The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar and his party has asked the Presidential Election Panel to replace tribunal Chairman, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, with another Justice of the Court of Appeal over likelihood of bias.
The request was contained in the formal application by Atiku and the PDP, asking Justice Bulkachuwa to step aside from hearing of their petition against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the February 23 presidential election.
The petitioners had at a pre-hearing session on Wednesday asked Justice Bulkachuwa to recuse herself from the hearing of their suit but, the five member panel presided over by Justice Bulkachuwa had asked the petitioners to come by way of formal application.
In the motion on notice dated May 16 and filed same day by their lead counsel, Dr Levy Uzoukwu SAN, the petitioners based their request on the claim that Bulkachuwa will be biased against them in the hearing of their petition against the outcome of the February 23 presidential poll.
They believe that Justice Bulkachuwa may not be fair and just to their petitioners because of the circumstances surrounding her family in the political terrain of the 2019 general elections.
Amongst others, Atiku and PDP claimed that Justice Bulkachuwa is a wife to Hon. Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa who is a full-fledged member of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and indeed a senator elect on the platform of the APC in Bauchi state.
Besides, Atiku and PDP claimed that Justice Bulkachuwa is the biological mother of one Aliyu Haidar Abubakar, a prominent card carrying member of the APC and a gubernatorial aspirant in Gombe State at the last general election.
In their joint petition against the return of Buhari as the winner of the February 23, 2019 election they prayed that Bulkachuwa disqualify herself from presiding and being a member of the presidential election petition tribunal that will hear their petition against Buhari on likelihood of bias.
The application was predicated on five grounds and supported by a 19 paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Emmanuel Agbo, Deputy National Secretary of the PDP.
They averred that Justice Bulkachuwa, who is the spouse of Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa, is a stakeholder in the APC and may not be able to give acceptable judgment in the petition.
The petitioners claimed that Bauchi is one of the focal state where the election of Buhari is being challenged and a state where Bulkachuwa’s husband won the senatorial election.
Atiku and his party claimed that Justice Bulkachuwa is closely related to her husband that she cannot fairly hear and determine their petition without eliciting the suspicion and anxiety of all right thinking persons that she will not be biased against them.
They therefore prayed for an order that Bulkachuwa should recuse or disqualify herself from further sitting or participating in the proceedulings in their petition and be replaced by another Justice to sit in her place to hear and determine their petition in the interest of Justice.
They further argued that the likelihood of bias against them is very high, owing to the statement made by Bulkachuwa at the inaugural session of the tribunal, when she said: “no matter how well an election was conducted there are bound to be complaints”.
“The question is not whether Justice Bulkachuwa acted overtly or omitted to act in a manner suspicious of his Lordship but rather whether his Lordship has lost the character of neutrality”, they submitted.
They therefore urged the court to resolve the issue raised in their application in their favour.