The Supreme Court, on Friday, affirmed the Court of Appeal judgement that voided the nullification of the election of Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel, upheld the declaration of Sule of the All Progressives Congress as winner of the governorship election that was held in the state on March 18, 2023.
In its lead judgement that was delivered by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, dismissed as lacking in merit, the appeal that was filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, David Ombugadu.
It will be recalled that the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, in a two-to-one split judgement it delivered on October 2, 2023, nullified Governor Sule’s election and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue a fresh Certificate of Return to the PDP candidate.
The tribunal held that it was satisfied that Governor Sule was a beneficiary of over-voting that occurred in several polling units in the state.
However, following an appeal that was lodged by the governor and his party, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, on November 23, reversed his sack and vacated the decision of the tribunal.
The appellate court held that the tribunal erred in law when it concluded that Governor Sule did not win the majority of lawful votes that were cast in the election.
The court maintained that the record before it established that the tribunal relied on legally inadmissible evidence to declare the PDP candidate as the valid winner of the governorship contest.
According to the appellate court, the tribunal wrongly relied on the evidence of eight of the witnesses that were produced by the PDP candidate, whose witness statements on oath were not front-loaded alongside the petition.
It stressed that under 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 to the Electoral Act, every written statement on oath must be filed alongside the petition within the statutorily allocated time.
The appellate court struck out all the evidence and exhibits that were tendered before the tribunal by the eight witnesses.
It held that the evidence of the 12 remaining witnesses who testified for the PDP candidate was not sufficient to sustain the judgement of the tribunal.
More so, the appellate court held that the tribunal was in error when it deducted a total of 1,868 votes that were credited to Governor Sule on the premise that over-voting occurred in four polling units.
It held that the tribunal was wrong in its decision since the petitioners did not provide the necessary documents needed to prove over-voting.
It held that the tribunal acted wrongly when it recomputed votes and made the declaration that returned the PDP candidate as winner of the election.
Consequently, the court vacated the order of the tribunal that directed INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return that was issued to Governor Sule and to issue a fresh one to Ombugadu of the PDP.
However, dissatisfied with the judgement of the appellate court, the PDP and its candidate approached the Supreme Court, where they lost their case on Friday.