Appeal Court Re-instates APC’s Abdulahi Sule As Nasarawa State Governor

The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Thursday reinstated Abdullahi Sule as Nasarawa State governor, after overturning the earlier decision of the election petition tribunal that removed him from office.

Delivering judgement on the appeal filed by Mr Sule, a three-member panel of the appeal court held that the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal was wrong to have declared David Ombugadu, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the winner of the 18 March election.

Mr Sule of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was initially declared the winner of the polls by Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC.
But Mr Ombugadu challenged the election outcome at the tribunal, arguing that he won most valid votes during the contest.
In a split decision of the tribunal on 2 October, two members, forming the majority, declared Mr Ombugadu the winner of the election, while the minority opinion of the only other member affirmed Mr Sule’s victory.
Mr Sule subsequently appealed against the majority decision of the tribunal.
Deciding the governor’s appeal on Thursday, the Court of Appeal held that Mr Sule was validly elected as Nasarawa State governor.
The appellate court panel led by Uchechukwu Onyemenam said Mr Ombugadu failed to prove his allegation of over-voting levelled against Mr Sule.
Mr Onyemenam, who read the lead decision of the court, said the tribunal was wrong to have concluded that Mr Sule did not score a majority of the valid votes cast in the election.
Referencing Section 285(5) of the Nigerian constitution, and Section 132(7) of the Electoral Act 2022, and Paragraphs 4(5) (6) and 14(2) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, the appellate court held that a petition must be filed alongside every written statement on oath within 21 days from the date of an election.
“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,” Mr Onyemenam said of witnesses’ statements oath that was tendered by Mr Ombugadu at the tribunal.”
Consequently, the justice struck out all the evidence and exhibits that were tendered before the tribunal by Mr Ombugadu’s eight witnesses.