A’Court Cancels Judges’ Vacation over Election Petitions

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Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa
•  65 poll complaints decided, 735 pending
By Alex Enumah in Abuja

Court of Appeal justices would not go on annual vacation this year to enable them to devote time to hearing of election petition cases that are time bound.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, cancelled this year’s annual vacation for justices of the court, which usually lasts for about two months.
The Media Officer of the Appeal Court, Ms. Sa’adatu Musa-Kachalla, said in a statement yesterday that the directive was due to “the enormous (election) petitions the court is faced with.”

She said since election petitions are time-bound, there is the need for timely determination of appeals arising from them by the Court of Appeal.
She stated that 65 election petitions relating to the last governorship, state House of Assembly, National Assembly and presidential elections had so far been either dismissed or struck out while 735 were pending before 77 tribunals sitting across the country.
The Federal High Court judges had last week commenced their annual vacation and some other judges were due to commence theirs today (Monday).
But Musa-Kachalla quoted the President of the Court of Appeal in her statement as saying, “we have to forfeit our annual vacation to enable us to entertain and determine all appeals arising from the various Election Petition Tribunals transmitted to the court”.
She said Bulkachuwa had communicated the directive to the justices of the court in a two-page circular dated July 2.
According to the statement, Justice Bulkachuwa said many appeals pending before the court were time-bound and would be due to come up within the period of the court’s vacation from July-October.
“The need therefore arises for them to be heard and determined within the said period,” the statement added.
Bulkachuwa was also said to have directed the presiding justices of the various divisions of the court to, in consultation with her, draw up a roster to enable the justices with medical appointments or other pressing family issues to travel for not more than 15 days within the period.
She said the roster should be such that at any given time, there is a three-member panel on the ground in every division to hear and determine appeals.
“In divisions with three Justices, only one Justice can travel at a time and the office of the President of the Court of Appeal is to be immediately notified to form a panel in that Justice’s absence should the need arise,” the circular said.
It sated further: “According to Justice Bulkachuwa, appeals arising from the National and State Assemblies would be heard by a local panel of three members except where it is controversial, then the president will constitute and send another panel to hear it.
“On the governorship appeals, the President of the Court of Appeal disclosed that it would be heard by a five-member panel to be empanelled by his lordship.
“Hon. Justice Bulkachuwa therefore, instructed the Presiding Justices to notify her as soon as appeals from governorship elections were filed to ensure their speedy determination,” the statement added.
Citing information from the Deputy Chief Registrar, Court of Appeal, Election Petition Tribunal, Mrs. Rabi Yakubu, the statement stated that that a total of 800 election petitions were filed as of June 17, 2019.
It added, “A breakdown of this figure shows that State House of Assembly recorded the highest figure (of election petitions) of 415; Senate, 105; House of Representatives, 214; governorship, 62; and presidential, four.
“According to the facts sheets emanating from the 77 Election Petition Tribunals set up by the President of the Court of Appeal as of April 23, 2019, 65 petitions were either dismissed or struck out while 735 petitions are pending.”
It added that a total of 1,769 appeals were determined and 3,517 motions disposed of by the Court of Appeal between January and April, 2019 across all the court’s divisions in the country.
The statement quoted the Head, Legal Services Unit, Mrs. Adaeze Aziwe, as adding that a total of 2,397 appeals and 5,120 motions were filed during the period under review.