The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, has reversed the nullification of the election of Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State.
The appellate court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of Justices, voided the verdict of the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which sacked Governor Abdullahi Sule of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In the lead verdict that was delivered by Justice Uchechukwu Onuemenam, the court held that 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 held in the state on March 18.
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 witnesses statements on oath were not front-loaded alongside the petition.
It stressed 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 to the Electoral Act, every written statement on oath must be filed alongside the petition, within the statutorily allocated time.
The appellate court proceeded to strike out all the evidence and exhibits that were tendered before the tribunal by the eight witnesses.
It held that the evidence of 12 remaining witnesses that testified for the PDP candidate, were 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 occured in four polling units.
It held that the tribunal was wrong in its decision, since the petitioners did not provide necessary documents needed to prove over-voting.
The court noted that Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, machines, and other electoral documents, were merely dumped on the tribunal without any of them demonstrated to show how the over-voting occured.
Consequently, it vacated the order of the tribunal that directed the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to withdraw the Certificate of Return that was issued to Governor Abdullahi Sule as the winner of the Governorship Contest.
Write Up/Aliyu Muraki/Lafia.