The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Wednesday directed the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to file a formal application asking the President of the Court of Appeal and chairman of the five-man panel, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to withdraw as a member of the tribunal.
The tribunal gave the directive following the meeting the panel members held with lawyers appearing in the case earlier on Wednesday.
Announcing the tribunal’s decision, Justice Bulkachuwa said that the petitioners’ legal team led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), asked her to recuse herself from the panel at the meeting held in chambers.
She said the request by the Uzoukwu followed an earlier letter she received from the PDP’s National Chairman, Uche Secondus, also demanding she disqualifies herself from further participation in the panel.
She said since the matter was already in the public domain, the panel had decided to have the issue treated openly.
Responding, Uzoukwu said his team would file a formal application to that effect on Thursday.
The respondents’ lawyers comprising Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Yunus Usman (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) representing President Muhammadu Buhari, the Independent National Electoral Commission, and the All Progressives Congress, said they would need time to respond to the application.
She then adjourned till May 22 for the hearing of the petitioners’ application.
In its letter received to the Court of Appeal’s President’s office in Abuja, on May 9, the PDP had alleged that as the Chairman of the five-man panel, Bulkachuwa would likely be biased in the handling of the tribunal’s proceedings because of her ties to family members belonging to the All Progressives Congress.
The party, in the letter which was signed by its National Chairman, Uche Secondus, and it’s National Secretary, Umaru Tsauri, specifically said Bulkachuwa’s husband, Adamu Bulkachuwa, contested and won the Bauchi North Senatorial District election on the platform of the APC during the February 23, 2019 poll.
The party also complained that Bulkachuwa could have by a comment she made during the inaugural sitting of the tribunal on Wednesday, prejudged its petition challenging the outcome of the February 23, 2019, presidential election.
It stated that Bulkachuwa’s claim in her speech to the effect that there would always be complaints no matter how an election was well-conducted, had “rocked” its confidence in the panel led by her.