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Saturday, 11 May 2019

Chairman Of The Presidential Election Tribunal, Ordered To Step Down, For Supporting Buhari, APC

Chairman Of The Presidential Election Tribunal, Ordered To Step Down, For Supporting Buhari, APC

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

In a petition received in the Court of Appeal President’s Office, in Abuja, on Thursday night, the party alleged that as the Chairman of the five-man panel, Bulkachuwa will likely be biased in the handling of the Tribunal’s proceedings, because of her ties to family members belonging to the All Progressives Congress, APC.

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The party, in the petition which was signed by its National Chairman, Uche Secondus, and its National Secretary, Umaru Tsauri, specifically said that 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.

“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”, the party stated.

The party also complained that Bulkachuwa could have by a comment she made during the inaugural sitting of the Tribunal, on Wednesday, prejudged its petition challenging the outcome of the February 23, 2019 Presidential election.

It stated that Bulkachuwa’s claim in her speech to the effect that there will always be complaints no matter how an election was well-conducted, has “rocked” its confidence in the panel, led by her.

It stated: “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’?”

The PDP maintained that due to the intimacy Bulkachuwa has with the APC, through her husband and other family members, it is not expecting her to be part of the Tribunal panel, not to talk of her chairing it.

The party’s complaint read: “On March 7, 2019, when our exparte 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, APC.

“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 stated that it will be impossible for Bulkachuwa to convince any reasonable man, that her husband never discussed the PDP’s petition, which he is interested in its outcome with her, throughout the period of the trial.

The party also quoted a portion of Bulkachuwa’s speech, stating that “Justice demands that Judges who will sit in the panel of a Tribunal, be divested from all forms of bias”.

It noted that the only way Bulkachuwa could have “divested” herself of bias, was to have exercised her “constitutional right and powers guardedly, judiciously, and judicially, by excluding yourself from the panel” sitting over the petition.

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It said: “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 Tribunal had on Wednesday, fixed May 15, for the commencement of the pre-hearing session on the PDP’s petition.

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