Election petitions: No vacation for you, Bulkachuwa tells judges

The President of the Court of Appeal, Zainab Bulkachuwa, has cancelled this year’s annual vacation of judges of the court.

Federal High Court judges had on July 8 started their annual vacation and some other judges were due to commence theirs on Monday, July 15.

But in a statement Sunday, the media officer of the Court of Appeal, Sa’adatu Musa-Kachalla, said the cancellation of the vacation of appellate court judges was due to “the enormous (election) petitions the court is faced with.”

According to the statement, Mrs Bulkachuwa said since election petitions were time-bound, there is a need for timely determination of the appeals arising from them by the Court of Appeal.

“We have to forfeit our annual vacation to enable us to entertain and determine all appeals arising from the various Election Petition Tribunals transmitted to the Court,” the statement quoted Mrs Bulkachuwa as saying.

The appeal court president communicated the directive in a two-day circular on July 2, the official said.

Mrs Bulkachuwa noted that many appeals pending before the court were time-bound and would be due to come up within the period of the court’s vacation from July to October.

“The need, therefore, arises for them to be heard and determined within the said period,” the statement added.

The statement also said Mrs Bulkachuwa has directed the presiding justices of the various divisions of the court to, in consultation with her, draw up a roaster to enable “the justices with medical appointments or other pressing family issues to travel for not more than 15 days within the period.”

She was said to have added that the planned roaster should be such that, “at any given time, there is a three-member panel on ground in every division to hear and determine appeals.”

“In divisions with three justices, only one justice can travel at a time and the office of the President of the Court of Appeal is to be immediately notified to form a panel in that justice’s absence should the need arise,” the circular further directed. 

“According to Justice Bulkachuwa, appeals arising from the national and state assemblies would be heard by a local panel of three members, except where it is controversial, then the president will constitute and send another panel to hear it.

“On the governorship appeals, the president of the Court of Appeal disclosed that it would be heard by a five-member panel to be set up by his lordship.

“Hon. Justice Bulkachuwa, therefore, instructed the presiding justices to notify her as soon as appeals from governorship elections were filed to ensure their speedy determination.”

Citing information from the Deputy Chief Registrar, Court of Appeal, Election Petition Tribunal, Rabi Yakubu, the statement stated that a total of 800 election petitions were filed as of June 17, 2019.

It added, “A breakdown of this figure shows that the State House of Assembly recorded the highest figure (of election petitions) of 415, Senate 105, House of Representative 214, governorship 62 and presidential 4.

“According to the fact sheet emanating from the 77 Election Petition Tribunals set up by the president of the Court of Appeal as of April 23, 2019, 65 petitions were either dismissed or struck out, while 735 petitions are pending.”

It added that a total of 1,769 appeals were determined and 3,517 motions disposed of by the Court of Appeal between January and April 2019 across all the court’s divisions in the country.

The statement quoted the Head, Legal Services Unit, Adaeze Aziwe, as adding that “a total of 2,397 appeals and 5,120 motions were filed during the period under review.”

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