Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the President of the Court of Appeal, on Wednesday refused to withdraw as a member of the Presidential election petition tribunal hearing the appeals filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The tribunal has, however, directed the two petitioners 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 directive was a fallout of a meeting the panel members held in chambers with the lawyers to both parties to the appeal.
At the said meeting, the President of the Court of Appeal was prevailed upon by counsel to the petitioners to recuse herself from participating in the hearing of the appeals.
After emerging from the over one-hour meeting, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa said that the petitioners’ legal team, led by Dr Livy Uzochukwu, SAN, had at the meeting asked her to recuse herself from the panel.
Justice Bulkachuwa said the request by Uzochukwu followed an earlier letter she received from the PDP’s National Chairman, Uche Secondus, also demanding she recuse herself from further participation in the panel.
She said since the matter is already in the public domain, it is proper that a formal application be made to that effect in open court to enable the court rule on it.
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 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.
The motion has been fixed to May 22 for hearing by the tribunal.