioners prefer a formal application, then they will be asking for the normal 7 days provided by the law to respond.
Counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lateef Fagbemi SAN, said he aligned himself with the position of Olanipekun.
Consequently, Justice Bulkachuwa adjourned to May 22 for hearing of the yet to be filed application.
Also yesterday, the tribunal ordered the service of the petition of the Coalition for Change (C4C) on Buhari through substituted service.
It held that the petition on Buhari be served on him through any of the national officers of the APC at the party’s national headquarters at No 40 Blantyre street, Wuse 2, Abuja.

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