Why Bulkachuwa left Presidential Election Tribunal


Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, president of the Court of Appeal, withdraws from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal for personal reasons


JUSTICE Zainab Bulkachuwa, president of the Court of Appeal, finally bowed to pressure from the People Democratic Party, PDP, to recuse herself from  heading the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.

Bulkachuwa on Wednesday formally withdrew from the case for personal reasons after the tribunal ruled in her favour while dismissing the application filed against her by PDP.

Both Atiku and his party, the PDP had asked Justice Bulkachuwa to withdraw as a member of the five-man panel because of what they perceive as a likelihood of serious bias on her part as a result of the relationship between some of her family members and the All Progressives Congress, APC, whose presidential victory they seek to upturn in court.

In the petition addressed to Bulkachuwa, the petitioners’ lawyers stated specifically that “My Lord, it is no more a secret that your dear husband, Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa, contested February 23, 2019, election for the position of a Senator in Bauchi North Senatorial District and won same on the platform of the APC.

“This information is not just in the public domain but has dominated both public and private discussions to the extent that it has become a sore source, not just to members of our party, but to the generality of Nigerians because of your very unique and critical position as the President of the Court of Appeal, which is saddled with the sacred responsibility of hearing petitions arising from the presidential election”.

According to the petitioners, “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”.

It was also alleged that Aliyu Haidar Abubakar, Bulkachuwa’s son, is a card-carrying member of the APC who not only campaigned for President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election but also contested the party’s governorship primaries in Gombe State.  Through the activities of these family members, according to the petitioners, the Court of Appeal President has “direct intimacy” with the APC.

However, the five-man panel of the tribunal, in a unanimous ruling dismissed the application.
Justice Olabisi Ige, who read the lead ruling of the panel, stated that the relationship between Justice Bulkachuwa and her husband, Adamu Bulkachuwa, who is a senator-elect, and her son Aliyu, a governorship aspirant, both on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, was not weighty enough to infer that she would be biased in her handling of the proceedings of the panel.

Ige also ruled that no inference of likelihood of bias could be made from the speech delivered by Bulkachuwa at the inaugural sitting of the tribunal on May 8, that she had pre-judged the petitioners’ petition.

All the members of the panel, including Justice Bulkachuwa, agreed with the lead ruling.

Despite this, Bulkachuwa said: “I am recusing myself from the panel for personal reasons” and expressed joy that the matter had been settled “based on facts and the law” so that “another female judge will no longer have to face what I have faced.”

She said a new presiding Justice would be appointed for the panel, but that the four remaining members of the panel would continue with the hearing of the preliminary applications pending the appointment of the new head of the panel.

Goddy Uwazuruike: The withdrawal of the President of the Court of Appeal,  Hon Justice Bulkachiwa from the Presidential Petition Tribunal is expected  and inevitable.  The furore surrounding her participation in the this trial is enough to make her or indeed any judge that the honorable step to take  is to move away from the proceedings. This is because her presence was causing a row, indeed, becoming a coffee in the wheel of progress!
The Code of Conduct for judges makes it clear that the judge cannot be a judge in his own case. Also, the judge cannot preside over a case in which he (in law,there is no female gender among lawyers and judges includes the she) enjoys a familiarity. Examples are friends of your kids, brothers, sisters, husband, wife, father and mother! Friends of the judge, neighbours, business friends , club members, and indeed enemies!
In the present case, political party affiliation is a  no go area for judges. An example is a judge being a card carrying member before elevation, husband or wife being an office holder or a chieftain! This will even extend to brothers and sisters!
The Tribunal ruling was a  face saving one  which will be thrown away at the slightest opportunity! This is because it sailed against common sense . The affinity of Bulkachuwa to the  party men was not denied.
Bulkachuwa is not the only judge to step aside on a case.  Justices Amina Adamu Augie and Mary Odili always recused themselves in the cases involving the political issues in Abia and Rivers states.

Similarly, Justice Umaru Abdullahi in 1999 withdrew from the Presidential Election Tribunal because his wife was an election official!

According to Goddy Uwazuruike, lawyer, “In the same way, one reads in the Bible, physician health thyself!  No well trained doctor handles the medical case of a relative. This is because medical ethics will not allow him to do that. The reason is that the doctor will not be emotionally free to give his professional best.
“A judge like Ceaser’s wife, must be above board.  Justice must not only be done but must be seen to have been done. The withdrawal has saved the nation from a repetition of the Code of Conduct Tribunal melodrama,” Uwazurike said.

– May 23, 2019 @ 12:30 GMT |


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