Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has cancelled this year’s edition of the court’s judges’ annual vacation which usually lasts about two months.
The Media Officer, Sa’adatu Musa-Kachalla, said in a statement on Sunday that this was due to “the enormous (election) petitions the court is faced with”.
She explained that since election petitions were time-bound, there would be the need for a timeous determination of the appeals arising from them by the Court of Appeal.
The statement also stated that 65 election petitions relating to the last governorship, state House of Assembly, National Assembly and presidential elections had so far been either dismissed or struck out while 735 were pending before 77 tribunals sitting across the country.
The Federal High Court judges had last week commenced their annual vacation and some other federal courts’ judges were due to commence theirs on Monday (July 15).
But Musa-Kachalla quoted the President of the Court of Appeal in her statement as saying, “we have to forfeit our annual vacation to enable us entertain and determine all appeals arising from the various Election Petition Tribunals transmitted to the court”.
She said the Bulkachuwa communicated the directive to the judges of the court in a two-page circular on July 2.
According to the statement, Justice Bulkachuwa noted that many appeals pending before the court were timebound and would be due to come up within the period of the court’s vacation from July-October.
“The need therefore arises for them to be heard and determined within the said period,” the statement added.
Bulkachuwa was also said to have 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”.
The statement added, “In divisions with three (3) Justices, only one (1) 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 empanelled 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, Mrs. 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 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 facts sheets 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, Mrs. Adaeze Oby Aziwe, as adding that “a total of 2,397 appeals and 5,120 motions were filed during the period under review.