President of the Court of Appeal and head of Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa on Wednesday, resigned from her position as the head of the tribunal.
Until her resignation Bulkachuwa was heading a five-man panel of judges presiding over the suit filed by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the February 23, 2019 presidential election.
Pressure had mounted on her to step aside since Atiku’s counsel, Livy Ozuokwu asked her to recuse herself from chairing the tribunal on the grounds that she would be biased in the case because her husband, Adamu is a senator-elect under the APC platform and a chieftain of the ruling party.
Although the five-man panel of the tribunal in a unanimous ruling, dismissed Uzoukwu’s application, 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, her husband and her son Aliyu Abubakar, a governorship aspirant on the APC platform, 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.
Notwithstanding, Justice Bulkachuwa decided to step aside, saying, “I am recusing myself from the panel for personal reasons”.
She, however, expressed joy 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”.
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.