By Shola Abayomi.
The Chairman of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal and President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has withdrawn her membership from the tribunal.
Citing ‘personal reasons’ as grounds for her withdrawal, Justice Bulkachuwa had been earlier petitioned by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar asking her to “recuse herself” from the tribunal.
The PDP and Atiku Abubakar challenged her membership of the tribunal, accusing her of “having the likelihood of bias,” by reason of her husband, Adamu Bulkachuwa, and her son, Aliyu Bulkachuwa, being members of the APC.
Justice Bulkachuwa is the wife of Mr Adamu Bulkachuwa a prominent card-carrying member of the All Progressive Congress and Senator-elect for Bauchi north senatorial district.
The PDP cited some of her comments during the tribunal’s inaugural seating. Mrs Bulkachuwa was quoted as saying, “no matter how well elections are conducted, there were bound to be complains.”
The PDP Counsel Levy Uzoukwu, argued that Justice Bulkachuwa’s comments implied that she had already prejudged the elections to have been well conducted. He said, “the inferred predisposition of Mrs Bulkachuwa rendered it difficult to prove a major point of our petition before the court.”
He further requested Bulkachuwa to recuse herself on the grounds that, “justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.”
In delivering the lead ruling on the application, Justice Peter Ige, insisted that enough materials haven’t been brought before the court to authenticate that Justice Bulkachuwa will be biased in the hearing and the decisions on the petition.
Justice Ige reiterated that “the fact that she is married to a Senator-elect who along with her son are in the APC will not foist any room for bias in the case.”
He stressed that her relationship is not capable of prejudicing the case, and that the petitioners have not satisfied the requirements for the president of the tribunal to recuse herself. Justice Ige, hence, dismissed the application.
Justice Bulkachuwa agreeing with the lead judgment and the dismissal of the application, still opted to recuse herself for personal reasons.