President Muhamadu Buhari has told the presidential election tribunal that he was not aware that biological son of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, Aliyu Haidar Abubakar, campaigned for his re-election.
According to the president, he only got to know that Abubakar was his supporter, after he read a copy of the motion the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, filed to disqualify Justice Bulkachuwa from presiding over the five-man panel tribunal that is hearing petitions challenging the declaration that he won the February 23 presidential election.
President Buhari, the 2nd Respondent in Atiku’s petition marked CA/PEPT/02/19, said his attention was further drawn to exhibits that contained newspaper cuttings, indicating that Justice Bulkachuwa’s son canvassed for votes in his favour.
Countering Atiku’s motion with an 11-paragraphed affidavit, President Buhari, insisted that the petitioners, failed to prove that Justice Bulkachuwa had in any way, exhibited any form of bias against them since the petition was entered before the tribunal.
The counter affidavit was deposed to by one Kolawole Andrew Aro, a litigation officer in the chambers of President Buhari’s lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN. In the written address, President Buhari, who was represented at the tribunal on Wednesday by a team of lawyers led by seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, said he had since his emergence to power, refrained from dabbling into the membership of any judicial panel., adding that he never interfered with the constitution of any tribunal whether is adjudicating on election petitions relating to the office of President, Governor, National or State Assembly, or sitting in any civil or criminal matter howsoever.
the president who noted that he had no power whatsoever to decide those to be appointed into any judicial panel or tribunal, stressed that such interference would amount to gross abuse of the principle of separation of powers.
He also said he was aware that Justice Bulkachuwa had at the inaugural sitting of the presidential election petition tribunal on May 8, assured all the parties that in dealing with the petitions, the court, would be guided by the constitution, the law and international best practices.
The president, therefore, maintained that Atiku and the PDP, had no reason whatsoever to be apprehensive about the involvement of the Court of Appeal President in the adjudication of their dispute with regards to the outcome of the 2019 presidential election.
Buhari’s lead counsel therefore submitted that whether or not the President of the Court of Appeal should recuse herself 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 petition, as prayed by the petitioners, is within the prerogative and discretion of the president of the Court of Appeal.
“What is to be taken into consideration in coming to one decision or the other in respect of the application is also within the exclusive discretion of the honourable President. This is not a decision that can be dictated to her by either the petitioners or respondent or any of their counsel.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which is the 1st Respondent in the matter, through its team of lawyers comprising five SANs led by Mr. Yunuz Uztaz, urged the tribunal to dismiss Atiku and PDP’s motion, contending that it was in breach of section 42 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
INEC, argued that the motion was discriminatory in the sense that it sought to disqualify Justice Bulkachuwa on the basis that she was married to a politician.
Also, the All Progressives Congress, APC, through its team of nine SANs, led by Prince Lateef Fagbemi, accused the PDP and Atiku of engaging in “cheap blackmail”. While adopting its 15-paragraphed affidavit, the APC, said it was appalled that PDP was in the habit of engaging in “unpardonable and regrettable attacks” on Judges, saying it did so during a governorship election petition case that involved Osun State.
Meanwhile, replying on point of law, counsel to the petitioners, Dr. Uzuokwu, SAN, argued that none of the Respondents disputed the allegation that Justice Bulkachuwa was connected to key members of the APC which is the 3rd Respondent in the matter.
After it had heard all the parties, the panel reconvened at 2pm and ruled that the petitioners failed to prove that the panel was constituted in a way that its independence could not be guaranteed and the case was dismissed.