The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has stepped down as the chairperson of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has alleged Justice Bulkachuwa will be bias in presiding over his case because both her husband and her son are members of the APC, President Muhammadu Buhari's party.
Although members of the tribunal in a unanimous judgement dismissed Atiku's allegation of likely bias, Justice Bulkachuwa stepped down from the panel, saying she was doing "for personal reasons."
Justice Peter Ige, who delivered the ruling said the application was "unmeritorious and unconstitutional."
The tribunal held that based on Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution, which prohibits gender discrimination, the application cannot succeed.
He said Atiku and PDP failed to place materials before the tribunal to positively show that the relationship of Justice Bulkachuwa with her husband and the biological son as members of APC will negatively affect the determination of the petition.
But while other members of the panel agreed with Justice Ige's ruling dismissing the application, Justice Bulkachuwa picked the microphone and announced her withdrawing from the panel.
Earlier, PDP's lead counsel, Levy Uzoukwu (SAN), submitted that Articles 12.1 and 13.1 of the APC Constitution recognises the National Convention as the highest organ of the party with National Assembly members enjoying automatic membership.
He argued that the PCA's husband, Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa, who is senator-elect for Bauchi North, will become a member of the organ after his inauguration in June.
He said the son of the PCA, Haidar Aliyu Abubakar contested as a governorship aspirant in Gombe State and campaigned for Buhari during 2019 general elections.
But APC counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) described the application as "blackmail" and "assault on the nation's finest institution."
He said it is legally unmeritorious to ask Justice Bulkachuwa to recuse herself, adding however that since the PCA has had a distinguished career with a name to protect, and is set to retire in 2020, he would in his opinion ask her "to leave the matter."
INEC counsel, Yunus Ustaz Usman (SAN) asked the panel to dismiss the application for offending Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution.
Counsel to Buhari, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) submitted that the president has no say on the composition of the tribunal panel, and "not interested and would never be interested in compromising the panel of justices whether in his petition or whatsoever."
Another justice to preside over petitions
With resignation Justice Bulkachuwa will now appoint another judge to take her place and also nominate a new chairman of the panel. The second most senior judge of the Court of Appeal is Justice Monica Dongban-Mensen of the Enugu Division.