…files affidavit to disqualify her from petition tribunal panel

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

ABUJA – The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has filed a 19-paragraphed affidavit to disqualify the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, from presiding over the petition challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election.

Chairman 2019 Presidential Election Appeal Panel, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachawa arriving to open the hearing for the petition against the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari at the Court of Appeal, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

PDP, in the affidavit it attached in support of a motion it filed before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, adduced evidence to sustain its allegation that Justice Bulkachuwa was not the right person to head the panel hearing the petition its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, lodged to query the outcome of the February 23 presidential poll.

It will be recalled that Atiku and his party had on Wednesday, told the tribunal that they were not comfortable with Justice Bulkachuwa’s decision to head the five-man panel.

The party sought a private meeting with members of the panel, a development that led to temporary suspension of proceedings of the tribunal.

Meanwhile, after the meeting that lasted over 20 minutes, the panel reconvened, after which Justice Bulkachuwa directed the petitioners to file a formal request to sack her from the panel.

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She said the letter should be brought formally to enable the tribunal to rule on it, even as the matter was adjourned till May 22 for hearing.

Meantime, based on the directive, PDP and Atiku, through their lead counsel, Dr. Livy Uzuokwu, SAN, wrote a letter it backed with an affidavit that was deposed to by its Deputy National Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Agbo.

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In the letter, a copy of which was sighted by Vanguard last night, the petitioners, insisted 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 Presidential election petition tribunal panel.

The petitioners insisted that there are over 80 Justices in the Court of Appeal that could effectively head the panel.

PDP noted that Justice Bulkachuwa had at the inaugural session of the tribunal, while delivering her inaugural speech, stated as follows:

“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…”

According to the petitioners, “By making that remark, it would appear that Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa had already prejudged the Presidential election as “well” conducted and that this Petition is one of the complaints that come up “no matter how well the election is conducted”.

“Justice must not only be done but must be manifestly seen to have been done”, it added.

In the affidavit that was deposed to by its Deputy National Secretary, Mr. Agbo, the petitioners averred: “I know that Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa (PCA) who currently presides over the Panel baring the Petitioners/Applicants’ Petition is the spouse of Honourable Adamu Muhammed Bulkachuwa, a stakeholder in the 3rd Respondent.

“Honourable Adamu Muhammed Bulkachuwa, the husband of Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa is a Senator-elect sponsored by the All Progressives Congress (APC), the 3rd Respondent in the extant Petition, for Bauchi North Senatorial District, Bauchi State.

“The election challenged in the Petition, that is the subject matter of this application held simultaneously in Bauchi North Senatorial District with the election of Honourable Adamu Muhammed Bulkachuwa, both on the platform of the 3rs Respondent.

“I know that in the said Petition, Bauchi State is one of the focal States in which the Petitioners/Applicants have alleged that electoral infractions occurred.

“Honourable Adamu Muhammed Bulkachuwa is not only a card carrying member of the 3rd Respondent and a Senator-elect under the sponsorship of the 3rd Respondent, he is also a staunch member and prominent stakeholder in
the 3rd Respondent and has a stake in the election of the 2nd Respondent as President, having extensively campaigned for the 2nd Respondent.

“I know that as a spouse of Honourable Adamu Muhammed Bulkachuwa, the Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa is so closely related to Honourable Adamu Muhammed Bulkachuwa that she cannot fairly hear and determine the instant Petition without eliciting the suspicion and anxiety of all right thinking persons, including myself.

“The Court of Appeal has more than eighty (80) Justices who are able and competent to participate in the hearing and determination of the extant Petition in the absence of Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa (PCA).

“I also know that her biological son, Aliyu Haidar Abubakar is a card carrying member of the 3rd Respondent and he contested the gubernatorial primary election of the 3rd Respondent in the just concluded general election in Gombe State.

