Another Test for the Judiciary

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George Okoh writes that the legal battle for who represents Bauchi North Senatorial District at the senate questions the integrity of the Nigerian judiciary

It would be recalled that Adamu Muhammed Bulkachuwa’s name was forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the party’s candidate against popular notion that Usman Abubakar Tuggar won the primary going by documents available to the public. Tuggar has taken the case to court which may ultimately go to the Federal Court of Appeal, where Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, (Wife of Adamu Bulkachuwa) presides as President. This in turn has raised questions as to her suitability to handle the case when it eventually comes before her.

A look into history reveals that Justice Bulkachuwa took her oath of office as the 6th President of the second highest court since its inception in 1976, after serving in an acting capacity as the President of the court for about two years following the suspension of the court’s President, Justice Isa Ayo Salami by the National Judicial

Council and his eventual retirement November, 2014.

The question being asked is; will she abide by the advice given to her during her swearing-in by then Chief Justice of the Federation, Hon. Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar to discharge of the obligation of her office with utmost sense of fair play, impartiality and dedication to duty. Also that as a custodian of the sacred position to shun all forms of political pressures, and discharge her responsibilities in consonance with the oath of office she subscribed to?

Also, there are claims from some stakeholders in the state that the national leadership of the APC swapped Tuggar’s name with Bulkachuwa in the list of candidates submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with a view to using Adamu Bulkachuwa as an access to his wife, Justice Zainab, whose court handles election petitions among other judicial functions.

Nevertheless, the legal battle continues as Tuggar in a suit he filed before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, prayed the court to among others, order the INEC to accept his name as APC’s actual candidate for Bauchi North, in place of Bulkachuwa.

In the suit, marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/1240/2018 filed by a team of lawyers, including Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Tuggar stated, in a supporting affidavit, that after the primary, monitored by INEC officials, he won in six out of the seven local government areas that made up the Senatorial District and got a total

of 71,308 votes, while Bulkachuwa came second.

Tuggar, who exhibited copies of the primary elections’ results sheets to support his claim, said he was taken aback when leaders of the APC elected to send Bulkachuwa’s name to INEC as the party’s candidate instead of his name, having won the primary and his victory acknowledged by INEC’s officials who were present.

The plaintiff stated that, on realising that Bulkacchuwa’s name was wrongly sent to INEC, he protested and wrote to the party’s National Chairman and other leaders, who, he said, failed to act to rectify the error, a development that informed his decision to approach the court for redress.

Tuggar however prayed the court to declare that, having been duly nominated by the defendant (APC) by virtue of the primary election held on October 3, 2018 and having been confirmed as validly nominated pursuant to the summary of candidates nominated at the primary, as produced by INEC’s representatives who witnessed the primary, the 3rd defendant (INEC) was bound to recognise him as APC’s “true and validly nominated candidate.”

He wants the court to set aside the purported submission of the name of the 1st defendant (Bulkachuwa) to INEC by the APC as its candidate and order the electoral body to expunge Bulkachuwa’s name from its record and replace it with his (the plaintiff’s) having won the primary and his victory confirmed by INEC’s representatives in their “summary of candidates nominated at the primaries.”

Tuggar is also praying the court to restrain Bulkachuwa from further parading himself as APC’s candidate; restrain INEC from further recognising Bulkachuwa as the party’s candidate, and to direct the electoral body to recognise him as APC’s true candidate for the Bauchi North Senatorial District seat.

Speaking on the matter, an aide to Tuggar’s, Umar Waziri disclosed; “In the result sheet made available by INEC officials, Bulkachuwa scored 234 in Gamawa LG, while Tuggar gannered 20, 096 in the same LG. In Giade LG, Bulkachuwa got 1, 539 while Tuggar got 5, 878.

“In Jama’re LG, while Bulkachuwa got 388 votes, Tuggar got 948. In Katagun, Bulkachuwa got 7, 263 and Tuggar got 6, 278. In Shira LG, Bulkachuwa got 367 and Tuggar got 11, 739.

“In Zaki LG, Bulkachuwa scored 804 votes while Tuggar got 12, 280. And in Tas/Gadau LG, Bulkachuwa scored 6, 085 while Tuggar scored 14, 089 votes.

“The trio of Ibrahim Abdullahi, Bauchi State Electoral Commissioner; Baba Bukar Usman, Administrative Secretary, INEC, Bauchi State and Ahmed Alhaji Waziri, Ag. HoD, EPM, Bauchi State all signed a document vindicating Tuggar as the winner of the primary.

“In the document titled: ‘Summary of Candidates Nominated at Political

Party Direct Primary Election held on 3rd October, 2018’, Usman Abubakar Tuggar, Hon. Hallilu Dauda Jika and Dr. Danjuma Adamu Dabo were the authentic winners of the direct primary in Bauchi North, Bauchi Central and Bauchi South senatorial districts respectively.

“But when the result got to Abuja, the names of Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa and Lawal Yahaya Gumau were used to replace the original winners, Tuggar and Dr. Dabo without any reason.”

The aide recalled that Tuggar, in his petition to the National Headquarters of APC, said: “It is with deep shock that after the primary elections, I heard an announcement by the Committee Chairman, Prof. Ahmed Bakori Mohammed that Adamu Bulkachuwa has been declared the winner”.

However, in a counter-argument, Bulkachuwa denied Tuggar’s claims, particularly in relation to the outcome of the primary elections and his choice as the party’s candidate for the seat. Bulkachuwa said, in a counter affidavit, that he came first in the primary elections with 56,784 votes. A claim disputed by Tuggar’s camp as a fallacy.

According to them how can Bulkachuwa claim to have scored 56,784 votes which represents the total number of accredited voters for the primary elections in the district. “Adamu Bulkachuwa claims that he won all the 56,784 votes cast during the primary election, signifying that not even his major opponent, Tuggar voted for himself. An aide quipped.

He added: “Upon the submission of the report of the Bauchi State Electoral Committee of the 2nd defendant (APC) to its National Working Committee (NWC), the 2nd defendant’s NWC, at its meeting of 31th October, 2018, after a deliberation and consideration of the report of the Bauchi State Legislative Primary Election Committee, duly and unanimously reaffirmed my victory at the said election”

Faced with this scenario, an Abuja based lawyer Adul Omogbe believes that the most honourable thing for Justice Zainab to do is to remove herself from the case in totality by resigning.

According to Omogbe; “There is no doubt that I pity the Honourable Justice. She is sought of caught in a web. It is a matter of heavy moral burden, she has to choose between her reputation and her job. To preside over a case that involves her husband is not going to be easy, anything short of ruling against her husband will bring into question her neutrality in the whole matter.

”If I were in her shoes, I will simply withdraw from the case by resigning my position as President of the Court of Appeal, after all, that’s what obtains in civilised climes.”

However, a different view shared by a seasoned banker, Omatshola Jide, believes the Honourable Justice should be allowed to do her work without any prejudice. This he said is borne out of the fact, that she is only going to give verdict according to the interpretation of the laws of the land.

While Nigerians especially people of Bauchi North senatorial District wait anxiously of what becomes of the case, it is of a general consensus by majority of Nigerians spoken to that the Justice Zainab’s debacle is a case sturdy that will go down in our legal practice and may make for a re-write of some aspects of our laws.

QUOTE:

Tuggar has taken the case to court which may ultimately go to the Federal Court of Appeal, where Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, (Wife of Adamu Bulkachuwa) presides as President. This in turn has raised questions as to her suitability to handle the case when it eventually comes before her