The Peoles Democratic Party (PDP) has asked the Chairman of the five-member Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to recuse herself from hearing its petition and that of its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, against the outcome of the 2019 presidential election.
The PDP’s protest against the involvement of Justice Bulkachuwa, who doubles as the President of the Court of Appeal, is coming barely 24 hours after the panel led by Justice bulkachuwa, held its inuagural session on Wednesday.
The party in a letter to the Court of Appeal President dated May 9 and signed by the National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Uche Secondus, and the party’s National Secretary, Senator Umar Ibrahim Tsauri, said going by the utterances of Justice Bulkachuwa at the inaugural session on Wednesday, the party is certain that justice would not be served at the end of the day, if Justice Bulkachuwa remains a member of the panel.
According to the PDP, Justice Bulkachuwa in her opening speech had said that no matter how well an election was conducted, there are bound to be complaints, a statement the main opposition party was a signal that Justice Bulkachuwa had already formed her opinion of the trial even before it commenced.
“My Lord, in your address at the opening of the pre-hearing today (Wednesday), you made some remarks that are 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 three petitioners convince Your Lordship otherwise over an election, which in Your Lordship’s opinion, was very well conducted?”
The party further submitted that Justice Bulkachuwa ought not to have been a member of the panel at all knowing fully well that members of her family, including her husband are all member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party in the petition.
“On March 7, 2019, when our ex parte application in suite No. CA/A/P/EPT/1/2019, seeking the leave and the order of this Honorable Court for us to inspect polling materials in the custody of the lst Respondent (INEC) used for the election of March 23, 2019, came up, it was heard by a panel of this Honorable Court led by His Lordship, Hon Justice Abdul 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,” the letter read.
According to the PDP, it is a known fact that Justice Bulkachuwa’s husband, Hon. 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).
The party said the information was not just in the public domain but has dominated both the public and private discussions to the extent that it has become a sore source of worry not just to members of the PDP but to the generality of Nigerians.
The party said the worry arose from the very unique and critical position of the office of the President of the Court of Appeal, which is saddled with the sacred responsibility of hearing petition 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 PDP added.
The PDP however, reminded Justice Bulkachuwa to be guided by her own words when she said, “Justice demands that judges who will sit in the panel of a tribunal be divested from all forms of bias,” and accordingly do the needful.
“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 sitting over this particular 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,” PDP added.