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ELECTION PETITIONS: Bulkachuwa cancels annual vacation for Appeal Court judges

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

A statement on Sunday by the Media Officer of the Court of Appeal, Sa’adatu Musa-Kachalla, said Justice Bulkachuwa cancelled the vacation due to “the enormous petitions the Court is faced with.”

According to the statement, 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 Bulkachuwa as saying.

In a two-page circular signed and transmitted to all justices on July 2, Bulkachuwa noted that since these appeals were timebound, and would arise within the period of the court’s vacation on July to October, the need therefore arose for them to be heard and determined within the said period.

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

Bulkachuwa also 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.”

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She 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 said, “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. A total of 2,397 appeals and 5,120 motions were filed during the period under review.

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