Few days after the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP called on the President of Appeal Court and Chairman of the Presidential election petition tribunal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, to step down since her husband is an interested party; having won a Senatorial election on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, members of Access to Justice have also called on her to disengage from the tribunal.
The group in a statement issued by its Convener, Joseph Otteh said the Honourable Justice is married to an APC Senator-elect, a development that could make her compromise proceedings at the tribunal.
The statement reads in part
“The Court of Appeal President, Hon. Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa is married to a Senator of the ruling APC and she has not publicly denied this claim. We note that the Court of Appeal President is not however sitting on an election petition involving her spouse personally but that involving her spouse’s political party and platform.
“In ordinary circumstances, there would be no question of whether the President of the Court of Appeal can, or should participate in tribunals adjudicating election petitions involving her spouse’s party. But these are no ordinary or normal times.
“The Nigerian judiciary is facing very heightened levels of public scrutiny, and the performance of some judicial bodies have raised red flags concerning judicial independence and integrity. There are now far more than normal anxieties about the Judiciary’s strength of character.
“Many keen observers of the Judiciary are already worried that the Judiciary has been overawed by the government given, particularly, the example of the bizarre way the removed Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen was “guillotined” by a supposedly “judicial” body.
“Given the present context, it may be difficult for judicial officers to bank on the moral capital of the Judiciary as an institution as a basis of comfort when they sit on cases where some familial, fiduciary or other interests are implicated, for the stock value of that capital has descended a few notches over time and survives mostly through its clichés than its substance.
“Maybe at some time in the future, it will not be a problem for a Justice of the Court of Appeal to adjudicate cases where his or her significant other has some immediate or remote interest, but, at this time, there will be conflicting perceptions, even of reasonable people, given the prevailing context, of whether justice will impartially be done in such a case.”