By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has cancelled this year’s annual vacation for appellate court justices, saying her decision was informed by enormous petitions that arose from the 2019 general election.
She said it had become obvious that the Court of Appeal judges have to forfeit their annual vacation “to enable us to entertain and determine all appeals arising from the various election petition tribunals transmitted to the court.”
A statement by the head of media at the court, Saadatu Musa, disclosed that Bulkachuwa conveyed her decision to the justices via a two-page circular transmitted to them on July 2.
The statement read: “Justice Bulkachuwa noted that since these appeals were time-bound, and would arise within the period of the court’s vacation on July-October, the need, therefore, arises for them to be heard and determined within the said period.
“To enable the court to meet these targets, the President of the Court of Appeal gave explicit directives to the presiding justices of the various divisions to draw up a roster in consultation with his lordship to allow the justices with medical appointments or other pressing family issues travel for not more than 15 days within the period.
‘’The roster that would be drawn should be arranged in such a manner that at any given time, there is a three-member panel on the ground in every division to hear and determine appeals.
“In divisions with three justices, only one justice can travel at a time and the office of the President of the Court of Appeal is to be immediately notified to form a panel in that justice’s absence should the need arise.”
According to Bulkachuwa, appeals arising from the National and State Assemblies would be heard by a local panel of three members except where it is controversial, then the president will constitute and send another panel to hear it.
On the governorship appeals, the President of the Court of Appeal disclosed that it would be heard by a five-member panel to be impanelled by his lordship. Bulkachuwa, therefore, instructed the presiding justices to notify him as soon as appeals from governorship elections were filed to ensure their speedy determination.
“Meanwhile, a total of 1,769 appeals were determined and 3,517 motions disposed of by the Court of Appeal between January and April 2019.
“This is contained in the summary of cases in the Court of Appeal Divisions prepared by the Head, Legal Services Unit, Barrister Mrs. Adaeze Oby Aziwe and made available to the Media Officer of the Court.
“In the document, a total of 2,397 appeals and 5,120 motions were filed during the period under review.
‘Similarly, reports filtering in from the office of the DCR, Court of Appeal, Election Petition Tribunal, Mrs. Rabi Abdulazeez Yakubu, Esq say that a total of 800 petitions were filed as at June 17, 2019.
‘’A breakdown of this figure shows that State House of Assembly recorded the highest figure of 415, Senate 105, House of Representative 214, Governorship 62 and Presidential 4 Petitions.
“According to the facts sheets emanating from the 77 Election Petition Tribunals set up by the President of the Court of Appeal as at April 23, 2019, 65 petitions were either dismissed or struck out while 735 petitions are pending,”