NIGERIA’S main opposition the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said the withdrawal of Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa from the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal is not enough as she needs to now follow this up by resigning as the president of the Court of Appeal.
Under Nigeria’s constitutional arrangement, the court of appeal president presides over the Presidential Elections Tribunal. Justice Bulkachuwa was thus poised to preside over the ongoing legal battle between President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP presidential candidate Alhaji Abubakar, as she is the head of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal.
However, Justice Bulkachuwa’s husband Adamu Bulkachuwa, is member of the APC and recently got elected as the senator representing Bauchi North Senatorial District. Consequently, the PDP’s national working committee (NWC) wrote to Justice Bulkachuwa, asking her to excuse herself from the tribunal that is determining the winner of the February 23 polls.
Yesterday, she succumbed to pressure and stood down as a member of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal. Although, the five-man panel of the tribunal, in a unanimous ruling, dismissed the PDP’s application on the grounds that the allegations of a likelihood of bias were not established Justice Bulkachuwa said she was withdrawing for personal reasons.
On May 16, the PDP and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar filed a motion asking for an order that Justice Bulkachuwa be excused from sitting on the tribunal or participating in the proceedings in the petition and be replaced by another Justice of the Appeal Court. They averred that apart from being the spouse of an APC senator-elect, Justice Bulkachuwa is also the biological mother of Aliyu Abubakar a prominent card-carrying member of the APC.
PDP leaders wants Justice Bulkachuwa to also resign as the president of the Court of Appeal as while in the position, she is responsible for appointing judges to hear election petition cases. Pressure group Rescue Nigeria has already accused Justice Bulkachuwa of helping APC leaders in some states in the area of appointing compromised judges as members of elections petition tribunals.
According to the group, in some states, Justice Bulkachuwa had used her office to appoint nominees of such APC leaders as tribunal members. Rescue Nigeria also claims that the APC deliberately ceded the Bauchi North Senatorial District ticket to Mohammed Bulkachuwa in order to use him to influence his wife.