Supreme Court Reserves Judgment In Nasarawa Guber Legal Battle

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved judgment in the fierce legal battle over the governorship election of Nasarawa State.

The legal battle is between the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Sule of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its governorship candidate, Hon Emmanuel David Ombugadu.

At Tuesday’s proceedings, lead counsel to PDP and its governorship candidate, Kanu Agabi SAN, appealed to the apex court to set aside the November 23 judgment of the Court of Appeal which upheld Sule as the lawfully elected governor.

In its place, Agabi, a former Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice canvassed that the October 2, 2023 judgment of the Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal granted in favour of PDP and Ombugadu be restored.

The senior lawyer claimed that the Court of Appeal unjustly nullified the Tribunal’s judgment and unjustly declared Sule as winner of the March 18 gubernatorial election.

He specifically called that the Supreme Court should allow the votes of Nasarawa people to count and be meaningful by declaring PDP and Ombugadu as winners as rightly done by the Tribunal.

However, the Governor, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and APC want the court to dismiss the appeal for want of merit.

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

After taking arguments from lawyers, Justice Kekere-Ekun announced that judgment had been reserved and that the date for its delivery would be communicated to parties involved.

The Appeal Court had on November 23 last year reversed the sack of Sule by the State Election Petitions Tribunal in its judgment 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.

In a judgment delivered by Justice Uchechukwu Onyemenam, the Court of Appeal had said the Tribunal was legally bound to act on witness statements filed along with the petition or front-loaded within 21 days stipulated by law.

The Court held that no petition can lawfully be amended outside the 21 days allowed by law as wrongly 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.

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