The Court of Appeal, seated in Abuja, made a pivotal decision on Thursday, overturning the annulment of Governor Abdullahi Sule’s election in Nasarawa State.
In a unanimous ruling by a three-member panel of justices, the appellate court invalidated the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal’s judgment that removed Governor Sule of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In the leading judgment delivered by Justice Uchechukwu Onuemenam, the court highlighted that the tribunal’s basis for declaring the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, David Ombugadu, as the rightful winner relied on evidence deemed legally inadmissible. It stressed that the tribunal improperly considered statements from eight witnesses produced by the PDP candidate, which were not submitted along with the petition within the stipulated time frame as required by relevant laws.
Citing constitutional and electoral act provisions, the appellate court emphasized the mandatory requirement to file all sworn statements alongside the petition within the allocated period. Consequently, it discarded all evidence and exhibits presented by the eight witnesses before the tribunal.
The court also underscored that the remaining 12 witnesses’ evidence for the PDP candidate was insufficient to support the tribunal’s judgment. Additionally, it criticized the tribunal’s deduction of votes from Governor Sule due to alleged over-voting in four polling units, noting the absence of adequate evidence and documentation to substantiate these claims.
Furthermore, the appellate court faulted the tribunal for disregarding evidence from witnesses supporting the APC candidate, labeling the tribunal’s action as “perverse.” It deemed the tribunal’s re-calculation of votes and subsequent declaration of the PDP candidate as flawed and unsupported by valid evidence.
In light of these findings, the court upheld the appeal, dismissing the tribunal’s majority judgment of October 2. Consequently, it revoked the tribunal’s order for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw Governor Sule’s Certificate of Return, restoring his status as the winner of the governorship election.