The law could put you in a tight spot at times because like the saying goes, there is no ignorance of the law, one needs to be careful when matters of law come up, especially when you’re an officer of the law.
In the case of Nigeria, law and politics have always been meshed together like we saw in the case of judicial officers who either contest for political offices or have spouses and relations who hold elected positions.
Justice Bulkachuwa’s dilemma comes into mind when you put this thought into perspective considering that current heat turned on her as the wife of an APC Senator-elect in Gombe and also serving as the presiding judge of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
The tribunal while ruling on PDP’s petition that Bulkachuwa should excuse herself from the panel had affirmed that she was qualified to head the panel as there was no law preventing her from holding the post but she decided to withdraw from the panel.
Bulkachuwa’s decision to withdraw from the panel is staunchly upheld by the ‘Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers’ which clearly provides in Rule 12.1 that: “A Judicial Officer should disqualify himself in a proceeding in which his impartiality may GENUINELY and REASONABLY be questioned including but not limited to the instances where…. citing (d) he or his spouse, or a person related to either of them or the spouse of such person – (i) is a party to the proceedings, or an officer, director or trustee of a party and (iii) is known by the Judicial Officer to have an interest which could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceedings.”
Subsequently, she had to absorb herself from the tribunal, which gives us a clear projection of future events, in case the presidential tribunal case gets to the Supreme Court, here is a list of current Justices of the court who are also binded by the same clause which made Bulkachuwa abstain from the election tribunal.
These judges reportedly have ties to the political parties whose case is at the tribunal and will likely end up at the tribunal.
Justice Mary Odili
The legal luminary has made it a point of honour to always abstain from cases which involves, her husband’s party, the PDP.
Mary Ukaego Odili (Nee Nzenwa) is married to a former governor of Rivers sate, Dr. Peter Odili, who served as Chief exective of the state between 1999-2007 and has been a staunch PDP member even after he left office.
In 2016, Justice Odili recused herself from Nyesom Wike VS Dakuku Peterside case which was brought before the court on the grounds that she had deep ties with Rivers, being a River indigene, married one and being a former first lady in the state.
Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun
The youngest adjudged to be one of the youngest female jurist at the Supreme Court and has delivered several landmark judgments in the court.
Justice Kudirat Motonmori Olatokunbo Kekere-Ekun was the one that delivered the judgment on the case which Justice Odili recused from in 2016, affirming Wike’s victory in the 2015 general election and at that time, it was alleged that her husband, Akin Kekere-Ekun, was an APC Chieftain.
At the moment, it was reported that Justice Kekere-Ekun’s husband has been a long time business partner of the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Currently, Mr. Kekere-Ekun serves as the Chairman of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) Board of Trustees, Abubakar’s private university located in Yola, Adamawa state.
Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour
Being one of the longest serving judges at the Supreme Court has delivered landmark judgments at the apex court.
Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour’s son, Gbadebo contested in the 2019 general election for the Lagos West Senatorial Seat under the PDP but lost the election and also campaigned for Abubakar’s presidential election.
Also, Justice Rhodes-Vivour has been alleged to be to be close relation of a PDP chieftain, Chief Bode George.
These are some of the judges whose membership of any panel that has to do with election tribunal in the country, counters the conduct of a judicial officer, just like Bulkachuwa.
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.