The legal team of the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is disturbed by the continued delay in replacing the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, on the five-man panel of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
Worried that a replacement had yet to be provided for her on the panel over one week after her withdrawal, the petitioners told SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday that they had written to the President of the Court of Appeal expressing their concern over the delay.
Justice Bulkachuwa has the exclusive power to appoint a judge of the court to serve on the tribunal’s panel.
Speaking with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday, the petitioners’ lead counsel, Dr Liy Uzoukwu (SAN), confirmed his team had written to Justice Bulkachuwa to remind her of her promise to appoint her replacement.
Ozoukwu told our correspondent on the telephone that the letter was “delivered at the President of the Court of Appeal’s office on Friday morning”.
He said, “I am not aware of any new development. We have not been served with any hearing notice. But we have written to the President of the Court of Appeal to remind her of her promise to bring in a replacement, having recused herself. It is yet to be fulfilled. That is where we are.
“We are waiting to see what will happen, having done that.”
Asked if they were worried about the delay in the appointment of Justice Bulkachuwa’s replacement, Uzoukwu said, “Of course, we are bound to be.”
Justice Bulkachuwa was heading the panel until May 22 when she withdrew her membership following an allegation of the likelihood of bias levelled against her by Atiku and his party based on her family ties to some top members of the All Progressives Congress.
The petitioners had filed their petition before the tribunal to challenge the victory of the APC and its presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, in the February 23 poll.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, Buhari and the APC are the three respondents to the petition.
By Sunday, Atiku and his party would have lost 76 out of the 180 days within which their petition is required to be heard and determined by the tribunal.