“Attached hereto and marked Exhibit 2 is a printout made today from the Facebook page named Aliyu Haidar Abubakar Volunteer Group containing his campaign posters, photographs and various posts showing his campaign messages for himself and the 2nd Respondent, both of whom contested on the platform of the 3rd Respondent.

“I also attach hereto and marked Exhibit 3 a print out of a Daily Post online news publication in which Aliyu Haidar Abubakar was prominently featured as the son of Honourable Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa and who contested the governorship primaries of Gombe State on the platform ofthe 3rd Respondent. (Sechttps://dailypost.ng/2018/09/16/gombe-2019-justicebulkachuwas-son-joins-race-succeed-dankwambo/ampl)

“On 27th October 20 l 8, the Daily Post online news also published reports that the 3rd Respondent had given its Senatorial ticket to Honourable Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa to curry favour with his wife, Honourable Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, whose court would handle election petition cases arising from primary elections.

“Attached hereto and marked Exhibit 4 is a print out of the said publication. (Seehttpszl/dailypostmg/ZOI8/]0/27/apcbauchi-stalwarts-claim-oshiomhole-gave-tuggars-ticket-appeal-courtpresidents-husband-bulkachuwa-documents/)

“I was present at the inaugural sitting of the Panel on 8/5/20l9 when the Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa (PCA) as the Presiding Justice, made the following statements;

“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…”…………………… ……….

“Justice demands that Judges who will sit in the Panel of Tribunal be divested from all forms of bias.”

“I was in the Court of Appeal, Abuja, on 15/5/2019 and when the Court sat and the Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa (PCA) led a Panel of five (5) Justices to hear the Petition.

“On that day, shortly after the matter was called, the Lead Counsel for the Petitioners/Applicants applied that Lead Counsel for all Parties be allowed to meet with the Justices in Chambers, to discuss an issue, which application was granted.

“When their Lordships and Counsel came out of chambers, the Presiding Justice addressed the Counsel and stated that he had earlier received a letter from the 2nd Petitioner/Applicant asking that he recuse himself from this Petition.

“His Lordship, Honourable Justice Bulkachuwa also said the Petitioners’ Counsel had, in chambers, made a similar application but that since the matter was already in the public domain, the Justices had decided that the application be made in open court.

“His Lordship, Hon. Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa then invited the Petitioners’ Lead Counsel to make an oral application for her to recuse herself.

“However, the Lead Counsel to the Petitioners/Applicants applied to the Honourable Court that the Petitioners/Applicants be allowed to file a formal application, which application the Court granted.

“I make this oath conscientiously believing the contents to be true and correct and in accordance with the Oaths Act”, it read.

Both PDP and Atiku are challenging the declaration the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, made on February 27 that President Buhari garnered a total of 15,191,847 votes to defeat Atiku who it said polled a total of 11,262,978 votes in the disputed presidential election.

Dissatisfied with the result, Atiku had vowed to upturn it in court.

In their joint petition, Atiku and his party, insisted that data they secured from INEC’s server, revealed that they clearly defeated President Buhari with over 1.6million votes.

The petitioners alleged that INEC had at various stages of the presidential election, unlawful allocated votes to President Buhari, saying they would adduce oral and documentary evidence to show that result of the election as announced by the electoral body, did not represent the lawful valid votes cast

Atiku alleged that in some states, INEC, deducted lawful votes that accrued to him, in its bid to ensure that Buhari was returned back to office.

The petitioners said they would call evidence of statisticians, forensic examiners and finger-print experts at the hearing of the petition to establish that the scores credited to Buhari were not the product of actual votes validly cast at the polling units.

More so, in one of the five grounds of the petition, Atiku and the PDP maintained that Buhari was not qualified to run for the office of the President, contending that he does not possess the constitutional minimum qualification of a school certificate.

Aside asking the Tribunal to declare that he was duly and validly elected and ought to be returned as President of Nigeria, having polled the highest number of lawful votes cast at the presidential election, Atiku, in the alternative, urged the tribunal to nullify the February 23 presidential election and order a fresh poll.