Godwin Tsa, Abuja
After two weeks of perceived delay, the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal will resume sitting on Monday on the petition filed by the People’s Democratic Party and its candidate in February 23 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Already, hearing notices to this effect have been issued to all parties to the petition.
The delay in the hearing of the petitions was consequent upon the decision of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to withdraw her participation in the hearing of the petition.
Her decision to pull out from the five-man panel was based on the allegation of bias levelled against her by the PDP and Abubakar.
Although the tribunal had in a unanimous ruling dismissed the application, Bulkachuwa said she decided to stand down from the tribunal for “personal reasons.”
There are indications that Justice Bulkachuwa has appointed another judge as her replacement on the five-man panel to hear the case.
Following the delay caused by the development, Abubakar and his party wrote to Bulkachuwa, reminding her of her promise to appoint a replacement on the panel to enable the hearing of their petition to resume.
In the said letter dated May 31, the petitioners said they were already running against time due to the “strict requirement of keeping to the constitutional calendar for a petition.”
The petitioner’s letter signed on behalf of Uzoukwu by a lawyer in their legal team, Silas Onu, stated that as of May 31 when the letter was delivered at Bulkachuwa’s chambers, it was nine days since she recused herself from the tribunal, yet nothing had been heard about her replacement.
The letter read in part: “Considering the strict requirement of keeping to the constitutional calendar for a petition and the obvious fact that time is also running fast against the petitioners, we pray my Lord to act by appointing a replacement so that we will get a hearing notice and continue with the petition in the interest of justice.”
Atiku had vowed to upturn the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in court. In their joint petition, Abubakar and his party, insisted that data they secured from INEC’s server, revealed that they clearly defeated President Buhari with over 1.6million votes.
The petitioners alleged that INEC had at various stages of the presidential election, unlawful allocated votes to President Buhari, saying they would adduce oral and documentary evidence to show that result of the election as announced by the electoral body, did not represent the lawful valid votes cast.