Appeal court president’s husband is APC senator-elect, her son APC gov aspirant, Atiku, PDP tell tribunal

Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Mr Atiku Abubakar, on Friday told Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal  in Abuja that Mr Aliyu Abubakar, son of President of Court of Appeal, Mrs Zainab Bulkachuwa, campaigned for  President Muhammadu Buhari  ahead of February 23 presidential poll.

They alleged that Abubakar was not only a card-carrying member of All Progressives Congress, but  also  contested  the party’s governorship primary election  in  Gombe State.

They  informed the tribunal that they had attached the Facebook printout of the wall of the said biological son of Bulkachuwa showing his campaign posts, photographs and posters canvassing votes for himself as a governorship aspirant and Buhari’s re-election bid to their motion as an exhibit.

The petitioners alleged, as previously stated in the letter which PDP on May 9 sent to  the judge’s office, that her husband, Mr Adamu Bulkachuwa, won a senatorial seat in the National Assembly poll, held alongside the February 23 election, on the platform of APC.

They therefore stated in a motion filed before the five-man tribunal that Bulkachuwa’s close family ties to top APC members would hinder her from handling the proceedings of the tribunal without bias.

The petitioners insisted on  Bulkachuwa disqualifying  herself as a member and head of the tribunal.

Demanding her replacement  on the panel, they urged her to recuse herself from further participation in the proceedings of the tribunal.

The affidavit deposed to by Deputy National Secretary of PDP, Mr Emmanuel Agbo, filed in support of the motion read in part, “I know that as a spouse of Adamu Bulkachuwa,  Mrs Zainab Bulkachuwa is so closely related to Adamu Bulkachuwa that she cannot fairly hear and determine the instant petition without eliciting the suspicion and anxiety of all right thinking persons, including myself.

“Court of Appeal has more than 80 justices who are able and competent to participate in the hearing and determination of the extant petition in the absence of  Zainab Bulkachuwa.

“I also know that her biological son, Mr Aliyu Haidar Abubakar is a card-carrying member of the 3rd respondent (APC) and he contested the governorship  primary election of the 3rd respondent  in Gombe State.

“Attached hereto and marked Exhibit 2 is a printout made today from the Facebook page named Aliyu Haidar Abubakar Volunteer Group containing his campaign posters, photographs and various posts showing his campaign messages for himself and the 2nd respondent, both of whom contested on the platform of the 3rd respondent.

“I also attach hereto and marked Exhibit 3 a printout of a Daily Postonline news publication in which Aliyu  Abubakar was prominently featured as son of Zainab Bulkachuwa and who contested the governorship primary of Gombe State on the platform of the 3rd respondent.”

They added that Bauchi State, which was one of the three senatorial districts Bulkachuwa’s husband would be representing at the Senate when sworn in, “is one of the focal states in which the petitioners/applicants have all alleged that electoral infractions occurred”.

They therefore sought “an order that Zainab Bulkachuwa, President of Court of Appeal, and the presiding justice of the panel hearing petition numbered 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 her  place to hear and determine the petition”.

Bulkachuwa, who led a five-man panel of the tribunal  during Wednesday’s proceedings had directed the petitioners to file a formal application that would be heard and ruled upon in the open court.

In a letter signed by its National Chairman, Mr Uche Secondus, and its National Secretary, Mr Umaru Tsauri, PDP complained that Bulkachuwa could have by a comment she made during the inaugural sitting of the tribunal on May 8 prejudged its petition challenging the outcome of the 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.

Secondus and National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, attended  Wednesday’s proceedings.

Bulkachuwa appeared to have initially overlooked the earlier letter sent by PDP asking her to withdraw from the panel until the petitioners’ lead councel, Mr Livy Uzoukwu, requested a meeting between panel members and representatives of the legal teams of the  parties to the case on Wednesday.

Uzoukwu made the request for the meeting shortly after lawyers announced  their appearances at the beginning of Wednesday’s proceedings.

The lawyers representing the respondents –  Independent National Electoral Commission, President Muhammadu Buhari and APC – did not oppose the request for the meeting.

Mr Wole Olanipekun led Buhari’s legal team, while Mr Yunus Usman led INEC’s team, and  Mr Lateef Fagbemi APC’s team.

Ten lawyers, with  two representing each of PDP, Atiku, INEC, Buhari and the APC met with the panel members in chambers.

At the end of the meeting, Bulkachuwa while announcing the decision of the panel following the meeting with the lawyers, said Uzoukwu requested that she should recuse herself from the panel at the meeting.

She said the request by Uzoukwu was based on the reasons cited by PDP in its letter earlier sent to her on May 9.

She said since the matter was already in the public domain, the panel had decided to have the issue treated openly.

Uzoukwu said  on Wednesday his team would file a formal application to that effect on Thursday.

The respondents’ lawyers said they would need time to respond to the application.

The tribunal then directed the petitioners to file their application and adjourned till May 22 for its hearing.

 

Punch

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