By Onozure Dania
LAGOS—THE Access to Justice, AJ, has urged President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to re-consider her membership of the tribunal hearing the election petition against the declared winner of the 2019 presidential elections to avoid conflicting public perceptions on the petition.
Access to Justice in an advisory statement by its convener, Mr. Joseph Otteh noted that the call becomes important not because Bulkachuwa will not be a fair-minded and impartial Justice, but because the perceptions of reasonable members of the public matter the more.
It was reported recently that Justice Bulkachuwa is married to a Senator of the All Progressives Congress, APC, but she has not publicly denied the claim.
Otteh said: “Many believe this is the reason the government worked hand in glove with the Code of Conduct Tribunal and removed Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria applying bizarre legal procedures. The dust has not settled from that incident.
“In ordinary circumstances, there would be no question of whether the President of the Court of Appeal can, or should participate in tribunals adjudicating election petitions involving her spouse’s party.
“But these are no normal times. The judiciary is facing heightened levels of public scrutiny and the performance of some judicial bodies have raised red flags concerning judicial independence and integrity.
“There are now far more than normal anxieties about the judiciary’s strength of character. Many keen observers of the Judiciary are already worried that the Judiciary has been overawed by the government.
“Given the present context, it may be difficult for judicial officers to bank on the moral capital of the Judiciary as an institution as a basis of comfort when they sit on cases where some familial, fiduciary or other interests are implicated.”