Supreme Court reserves judgment on Nasarawa gov poll

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved judgement in an appeal challenging the March 2023 governorship election of Nasarawa State which had Abdullahi Sule as governor.

Justice Kudirat Kekere-Eku who led the five-member panel of justices reserved judgement after taking arguments from lawyers involved in the matter.

She added that the date for the judgment delivery would be communicated to the parties involved.

The legal battle is between the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Sule of the All Progressives Congress, the People’s Democratic Party and its governorship candidate, Emmanuel Ombugadu.

The PDP, through its counsel Kanu Agabi, SAN, appealed to the apex court to set aside the November 23, 2023 judgement of the Court of Appeal which upheld Mr Sule as the lawfully elected governor.

Mr Agabi canvassed that the October 2, 2023 judgement of the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal granted in favour of PDP and Mr Ombugadu be restored.

He claimed that the court of appeal unjustly nullified the tribunal’s judgment and unjustly declared Mr Sule as the winner of the March 18 governorship election.

He pleaded that the votes of the Nasarawa people would count and be meaningful by declaring PDP and Mr Ombugadu as winners as rightly done by the Tribunal.

Meanwhile, APC lawyers, led by Akin Olujinmi, SAN, while adopting his brief of arguments, asked the apex court to carefully look into the cited authorities to back up their request for dismissal of the case.

The Appeal Court had in November 2024 reversed the sack of Mr Sule by the State Election Petitions Tribunal in its judgement delivered on October 2.

The appellate court held that the tribunal, headed by Ezekiel Ajayi, acted in grave error in using witness statements on oath, not front-loaded as required by law to arrive at the unjust conclusion of nullifying the election of the governor.

It held that the tribunal was legally bound to act on witness statements filed along with the petition or front-loaded within 21 days stipulated by law.

It also held that no petition can lawfully be amended outside the 21 days by law as wrongly done by the tribunal.

He said, “Since the statements used by the tribunal to sack the governor were not front-loaded in compliance with the law, the statements were a product of illegality with no probate value for a law court to act upon.’’

The court also dismissed the over-voting issues used to annul the election, adding that the allegations were not established by law.

Mr Onyemenam held that the petition by the governorship candidate of the PDP was null and invalid on the grounds that the jurisdictional issues raised by the governor were unlawfully ignored by the tribunal.

He ruled that the tribunal denied the governor a fair hearing by not considering and making findings on the issues of jurisdiction raised at the hearing of the petition.

He agreed that the denial of a fair hearing against the governor was fatal and tendered all decisions of the tribunal invalid.

In all, the appeal court reversed all orders made against the governor and INEC and affirmed Mr Sule as the lawfully elected governor of the state.

INEC had declared Mr Sule the winner of the governorship election on the grounds that he polled a total of 347,209 votes to defeat his closest opponent Emmanuel Ombugadu who secured 283,016 votes.