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Appeal Court upholds Nasarawa governor’s election

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Tribunal strikes out NNPP suit challenging Nasarawa governor Sule’s Victory

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja upheld the win of Nasarawa state governor Abdullahi Sule on Thursday.

Sule of the All Progressives Congress was proclaimed the Nasarawa state election winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, with David Ombugadu of the Peoples Democratic Party coming in second.

However, the tribunal, chaired by Justice Ezekiel Ajayi, ruled in a split decision that, based on evidence from the various polling units presented to the tribunal, Ombugadu received the majority of legal votes at the election.

Sule, on the other hand, filed an appeal and requested the appellate court vacate the ruling.

In its ruling on Thursday, the court deleted from its records the evidence and exhibits from PW5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 20, and 21 on which the Nasarawa State Election Petition tribunal relied.

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The court held that the evidence before it established that the tribunal relied on legally inadmissible evidence to declare the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, David Ombugadu, as the valid winner of the governorship election that was held in the state on March 18.

According to the appellate court, the tribunal relied incorrectly on the evidence of eight witnesses called by the PDP candidate, whose statements under oath were not filed with the petition.

The court held that the evidence before it established that the tribunal relied on legally inadmissible evidence to declare the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, David Ombugadu, as the valid winner of the governorship election that was held in the state on March 18.

According to the appellate court, the tribunal relied incorrectly on the evidence of eight witnesses called by the PDP candidate, whose statements under oath were not filed with the petition.

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It emphasized that, according to 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 under oath must be filed with the petition within the statutorily allotted period.

“Where a trial court admitted and acted on illegally inadmissible evidence, it is the duty of the appellate court to ensure that such illegally inadmissible evidence is expunged.

“A court of law is only allowed to act on legally admissible evidence. If documents are unlawfully allowed by a trial court, the appellate court is duty-bound to exclude the documents and discountenance the evidence.”

The appellate court then dismissed all of the evidence and exhibits presented to the tribunal by the eight witnesses.

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It ruled that the evidence of the 12 remaining witnesses who testified for the PDP candidate was insufficient to uphold the tribunal’s decision.

Furthermore, the appellate court ruled that the tribunal erred when it subtracted a total of 1,868 votes credited to the Nasarawa state Governor Abdullahi Sule on the grounds of over-voting in four polling units.

It ruled that the tribunal’s ruling was incorrect because the petitioners failed to present the necessary documentation to prove over-voting.

The court pointed out that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines, and other election records were just dumped on the tribunal with no indication of how the over-voting occurred.

It chastised the tribunal for abruptly disregarding the evidence of witnesses who testified for the APC candidate, calling the conduct “perverse,” adding that none of the witnesses brought by the PDP and its candidate provided sufficient evidence on which the tribunal might have acted.

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It ruled that the panel behaved incorrectly when it recalculated votes from the Nasarawa election and declared the PDP candidate the winner of the election.

“On the whole, I hold that this appeal has merit and succeeds; the majority judgment of the tribunal delivered on October 2 is hereby dismissed,” the court held.

It ruled that the panel acted improperly when it recalculated votes and proclaimed the PDP candidate the winner of the Nasarawa election.

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