Justices of the Court of Appeal have been directed to shelve their plans for this year’s annual vacation of the court in view of the volume of pending election-related cases.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, directed the cancellation of the court’s annual vacation in a two-page circular issued last week.
Justice Bulkachuwa was said to have issued the directive “upon considering the enormous petitions the court is faced with, 2019 being an election year, it became obvious that 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.”
In a statement yesterday, the Court of Appeal’s spokesman, Sq’adatu Musa Kachalla, said: “The court’s President issued a two-page circular signed and transmitted to all the Hon. Justices on July 2, 2019.
“Justice Bulkacha noted that since these appeals were time bound, and would arise within the period of the court’s vacation on July-October, the need therefore arises for them to be heard and determined within the said period.
“To enable the court meet these targets, the President of the Court of Appeal gave explicit directives to the Presiding Justices of the various divisions to draw up a roaster in consultation with His Lordship to allow the Justices with medical appointments or other pressing family issues travel for not more than 15 days within the period, adding that the roaster that would be drawn should be arranged in such a manner that at any given time there is a three (3) member panel on ground in every division to hear and determine appeals.
“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 (3) 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 (5) Member panel to be empanelled by his lordship. Hon. Justice Bulkachuwa therefore, instructed the Presiding Justices to notify him as soon as appeals from Governorship elections were filed to ensure their speedy determination.
“Meanwhile, a total of 1,769 appeals were determined and 3,517 motions disposed of by the Court of Appeal between January and April, 2019.
“This is contained in the summary of cases in the Court of Appeal Divisions prepared by the Head, Legal Services Unit, Barrister Mrs. Adaeze Oby Aziwe and made available to the Media Officer of the Court.
“In the document, a total of 2,397 appeals and 5,120 motions were filed during the period under review.
“Similarly, reports filtering in from the office of the DCR, Court of Appeal, Election Petition Tribunal, Mrs. Rabi Abdulazeez Yakubu, Esq say that a total of 800 petitions were filed as at June 17, 2019.
“A breakdown of this figure shows that, State House of Assembly recorded the highest figure of 415, Senate 105, House of Representative 214, governorship 62 and presidential four petitions.
“According to the facts sheets emanating from the 77 Election Petition Tribunals setup by the President of the Court of Appeal as at April 23, 2019, 65 petitions were either dismissed or struck out while 735 petitions are pending.”