President of the Court of Appeal and Chairman of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa has stepped down from the panel sitting in Abuja for personal reasons.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its 2019 Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, through his counsel Levy Uzoukwu (SAN) had asked the Chairman of the tribunal to recuse herself on the grounds that she will be biased in the case since she is married to a Senator-elect of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
PDP’s lead counsel submitted that Articles 12.1 and 13.1 of the APC Constitution recognises the National Convention, which has members of the National Assembly as automatic members of the organ, which he said the husband of the PCA, Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa, as Senator-elect from Bauchi, will become after inauguration on June 11. But President Buhari’s counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said the president would never interfere in the work of the panel.
While INEC’s counsel, Yunus Ustaz Usman (SAN) asked the panel to dismiss the application for offending Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution, counsel to the APC said it is legally unmeritorious to ask the PCA to recuse herself, adding however that since the PCA has had a distinguished career with a name to protect, with her retirement set for 2020, he would in his opinion ask her “to leave the matter.”
According to Justice Peter Ige‘s ruling on the application which was dismissed, the materials presented before the court were not enough to show that Justice Bulkachuwa will be biased in the hearing and the decisions on the petition, adding 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 or prejudice in the case.
Although Justice Bulkachuwa agreed with the lead judgment and the dismissal of the application, she however recused herself from the case, explaining that she insisted that the matter be heard by the full court so that in the future, another female judge will not face a similar issue.