The 2019 Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria’s main opposition party, Atiku Abubakar, has set Thursday, May 16, to file a formal application demanding the withdrawal of Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa as the chairman of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
Abubakar made this known through the head of his legal team, Dr Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on Wednesday, May 15.
Naija News recalls that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared President Muhammadu Buhari who participated in the election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s ruling party, winner of the February 23 Presidential election.
The commission had said figures from the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) gave Buhari 15,191,847 votes, while Atiku came second with 11,262,978 votes.
Challenging the results at the election tribunal in his 139-page petition, Abubakar said the results from INEC server showed he polled 18,356,732 votes to defeat Buhari who had 16,741,430 votes.
On seeing Justice Bulkachuwa as the chairman of the five-man panel of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal , Abubakar and his party raised the alarm over her “connection” with the ruling APC.
The main opposition party and its Presidential candidate subsequently called on the tribunal judge to to withdraw as the chairman of the five-man panel.
At the resumption of the Election Petition Tribunal sitting today, the tribunal asked the PDP and its candidate to formally file an application asking Justice Bulkachuwa to withdraw.
The development, Naija News understands followed a meeting of the panel members held with lawyers appearing in the case.
Justice Bulkachuwa said Uzoukwu, who leads the PDP and Abubakar’s legal team, asked her to recuse herself from the panel at the meeting held in chambers.
She noted that Uzoukwu’s request followed a letter she received earlier from Prince Uche Secondus, the National Chairman of PDP, also demanding she disqualifies herself from further participation in the panel.
The tribunal judge said since the matter was already in the public domain, the panel had decided to have the issue treated openly.
Responding to Bulkachuwa’s statement, Uzoukwu said the PDP legal team would file a formal application to that effect tomorrow, Thursday, May 16.
On the other hand, INEC and APC demanded more time to respond to the application.
The tribunal judge thereafter adjourned the case till Wednesday, May 22 for hearing of the petitioners’ application.
Meanwhile, Naija News understands that Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Yunus Usman (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) are representing President Buhari and APC at the tribunal.