THE JUDICIARY ON TRIAL

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Saturday comment1

 Sehinde Omoniyi urges the chairperson of the Presidential tribunal, ZainabBulkachuwa, to disqualify herself because of conflict of interest

 

As the doors of the Presidential Election Tribunal fling open at the pre-hearing seating, once again the judiciary in Nigeria is at a crossroads. The integrity of the third arm of government, indeed the third estate of the realm, is on trial.

 

The chairperson of the tribunal who is the current President of the Court of Appeal, Her Lordship, Hon. Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa must quickly recuse herself from the tribunal if the nation’s confidence in the judiciary is to be restored as the last hope of the common man.

 

Married to Alhaji Adamu Bulkachuwa, an All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator-elect for Bauchi North in the just concluded 2019 elections, it will only amount to a travesty of the law for Her Lordship to serve as a member of the Presidential Election Tribunal.

 

By her association with a staunch member of the ruling political party whose victory at the Presidential polls is in contention, she is vicariously an interested party in the issue at hand.

 This scenario presents an urgency which is clearly in the national interest for Justice Bulkachuwa to immediately recuse herself from the tribunal before the judiciary is led into another cul-de-sac.

 

Failure for wise counsel to prevail and the prompt intervention of the NJC, the composition of the five-man appeal committee will only be dead on arrival, a mere charade of judicial conduct.

 Indeed, the five-man court of appeal as eminently qualified as they are in their individual rights, can only earn the trust of the people and the global audience who have become passionate about the goings on in Nigeria’s judiciary since the former CJN Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen suspension saga and his subsequent resignation if the conduct of the case is transparent.

 

There is no doubt that if justice is to be seen to have been done at the expiration of the 180 days allowed for the tribunal seating, the recusal ought to be done promptly to avoid any delay and denial of justice.

 There is no doubt that the judges from the Court of Appeal – Abdu Aboki, Peter Olabisi Ige, Joseph Ikyegh and Samuel Oseji, have their assignment clearly defined. They are to ascertain the veracity of the claims or otherwise of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Nigeria’s former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that the February 23 Presidential Election was rigged in favour of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari by the election umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

 

Since March, the petitioner has filed his petition and the respondent has responded and vice versa. Pre-hearing sessions are currently on going and this is expected to last for one week.

 

Nigeria cannot afford another charade as the nation makes conscious effort to correct the glaring wrongs foisted on Nigerians in the course of the 2019 Presidential and other elections. As Hon. Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa pointed out in her opening speech at the Pre-Hearing meeting last Wednesday in Abuja, over 700 petitions have been filed in the just concluded elections, a clear indictment of the process.

 

It therefore behoves on the judiciary to thoroughly interrogate and critically examine the processes, and results from such an election with a preponderance of misconduct, hues and cries.

 In the process of sanctifying the process that produces occupiers of public offices especially offices as critical as those of the president and vice president, the judiciary itself must be seen to be above board. After all, it is a popular maxim promoted on the platform of a fearless and just judiciary that he who must go to equity must come with a clean hand.  

 The world attention is riveted on Nigeria in the days ahead and only the judiciary can save itself at this time in particular.        

           Omoniyi wrote from Abuja