The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, will on Monday, resume sitting on the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its Candidate in the February 23, Presidential election, Atiku Abubakar.
Meanwhile, there were indications on Friday, that the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has appointed another Justice, as her replacement on the five-man Panel, to hear the case.
Recall, that Justice Bulkachuwa withdrew as a member and Head of the five-man Panel, on May 22, following the allegation of the likelihood of bias levelled against her by the PDP and Atiku.
The Tribunal was said to have issued and served the notice for the Monday’s hearing on all parties to the petition, on Friday.
The Leader of the Legal Team of the PDP and Atiku, Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, has confirmed the development.
“We were served the notice today, that the court will resume hearing on Monday”, he said.
Asked if he was sure that Justice Bulkachuwa’s replacement on the Panel had been named, Uzoukwu said: “It is the presumption that we arrived at, when we received the hearing notice on Friday. But we do not have any information about it.”
The development came barely a week after Atiku and his party wrote to Bulkachuwa, reminding her of her promise to appoint her replacement on the Panel, to enable the hearing of their petition to resume.
They said in their letter sent to Bulkachuwa, on May 31, that they were already running against time, due to the “strict requirement of keeping to the constitutional calendar for a petition”.
The Petitioner’s letter signed on behalf of Uzoukwu, by a Lawyer in their Legal Team, Silas Onu, stated that as of May 31, when the letter was delivered at Bulkachuwa’s Chambers, it was nine days since she recused herself from the Tribunal, yet nothing had been heard about her replacement.
The letter read in part: “Considering the strict requirement of keeping to the constitutional calendar for a petition and the obvious fact that time is also running fast against the Petitioners, we pray my Lord to act by appointing a replacement, so that we will get a hearing notice and continue with the petition in the interest of justice.”
The Petitioners are by their joint petition filed on March 18, 2019, challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory, in the February 23 poll.
The Petitioners had alleged in their earlier application filed on May 16, that with the Judge remaining as a member and Head of the five-man Tribunal, their petition would not be handled impartially by the Tribunal.
The application was based on the fact that Bulkachuwa’s husband, Adamu Bulkachuwa, is a Senator-elect on the platform of the APC, the party whose victory at the February 23, Presidential election, they are challenging at the Tribunal. They added that her son, Aliyu Abubakar, was a Governorship Aspirant on the platform of the same party, in Gombe State.
They also quoted a statement made by Justice Bulkachuwa, at the inaugural sitting of the Tribunal, on May 8, as pre-judging their petition.
On May 22, the Tribunal, in a unanimous judgment, dismissed the application.
Despite that, Justice Bulkachuwa said: “I am recusing myself from the Panel, for personal reasons.”