The main opposition candidate in the February presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, has explained his decision to request that the President of the Court of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa, withdraws from the presidential election petition tribunal.
Mr Abubakar and his party, PDP, are challenging the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in the election. They asked Mrs Bulkachuwa to withdraw from the five-member panel she headed. They based their demand on Mrs Bulkachuwa's relationship with an APC leader. Her husband is a Bauchi senator-elect on the APC platform.
On Wednesday, the tribunal ruled against Mr Abubakar and the PDP. It said both parties could not prove the possibility of bias against the judge and that Mrs Bulkachuwa's husband was not a party to the suit.
Despite the ruling of the tribunal, however, Mrs Bulkachuwa refused herself from the panel on 'personal grounds.'
In his statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES early on Thursday, Mr Abubakar said his "legal team's objection was not a reflection on Justice Bulkachuwa's character or competence."
"As a matter of fact, I have great respect for her, being a pioneer and advocate for gender equality and female empowerment," he said.
Read Mr Abubakar's full statement below.
One of the principal maxims of the Common Law is nemo judex in causa sua (no man shall be a judge in his own case). The call by my legal team for Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa to recuse herself from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal was predicated on this principle, being that her husband, Alhaji Mohammed Bulkachuwa, is an All Progressives Congress Senator-elect and the case she was expected to adjudicate upon had a bearing on that party.
My legal team's objection was not a reflection on Justice Bulkachuwa's character or competence. As a matter of fact, I have great respect for her, being a pioneer and advocate for gender equality and female empowerment.
It is with this in mind that I commend Justice Bulkachuwa for recusing herself from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal Panel hearing my petition against the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Her action showed courage and is an act of patriotism. She has, by this action, increased the confidence the public have for the judiciary.
Not only do I commend her, I also pray, especially in this holy month of Ramadan, that Justice will be done by the tribunal according to the fear of God and not in keeping with respect for the powers that be.
May God bless the judiciary and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.