- Group asks court president to step down from tribunal
Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to clear the air on alleged corruption against the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa.
This is coming as a judicial advocacy group, Access to Justice, has asked Bulkachuwa to step down as a member of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on the grounds that she is married to a senator-elect of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The main opposition party in a statement issued by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said that on account of this allegation and the nefarious plot to bring the name of its party into its narrative, the Buhari-led presidency should come clear on the corruption allegation it opened on Justice Bulkachuwa.
The party said that since the Buhari-led presidency had alluded to issues of corruption against Justice Bulkachuwa, contrary to issues raised in the PDP petition bothering on bias, it behoves on the presidency and the APC to make public, the corruption issues they have alluded to.
“The presidency should also take a step further by pursuing these issues of corruption just as it did in its case of corruption allegations against the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, instead of wickedly dragging our party into issues that have no bearing with the PDP.
“Now that the presidency has informed the whole nation that Justice Bulkachuwa has issues of corruption, we challenge it to do the needful rather than engaging in shadow-boxing against our party.
“Moreover, in the face of corruption allegations, as has now been exposed by the presidency, the burden still lies on the same presidency to come clean. In doing that, the presidency will be ranching on its established course, having hit the records of harassing and intimidating judicial officials, abuse of court processes and disregard for court orders,” PDP added.
The party added that the presidency’s fresh allegation of corruption now places a huge moral burden on Justice Bulkachuwa, particularly in her capacity as the President of the Court of Appeal.
The opposition party further stated, “this is because, a judicial officer of such high standing must not only be above board but be seen to be above board at all times. Nevertheless, the PDP restates our demand for Justice Bulkachuwa to recuse herself from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, following the manifest bias in her opening address, that no matter how well the election is conducted, there are bound to be complaints.
“This is in addition to the fact that her husband, Hon. Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa, is a frontline leader of the APC, which is a party in our case before the tribunal. “With these developments, it is certain that there is no way the PDP can obtain justice with Justice Bulkachuwa in the panel.”
Meanwhile, Access to Justice has asked Bulkachuwa, to step down from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
The group, in a statement at the weekend by its Executive Director, Joseph Otteh, said the Appeal Court judgments on Onnoghen were not only of no value and too late in coming but were not much other than hollow rites of passage. It noted that though Bulkachuwa is not sitting on an election petition involving her spouse personally, but that involving her spouse’s political party and platform.
The group noted that the call for Justice Bulkachuwa to re-consider her membership of the tribunal is not because she will not be a fair-minded and impartial, but due to the perceptions of reasonable members of the public.
It argued that because of what has been happening in the judiciary lately, it might 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.
“The Court of Appeal President, Justice Bulkachuwa is reportedly married to a senator-elect of the ruling APC and the she has not publicly denied this claim.
“We note that the Appeal Court 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. The Nigerian 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.
“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 judiciary has been overawed by the government given, particularly, the example of the bizarre way the removed Justice Onnoghen was “guillotined” by a supposedly “judicial” body.