Tribunal hears Atiku’s application disqualifying Bulkachuwa May 22
• Security operatives barricade venue to forestall disruption
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal will on May 22 hear the application seeking its chairman/President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to recuse herself from proceedings in the complaints filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the February 23 polls, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Their lead counsel, Levi Uzoukwu (SAN), yesterday put in the request after the court resumed from a temporary stand down of proceedings for a meeting on the matter between the lawyers and the panel chair.When sitting resumed however, Justice Bulkachuwa told the court that a closed-door meeting was unnecessary since the public was already aware of the issue.
Consequently, she called for the application to be filed in the open. But Uzoukwu, who had no formal presentation of the application, asked that he should be allowed to file the request tomorrow and be served on the parties in the dispute same day.Lawyer to the respondents, Ola Olanipekun (SAN), countered the process, urging the formal channel wherein a seven-day period would be given for responses. He asked that the court reconvenes next Monday.
After deliberations, the May 22 date was granted by the chairman to hear the application.The request, it was gathered, followed the allegation that the judge’s husband is a card-carry member of the ruling APC.The panel had scheduled yesterday to formally commence hearing in the duo’s petition seeking the nullification of President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory over alleged widespread rigging, violations of the Electoral Act, suppression of voters and violence. Atiku is specifically asking the tribunal to disqualify the Katsina native on the grounds that he “did not possess the requisite academic qualification to contest for the office of president.”
The petition, which is premised on five grounds, alleged that Buhari lied about his academic qualification as well as schools attended in his Form 001 submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in respect of the polls.However, the Coalition for Change (C4C) and its candidate Jeff Ojinika, unlike the three other petitions, included in theirs Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as the second respondent while the APC and INEC are third and fourth respondents.
They are also praying the tribunal to annul the exercise, alleging massive rigging and non-compliance with election guidelines and extant laws.Counsel to C4C, Obed Agu, subsequently made an application for substituted service to the first respondent, President Buhari, through any of the national officials of his political party or at its national secretariat, which was equally granted.
Besides, a combined team of security operatives yesterday barricaded the premises of the Court of Appeal in Abuja.Roads leading to the court, which serves as venue of the tribunal, were also blocked, forcing motorists to make use of alternative routes.The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Anjuguri Manzah, who confirmed the development in a statement, stated that the measure was to forestall disruption of the panel’s activities.