A lot of drama is unfolding at the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Bauchi as the senatorial candidate of New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Farouk Mustapha and that of All Progressives Congress (APC) Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa, who was declared winner of Bauchi North Senatorial district, test their facts during trial at the tribunal.
There are many cases ongoing at the election petitions tribunal in Bauchi in the aftermath of the gubernatorial, national and state assembly elections; but only few of them are attracting a lot of attention considering the parties involved.
One of the cases involves Senator Bulkachuwa who has since taken his seat at the Red Chamber of the National Assembly; but is still battling to retain it at the tribunal.
He is the husband of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, hence the heightened interest in the case. The senator has been passing through tumultuous moments right from the time he expressed interest in vying for the Senate seat up till this moment.
It would also be remembered that Farouk Mustapha of NNPP had approached the National Assembly election petitions tribunal on March 15, urging it to order the third respondent, INEC, to declare and return him winner of the February 23, 2019 senatorial election for Bauchi-North Senatorial district having scored the majority of lawful votes cast in the election.
Farouq Mustapha alleged that Senator Bulkachuwa “was rigged” to success by those who superintended the election and since then, a lot of issues had unfolded.
Though Senator Bulkachuwa had closed his defence against Mustapha, it appears the legal tussle will take a new dimension in the coming days.
Mustapha and NNPP have since closed their case, on July 30, paving way for Senator Bulkachuwa, APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to justify the outcome of the election.
On the other hand, the tribunal has given them the 5th, 6th and 7th of August to open and close their defence.
However, on the first day of the trial, Bulkachuwa who is the first respondent called his campaign director, Abdulqadir Isawa as his first witness in the matter.
Isawa who was obviously Bulkachuwa’s star witness was led by the leading respondents’ counsel, Usman Sule SAN, to identify his witness statement on oath before the tribunal sitting in Bauchi and urged the learned judges to adopt same as his testimonies in the matter.
However, Bulkachuwa’s campaign director who identified his witness statement on oath and urged the tribunal to admit it in evidence, pretended to be blind during daylight when being cross examined by counsel for the petitioners Joe Dappa.
Dappa grilled the first respondent’s witness, Isawa during cross examination to the extent that the witness ended confirming earlier submissions of the petitioners before the tribunal. This scenario upset the legal team of the respondents.
Before the defendants started their submissions, Mustapha and NNPP had invited several witnesses and tendered 745 exhibits of more than 7000 pages which were all admitted in evidence by the tribunal.
The documents included results declared at all polling units in the seven LGAs of the constituency, card readers’ printout reports, candidates’ list for Senate and voters’ registers as part of evidence that justified the alleged electoral fraud.
On August 6, when the court resumed continuation of hearing of the first respondent’s defence, his lead counsel, Usman Sule SAN, informed the tribunal that following a review of their case the previous night, they decided not to call any witness again to testify in the matter.
He added that they were satisfied with their earlier submissions during hearing of the petition and the arguments they had deposited in their written addresses.
When asked, counsel for the second and third respondents, APC and INEC respectively on whether they could open their defence, they unanimously said there was no need for them to call any witness since the first respondent declined to invite more witnesses.
Sequel to this development, the tribunal, presided by Justice Hafsa AbdulRahman adjourned the petition to August 21 for adoption of written addresses by the parties.
Speaking on the development, Mustapha said he was upbeat of winning the case, saying the defendants had no choice but to close their defence because they could not defend the undefendable.
Mustapha reiterated his confidence in the Nigeria’s judiciary under the leadership of the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammad Tanko.
He stressed that he believes in God, hence would not be intimidated or hypnotised by the personality and connection of the first respondent, Bulkachuwa. He added that he has unshakable confidence in the tribunal that it would do justice to his petition.