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Supreme Court upholds Sule’s election as Nasarawa governor

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

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision that voided the nullification of Nasarawa State Governor Abdullahi Sule’s election.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling by a five-member bench, affirmed Sule of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the winner of the governorship election held in the state on March 18, 2023.

In its main decision, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun dismissed the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, David Ombugadu, as lacking in substance.

The Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, in a two-to-one split judgment 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 determined that Governor Sule benefited from overvoting in various polling units across the state.

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However, following an appeal filed by the governor and his party, on November 23, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal reversed his dismissal and vacated the tribunal’s ruling.

The appellate court ruled that the panel erred in law when it determined that Governor Sule did not receive the majority of legitimate votes cast in the election.

The court stated that the record before it demonstrated that the panel used legally unacceptable material to declare the PDP candidate the legitimate winner of the governorship contest.

According to the appellate court, the tribunal incorrectly relied on the testimony of eight of the witnesses submitted by the PDP candidate, whose oath statements were not front-loaded alongside the petition.

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It emphasized 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 rejected all of the evidence and exhibits presented to the tribunal by the eight witnesses.

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

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

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

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It ruled that the panel erred when it recomputed votes and declared the PDP candidate as the winner of the election.

As a result, the court overturned the tribunal’s judgment, which directed INEC to remove Sule’s Certificate of Return and issue a new one to PDP candidate Ombugadu.

However, dissatisfied with the appellate court’s decision, the PDP and its candidate filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, where they were unsuccessful on Friday.

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