Group asks Bulkachuwa to reconsider sitting on election petition tribunal
Access to Justice has called on the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa to re-consider her membership of the tribunal hearing the election petition against the declared winner of the 2019 presidential elections.
The group through its convener, Mr. Joseph Otteh advised that doing so will portray her as being fair-minded and impartial justice, in the perceptions of reasonable members of the public matter.
According to them, there have been strong speculations that the Buhari government has heavily invested in efforts to achieve the best possible outcomes from electoral courts in any election litigation involving the ruling party through any means possible.
“Judiciary is facing very heightened levels of public scrutiny, and the performance of some judicial bodies have raised red flags concerning judicial independence and integrity,” the group said.
A2J noted that such actions were the reason, “Many believe the reason the government worked hand in glove with the Code of Conduct Tribunal and removed Justice Walter Onnoghen from office as Chief Justice of Nigeria applying bizarre legal procedures”, adding that the dust has not settled from that incident.
It said: “The Court of Appeal President, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa is reportedly married to a Senator of the ruling All Progressive Congress Party (APC) and the she has not publicly denied this claim. We note that the Court of Appeal President is not however sitting on an election petition involving her spouse personally but that involving her spouse’s political party and platform.
“In ordinary circumstances, there would be no question of whether the President of the Court of Appeal can, or should participate in tribunals adjudicating election petitions involving her spouse’s party. But these are no ordinary or normal times.
“There are now far more than normal anxieties about the judiciary’s strength of character. Many keen observers of the judiciary are already worried that the it has been overawed by the government given, particularly, the example of the bizarre way the removed Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen was “guillotined” by a supposedly “judicial” body.”
It stressed that it may be difficult for judicial officers to bank on the moral capital of the Judiciary as an institution as a basis of comfort when they sit on cases where some familial, fiduciary or other interests are implicated, for the stock value of that capital has descended a few notches over time and survives mostly through its clichés than its substance.
“Maybe at some time in the future, it will not be a problem for a justice of the Court of Appeal to adjudicate cases where his or her significant other has some immediate or remote interest, but, at this time, there will be conflicting perceptions, even of reasonable people, given the prevailing context, of whether justice will impartially be done in such a case. And justice, as Nigerian courts have said over and over again, is based on the perception of reasonable people more than (even) the purity of a Judge’s conscience,” the group declared.
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