By Andrew Orolua, Abuja
The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) on Wednesday fixed May 22 for the hearing of an application by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar and his party seeking the disqualification of tribunal Chairman, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa from the panel.
Atiku and his party, the PDP are asking Justice Bulkachuwa, who is also the president of the Court of Appeal to rescue herself from the five -man panel that would hear their petition against the election of Buhari on the likelihood of bias against them.
At the resumed hearing, lead counsel to Atiku and PDP, Dr. Levi Uzoukwu (SAN), applied for 10 minutes’ private audience with the five-member panel and two lawyers representing each of the respondents. He did not elaborate or adduce any reason for the private meeting.
However, at the end of the one- hour meeting held in the chambers, Justice Bulkachuwa announced in open court that the meeting discussed extensively the application by Atiku and PDP that she rescue herself from the matter.
Justice Bulkachuwa said since the request of the petitioners has been in the public domain, it would be better for the application to be heard in the open court. She then asked the petitioners’ lawyer to move the application.
Uzoukwu said the petitioners will come by way of a formal application, promising to file the application tomorrow (May 16). While counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yunus Ustaz (SAN) said they are not opposed to the application, counsel to President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) said he was ready to respond to the application if the petitioners are ready to move the application orally.
He however said if the petitioners prefer a formal application, then they will be asking for the normal seven days provided by law to respond. Counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) aligned himself with the position of Olanipekun.
Consequently, Justice Bulkachuwa said that “application yet to be filed is adjourned to May 22 for hearing”.
Meanwhile, the tribunal has ordered the service of the petition of the Coalition for Change (C4C) on Buhari through substituted service. The court ordered that the petition on Buhari be served on him through any of the national officers of the APC at the party’s national headquarters at No 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse 2, Abuja.
The order was sequel to an ex parte application moved by lawyer to the C4C, Obed Aguh.