The Supreme Court has decided to hold off on delivering a judgment in the intense legal battle concerning the Nasarawa State governorship election. The dispute involves the current governor, Abdullahi Sule of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with its governorship candidate, Hon Emmanuel David Ombugadu.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, Kanu Agabi SAN, the lead counsel for PDP and its governorship candidate, appealed to the apex court to overturn the November 23 judgment of the Court of Appeal, which upheld Sule as the duly elected governor. Agabi, a former Attorney General of the Federation, urged the Supreme Court to reinstate the October 2, 2023, judgment of the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal that favored PDP and Ombugadu.
Agabi argued that the Court of Appeal wrongly annulled the Tribunal’s judgment and declared Sule the winner of the March 18 gubernatorial election. He specifically requested the Supreme Court to acknowledge the votes of Nasarawa people, declaring PDP and Ombugadu as winners, as rightly decided by the Tribunal.
On the other hand, the Governor, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and APC urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit. APC’s lawyers, led by Akin Olujinmi SAN, requested a careful examination of the authorities cited in support of their plea for case dismissal.
Following the arguments from both sides, Justice Kekere-Ekun announced that the judgment had been reserved, and the delivery date would be communicated to the involved parties.
In a previous ruling on November 23, the Appeal Court reversed the removal of Sule by the State Election Petitions Tribunal. The appellate court emphasized that the Tribunal made a grave error in using witness statements on oath, not front-loaded as required by law, leading to the unjust nullification of the governor’s election. The Court of Appeal clarified that the Tribunal was obligated to act on witness statements filed along with the petition or front-loaded within the stipulated 21 days. Any lawful amendment to a petition must occur within this timeframe, as incorrectly done by the Tribunal.
“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.
Justice 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.
The Court of Appeal 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.
Justice Onyemenam agreed that the denial of a fair hearing against the governor was fatal and tendered all decisions of the Tribunal invalid.
In all, the Court of Appeal reversed all orders made against the governor and INEC and affirmed Sule as the lawfully elected governor of the state.
INEC had declared Sule the winner of the governorship election on the grounds that he polled a total of 347,209 votes to defeat his closest opponent David Emmanuel Ombugadu who secured 283,016 votes.