The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, who has just resigned as the head of the presidential election petition tribunal on Wednesday said she only excused herself from the panel for personal reasons.
Until her resignation on Wednesday, Mrs Bulkachuwa was heading a five-man panel of judges presiding over the suit filed by Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential Candidate Atiku Abubakar challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23, 2019 presidential election in the country.
Counsel to Mr Atiku, Livy Ozuokwu had asked the chairman of the tribunal to recuse herself on the grounds that she would be biased in the case.
However, while announcing her resignation, Mrs Bulkachuwa said, “I am recusing myself from the panel for personal reasons. I am happy that the matter had been settled “based on facts and the law” so that “another female judge will no longer have to face what I have faced.”
Although the five-man panel of the tribunal, in a unanimous ruling dismissed the application, but Bulkachuwa, said she was withdrawing for “personal reasons”.
Justice Olabisi Ige, who read the lead ruling of the panel, held that the relationship between Justice Bulkachuwa and her husband, Adamu Bulkachuwa, who is a senator-elect, and her son Aliyu Abubakar, a governorship aspirant, both on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, was not weighty enough to infer that she would be biased in her handling of the proceedings of the panel.
Justice Ige also ruled that no inference of likelihood of bias could be inferred from the speech delivered by Justice Bulkachuwa at the inaugural sitting of the tribunal on May 8 that she had pre-judged the petitioners’ petition.
All the members of the panel, including Justice Bulkachuwa, agreed with the lead ruling.
She said a new presiding Justice would be appointed for the panel, but that the four remaining members of the panel would continue with the hearing of the preliminary applications pending the appointment of the new head of the panel.