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Election Tribunal Asks Atiku, PDP to Formalize Request for Justice Bulkachuwa’s Withdrawal

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) has directed the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the last general elections, Atiku Abubakar, to formalize their agitation – demanding for 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 which began hearing of Atiku and the PDP petition Wednesday gave the directive following the meeting between members of the panel and representatives of petitioners and respondents’ counsels.

Justice Bulkachuwa while announcing the panel’s decision on the request disclosed that the petitioners’ legal team led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), at the meeting asked her to recuse herself from the Tribunal.

She specified that request by the Uzoukwu followed an earlier letter she had received from the PDP’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; which she confirmed also demanded that she disqualifies herself from further participation in the hearing by the panel.

Specifying the Tribunal’s decision, Justice Bulkachuwa said since the matter was already in the public domain, the panel had decided to have it treated openly.

Following the response, Dr. Uzoukwu promised that his team would file a formal application to that effect Thursday.

The court, after, adjourned hearing of the pettioners’ application till next Wednesday-May 22.

The respondents’ lawyers were led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN). The other three representatives included: Yunus Usman (SAN) and Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN). They are representing President Muhammadu Buhari, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

They however told the court that they would need time to respond to the application.

The opposition has in a letter dated May 9, 2019 to the panel had alleged that as the Chairman of the five-man panel, Justice Bulkachuwa would likely be biased in the handling of the tribunal’s proceedings because of her ties to family members of the APC.

The letter which was signed by the PDP National Chairman and its National Secretary, Umaru Tsauri, argued that Justice 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.

Similarly, the PDP 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.

The letter opined that Justice Bulkachuwa’s declaration that there would always be complaints no matter how an election was well-conducted put question mark on the integrity of the panel.

 

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