HomePoliticsSupreme Court Validates Governor Abdullahi Sule's Nasarawa State Election Win

Supreme Court Validates Governor Abdullahi Sule’s Nasarawa State Election Win

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In a significant ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court of Nigeria upheld the Court of Appeal’s judgment that invalidated the annulment of Governor Abdullahi Sule’s election in Nasarawa State. The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel, affirmed Governor Sule’s victory as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the gubernatorial election held on March 18, 2023.

In her lead judgment, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun dismissed the appeal brought forward by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, David Ombugadu, finding it lacking in merit. The case had its roots in the judgment delivered by the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal on October 2, 2023. The tribunal, in a split decision of two-to-one, nullified Governor Sule’s election and directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a fresh Certificate of Return to the PDP candidate.

The tribunal’s ruling was based on its satisfaction that Governor Sule had benefited from over-voting that occurred in several polling units across the state. However, Governor Sule and the APC immediately appealed this decision.

On November 23, 2023, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal reversed the governor’s removal and overturned the tribunal’s verdict. The appellate court held that the tribunal had made a legal error by concluding that Governor Sule did not secure the majority of lawful votes cast in the election.

The Court of Appeal further pointed out that the tribunal had relied on evidence that was legally inadmissible to declare the PDP candidate as the rightful winner of the governorship contest. The evidence in question came from eight witnesses produced by the PDP candidate, whose witness statements on oath were not filed along with the petition, as required by relevant laws.

According to the Court of Appeal, 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 mandate that every written statement on oath must be submitted concurrently with the petition within the legally prescribed timeframe. Consequently, the Court of Appeal struck out all evidence and exhibits presented by the eight witnesses.

Moreover, the appellate court concluded that the remaining 12 witnesses who testified for the PDP candidate were insufficient to support the tribunal’s judgment.

The Court of Appeal also took issue with the tribunal’s deduction of 1,868 votes attributed to Governor Sule, citing over-voting in four polling units. The appellate court deemed this deduction erroneous since the petitioners failed to provide the necessary documents to substantiate their claim of over-voting.

In addition, the Court of Appeal asserted that the tribunal had erred when it recomputed votes and declared the PDP candidate as the election winner.

In light of these findings, the Court of Appeal vacated the tribunal’s order that instructed INEC to revoke the Certificate of Return issued to Governor Sule and to issue a new one to David Ombugadu of the PDP.

However, the PDP and its candidate were not satisfied with the Court of Appeal’s judgment and subsequently took their case to the Supreme Court, where their appeal was dismissed on Friday.

The Supreme Court’s decision marks a decisive end to the legal battle surrounding the Nasarawa State gubernatorial election. It upholds Governor Abdullahi Sule’s victory and reaffirms the Court of Appeal’s ruling, which had overturned the earlier tribunal’s verdict.

Governor Sule’s supporters welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision with jubilation, while the PDP and its candidate expressed disappointment with the outcome.

With this ruling, Governor Sule can now focus on fulfilling his electoral promises and governing Nasarawa State without the shadow of a protracted legal battle hanging over his administration. The court’s judgment reinforces the importance of adhering to legal procedures and evidence in election disputes, ensuring the integrity of the electoral process.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s affirmation of Governor Abdullahi Sule’s election win in Nasarawa State brings clarity and finality to a contentious legal dispute. It underscores the importance of adhering to legal standards and due process in resolving election-related matters, maintaining the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral system.

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