The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, nullified the Judgement of Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that declared the Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), David Ombugadu as the winner of the March 18 election in the area.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of Justices, reversed that ruling and declared the All Progressives Congress, (APC) Candidate who is the sitting Governor, Abdullahi Sule as the winner.
In the lead Judgment, delivered by Justice Uchechukwu Onuemenam, the court held that evidence before it showed that the tribunal relied on inadmissible evidence to arrive at that decision.
Justice Uchechukwu said the tribunal wrongly relied on the evidence of eight of the witnesses that were produced by the PDP candidate, whose statements on oath were not front-loaded alongside the petition, adding that Section 285(5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, section 132(7) of the Electoral Act 2022 and Paragraphs 4(5) (6) and 14(2) of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act, states that every written statement on oath must be filed alongside the petition, within the statutorily allocated time.
The court therefore struck out all the evidence and exhibits that were tendered before the tribunal by the eight witnesses and upheld the evidence of 12 remaining witnesses who testified for the PDP candidate, David Ombugadu.
The Court however noted that the evidence of the 12 Witnesses was not sufficient to sustain the tribunal judgment.
The appellate court also held that the tribunal was wrong by reducing a total of 1, 868 votes that were credited to the APC Candidate on the reason that there was overvoting in four polling units the petitioners did not provide the necessary documents to prove the over-voting.
The Court held that the appeal has merit and succeeds the majority judgment of the tribunal delivered on October 2, 2023.
It therefore vacated the order of the tribunal that directed the Independent National Electoral Commission to withdraw the Certificate of Return that was issued to the APC Candidate, Abdullahi Sule.
It would be recalled that Justice Ezekiel Ajayi led the member’s Governorship election Petition tribunal in October 2023 in a split Judgement declared the PDP Candidate, David Ombugadu as the real winner of the election in the State.
Governor Sule, not satisfied by the Judgement, filed an appeal at the Appellate Court seeking to nullify the Tribunal Judgement and declare him the rightful winner in that contest.