Bulkachuwa’s ghost: why Ebonyi Election Petitions Tribunals should be closely watched – Group

Recently, the Nigeria Judiciary came under heavy spotlight following the public confession at the Senate’s Valedictory sitting of the husband of the former President of the Court of Appeal, Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa that he had reasons to intervene for his friends and colleagues while his wife, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa served as the President of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal.

Ordinarily, many Nigerians had expected that such an indicting statement should not be taken for granted especially by the National Judicial Commission, NJC- a body vested with the powers to appoint and discipline erring judicial staff under the Nigerian legal system.

For us in the Association of Ebonyi Indigenes Socio-Cultural in the Diaspora, AEISCID, just like for the members and supporters of the opposition political parties and indeed followers of events in Ebonyi, the news which broke out on the 26th of April 2023 that the President of the Court of Appeal, Her Lordship, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensah has ordered the immediate relocation of both the National Assembly and Governorship/State House of Assembly elections petitions tribunals to Abuja from Abakaliki where cases were initially billed to be tried and determined was a huge relief.

Though the Court never made it’s reasons public, fact remains that Ebonyi has been in the news not only for insecurity but more particularly for the way and manner the immediate past Governor of the State, Engr. David Umahi has operated and treated the judicial arm of government in the State and in the country at large.

We recall that the first time arguably in the history of the judiciary when a Court was sacked following a coordinated attack by political thugs and both men of the Bar and the Bench in Ebonyi had to take to their heels by scaling the fence was around early December 2014. The then ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP had planned to hold it’s primary election to elect a flagbearer for the ruling PDP in the State for the 2015 Governorship election on the 6th of December, 2014.

This group further recalls that the battle for the Ebonyi PDP’s Governorship ticket had raged between Elechi’s anointed candidate and then Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu and Elechi’s Deputy who’s relationship with his boss had gone South following his preference for the former to succeed him over and above his initially touted choice of Umahi. The media investigations had uncovered and consequently reported that as soon as the power desperate Umahi learnt that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria hired by the then ruling PDP in Ebonyi from Kogi State to secure an injunction stopping the primaries, he allegedly unleashed an army of political thugs armed with guns, machetes and other dangerous weapons to the State’s High Court premises adjacent the old Ebonyi Government House.

The sporadic gunshots that rented the air dispersed the entire judiciary and everyone took to his or her heels. The fears caused by the pandemonium orchestrated by the activities of the said hoodlums which the then Elechi government had vowed to probe but failed is still fresh in the minds of Ebonyians.

AEISCID reminisces further that at the larger national scene, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Federal High Court I recollect, had come under intense criticism from Umahi following his March 2022 sacking of Umahi as Governor as a result of his defection from the PDP to the APC in November 2020. An emotional Umahi who couldn’t hide his feelings literally dragged the judiciary to the mud, insisting the judgment was purchased by his traducers.

A federal lawmaker who had been nominated by the PDP to replace Umahi as Governor in compliance to an order of the Court had as a matter of fact posited in a Press conference in Abuja that the only thing saving Justice Ekwo from torture by Umahi’s 2 by 2 and gun-wielding cum dreaded but now outlawed Ebubeagu squad is geographical distance. In fact, the Judge was literally publicly dared to try entering Ebonyi and he would ‘collect Wotowoto’- a common slang used by the illegal Ebubeagu militia to describe their barbaric torture of their victims.

Instances where Umahi has poured his venoms on the judiciary abound and their Lordships, legal practitioners and even the average Ebonyian know better. These are why the activities of the Ebonyi election petition tribunals needs to be monitored very closely!

The need for Ebonyians and indeed Nigerians to pay a closer attention to the activities of the both Tribunals despite operating from Abuja became more necessary following reports of the decision of the National Assembly Tribunal judges to dismiss a petition filed by the Labour Party candidate for Abakaliki/Izzi Federal Constituency, Dr. Ezeh Emmanuel Eze popularly known as “Immaculate” on what many has adjudged to be on purely technical grounds.

A close source in the Tribunal had claimed that the decision of their Lordships to dismiss the said petition over issues of filings and replies to motions rather than delve into the actual substances of the petitioner’s complaints. The lawyer, who of course wouldn’t want to be quoted alleged that the legal team of the respondents including the umpire that conducted the controversial NASS and Governorship/State Assembly elections in Ebonyi, INEC have been boasting that they have already ‘penetrated’ the judges even while most of the cases are still at their pre-trial stage.

We understand that on their parts, Umahi who’s election to Nigeria’s Senate in Ebonyi South is being highly questioned by 3 other candidates- LP, PDP and APGA, the Umahi brothers, APC candidates and their supporters have been making some flippant boasts suggestive of their desperation to influence and compromise what may be the eventual outcomes of the petitions before the Ebonyi Elections Petitions Tribunals. Whereas, it may be regarded as subjudice since cases have been filed already in the Tribunal and has already been consolidated by the judges, but the voters in Ebonyi South feel that it’s been one of the seven wonders of any election history in the State that the Ebonyi South Senatorial candidate for the Labour Party, Rt. Hon. Linus Okorie for instance who was leading with a clear margin was shortchanged by the election officials who allegedly manipulated the BVAS and declared Umahi the eventual ‘winner’.

Even candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in Ebonyi who lost woefully at the polls but filed petitions before the Tribunal are alleged to have in connivance with INEC ‘cooked up’ some figures to pad their final tallies as ‘eventual winners’ of the elections. They are now reportedly boasting that they ‘won’ their elections and would be declared winners by the various tribunals handling their matters.

We wish to posit that whereas, these sneering allegations could easily be dismissed as unsubstantiated rumours, anyone who truly understands Umahi, his style and desperation for power has a lot to worry about, hence the call for their Lordships and the judiciary to closely mark Umahi and his team if desperados. His private and public boasts and particularly his recent comments that he laughs whenever people say they are going to challenge the results of the 2023 elections in Court shouldn’t be taken for granted. As a matter of fact, Umahi in saner climes ought to have been taken into custody by the DSS to explain more on what he meant by this derisive assertion.

Umahi, on his part is still embittered that opposition political parties – PDP, LP and APGA all secured a seat each at the Federal House of Representatives elections in Ebonyi. But he is not god and he knows Ebonyi people never in reality voted him and his Party. They are at best impostors, not the electorate’s legislators.

AEISCID enjoins the Nigerian Judiciary in particular and the Ebonyi election petitions tribunals in particular should therefore know that they are actually on trial in this period of our nation’s history. And like American Diplomat, Benjamin Franklin rightly noted: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”, hence this timely caution.

The ball is now on the court of their Lordships to either make history or mar themselves and their reputations!


Ambassador Paschal Oluchukwu

(AEISCID President, World-wide)

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