Presidential election petitions tribunal adjourns sitting to May 22
THE Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting at the Court of Appeal Headquarters in Abuja has adjourned its sitting to May 22 for hearing of the application for the Chairman of the tribunal to withdraw from the case.
The tribunal, which is headed by the President of the Court of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa, kicked off its hearing on Wednesday, into the petitions submitted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, former Vice President Abubakar Atiku.
The petitioners want the tribunal to hold that President Muhammadu Buhari was not the winner of the 2019 presidential election as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, the tribunal’s sitting kicked off amidst allegations of possible bias against Justice Bulkachuwa whom the PDP has asked to recuse herself from the case.
The party said it has no confidence that Bulkachuwa, being the wife of Adamu Bulkachuwa, a politician, who contested and won the Bauchi North Senatorial Senate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), would be impartial in presiding over the tribunal.
At the commencement of proceedings, the lead counsel to the PDP, Levi Uzoukwu, asked to be allowed to address the chairman of the tribunal behind closed doors for 10 minutes, alongside the lead counsel for the respondents.
In response, the counsel to President Buhari, Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said he has no objection to the request, but suggested that two lawyers from each party in the suit should be allowed to take part in the discussion. This was also agreed to by the counsel to INEC, Lateef Fagbemi.
A total of 10 lawyers, two representing each of the five parties in the petition − the PDP, Atiku, the APC, Buhari and INEC – went into the closed-door session.
Narrating what happened at the session, Justice Bulkachuwa said the petitioners asked her to withdraw from presiding over the petition. She said she had also received a letter from the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, demanding the same thing.
Bulkachuwa explained that the matter was already in the public domain and so would be handled as such. She, therefore, asked the petitioners to file a formal application to that regards.
Uzoukwu, Atiku and PDP’s counsel, said his team would file the application on Thursday, while the respondents’ lawyers, comprising Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Yunus Usman (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), representing Buhari, INEC and the APC respectively, said they would need time to study and respond to the application accordingly.
The case was adjourned to May 22 for the hearing of the application.