THE Judiciary was saved from a major embarrassment when the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, withdrew from presiding over the election petition instituted by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, challenging the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Court of Appeal being the court of first instance for presidential election petitions under our Constitution, Justice Bulkachuwa had constituted the five-man panel of judges with herself as the chairperson.

The PDP, its presidential candidate and other concerned parties complained that Justice Bulkachuwa, being the wife of All Progressives Congress, APC, senator-elect representing Bauchi North Senatorial District, Adamu Bulkachuwa, and also the mother of Aliyu Haidar Bulkachuwa, a candidate of the same party for the governorship election in the 2019 general elections who reportedly campaigned for Buhari, should recuse herself from the panel because of the likelihood of bias against the PDP.

Atiku’s application seeking Justice Bulkachuwa’s self-recusal had brought great attention not only on the panel but also the entire Judiciary as the public watched closely to see what the judge would do. A unanimous ruling read out by Justice Olabisi Ige, dismissed the application as not being weighty enough to infer the likelihood of bias against Justice Bulkachuwa. The ruling notwithstanding, Bulkachuwa chose to withdraw “for personal reasons”.

We are relieved that Court of Appeal president toed the path of honour. With the deep involvement of her close family members in the 2019 elections, she should have stayed away, ab initio, from membership of any panel enquiring into the conduct of any election petition in the interest of justice and fair play.

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At issue here is not gender or whether Justice Bulkachuwa had a prior track record of tendency to be biased, even though PDP had pointed out that she “pre-judged” during the inaugural sitting when she observed that “no matter how well an election is conducted there are bound to be complaints”. Settled law simply holds that when a judge is either directly or remotely connected to a case, he or she should stay away from it to avoid being seen as a biased party.

We commend the judge for the patriotic step she has taken. If she had remained as the head of that panel it would have been difficult to believe whatever results from its work.

The Judiciary is the last hope of the citizen. It is important that the courts settle all controversies surrounding the presidential election in a manner whereby justice is not only done but seen to have been done. Anything contrary to this will continue to question the legitimacy of the occupant of the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We cannot afford that.

THE Judiciary was saved from a major embarrassment when the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, withdrew from presiding over the election petition instituted by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, challenging the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Court of Appeal being the court of first instance for presidential election petitions under our Constitution, Justice Bulkachuwa had constituted the five-man panel of judges with herself as the chairperson.

The PDP, its presidential candidate and other concerned parties complained that Justice Bulkachuwa, being the wife of All Progressives Congress, APC, senator-elect representing Bauchi North Senatorial District, Adamu Bulkachuwa, and also the mother of Aliyu Haidar Bulkachuwa, a candidate of the same party for the governorship election in the 2019 general elections who reportedly campaigned for Buhari, should recuse herself from the panel because of the likelihood of bias against the PDP.

Atiku’s application seeking Justice Bulkachuwa’s self-recusal had brought great attention not only on the panel but also the entire Judiciary as the public watched closely to see what the judge would do. A unanimous ruling read out by Justice Olabisi Ige, dismissed the application as not being weighty enough to infer the likelihood of bias against Justice Bulkachuwa. The ruling notwithstanding, Bulkachuwa chose to withdraw “for personal reasons”.

We are relieved that Court of Appeal president toed the path of honour. With the deep involvement of her close family members in the 2019 elections, she should have stayed away, ab initio, from membership of any panel enquiring into the conduct of any election petition in the interest of justice and fair play.

At issue here is not gender or whether Justice Bulkachuwa had a prior track record of tendency to be biased, even though PDP had pointed out that she “pre-judged” during the inaugural sitting when she observed that “no matter how well an election is conducted there are bound to be complaints”. Settled law simply holds that when a judge is either directly or remotely connected to a case, he or she should stay away from it to avoid being seen as a biased party.

We commend the judge for the patriotic step she has taken. If she had remained as the head of that panel it would have been difficult to believe whatever results from its work.

The Judiciary is the last hope of the citizen. It is important that the courts settle all controversies surrounding the presidential election in a manner whereby justice is not only done but seen to have been done. Anything contrary to this will continue to question the legitimacy of the occupant of the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We cannot afford that.

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