The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the last presidential election, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar have made public reasons for their opposition to the involvement of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa in the hearing of the petition.

Atiku and the PDP are, by their petition, challenging the outcome of the 2019 presidential election, won by President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Their reasons for seeking Justice Bulkachuwa’s exclusion from the five-man panel, scheduled to hear the petition is contained in a fresh motion filed on Thursday by Atiku and the PDP.

They claimed that Bulkachuwa’s husband – Honourable Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa – and her son – Allyu Haidar Abubakar -are members of the APC.

Atiku and the PDP stated that while her husband was elected as Senator for Bauchi North Senatorial District on the platform of the APC in the last general elections, her son contested the last governorship election in Gombe, as candidate of the APC, but lost.

They equally stated the Justice Bulkachuwa has prejudged the outcome of their petition, when she said, in her speech at the inaugural sitting of Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) on May 6 this year, gave the impression that the last elections were well conducted.

Atiku and the PDP have therefore called on Justice Bulkachuwa to withdraw from the hearing of their petition.

In the motion, Atiku and the PDP are particularly praying for “an order that His Lordship, the honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, (President of the Court of Appeal) and the Presiding Justice of the Panel hearing petition No: CA/PEPC/2019 be recused from further sitting or participating in the proceedings in this petition and be replaced by another Justice of this honourable court to sit in his place to hear and determine the petition.”

They said the grounds on which the prayer is sought, include that “Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa (President of the Court of Appeal) and the Presiding Justice of the Panel hearing the petition against the election of the 2nd and 3rd respondents (Buhari and APC) is the wife of Honourable Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa, a prominent card carrying member of the 3rd respondent and the Senator-elect for Bauchi North Senatorial District on the platform of the 3rd respondent in this petition, which is also the 2nd respondent’s political party.

“Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa (President of the Court of Appeal) and the Presiding Justice of the Panel hearing the petition against the election of the 2nd and 3rd respondents, is the biological mother of Allyu Haidar Abubakar, a prominent card carrying member of the 3rd respondent, who was a gubernatorial aspirant in Gombe State at the last general elections, on the platform of the 3rd respondent.

“Being the wife and mother of prominent card carrying members of the 3rd respondent as aforesaid having a common interest with the 2nd and 3rd respondents in the subject matter of this petition, there is every likelihood of bias if Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa remains the Presiding Justice/member of the panel hearing this petition.

“At the inaugural session of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, while delivering her inaugural speech, Honourable Justice Bulkachuwa stated as follows: ‘Elections are held in Nigeria every four years into elective positions. No matter how well the election is conducted there are bound to be complaints…’

“By making that remark, it would appear that Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa had already prejudged the presidential election as “well” conducted and that this petition is one of the complaints that come up “no matter how well the election is conducted”.

“Justice must not only be done, but must be manifestly seen to have been done.”

The PEPT had, at its last sitting on May 16, 2019 ordered Atiku and the PDP to communicate their objection to Justice Bulkachuwa through a formal application.

Lawyer to Atiku and the PDP, Livy Uzoukuwu had, at the last sitting of the tribunal, raised the issue orally during a meeting he sought and was granted with members of the tribunal in Chambers.

Proceedings of the tribunal were suspended midway on May 16 to allow for the meeting in chambers demanded by Uzoukwu.

When proceedings resumed over an hour later, Justice Bulkachuwa, who is the tribunal’s Chairman, said since the issue was already in public domain, it should be addressed in the open court, with the PDP and Atiku raising it formally through a motion, to which the respondents are entitled to respond.

The panel adjourned till May 22 this year for hearing of the motion.

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