The Nasarawa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Lafia, has sacked the incumbent, Abdullahi Audu Sule of the APC as Elected Gov in the 18th March Gubernatorial poll.
The tribunal held that the 1st Petitioner, David Emmanuel Ombugadu of the PDP was duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast.
On March 20, INEC declared the APC Candidate and incumbent Governor, Sule winner with 347209 votes, defeating his closest challenger, Dr. Ombugadu of the PDP who scored 283016 votes.
In April, Ombugadu & the PDP approached the tribunal (EPT/NS/GOV/01/23) challenging the declaration of Sule as Governor. INEC, Sule & APC were listed as 1st, 2nd & 3rd Respondents respectively.
The PDP accused the State INEC officials of connivance and computing results in error. According to the petition, the results from Eggon, Awe, Lafia and Keffi local Councils as announced by the Returning Officer were at variance with IREV portal results, INEC Certifies True Copies (CTCs) and Polling Unit results.
From the INEC CTC results and IREV portal given to PDP, the APC scored 289524 votes, while the PDP recorded 293653 votes. PDP won with a margin of 4,130 votes over APC, so we wonder where the Returning Officer got his results from, the Party noted.
However, Mohammed Dikko, Dr. Ayo Adekunle and Burkaa all Senior Advocates of Nigeria representing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents prayed the tribunal to dismiss the petition in its entirety with costs awarded against the Petitioners. They insisted that there were no credible witnesses presented by the Petitioners to buttress their allegation of computational error or reduction of votes in the calculation of the results.
They also argued that the petitioner dumped the BVAS machines and IReV records at the tribunal without presenting the records in the IReV and BVAS machines or even displaying them for everyone to see so as to show what was contained in the records.
A former Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Godwin Agabi (SAN) for Ombugadu and J S Okutepa (SAN) for the PDP, asked the Court to declare their Candidate as duly-elected.
“The Polling Units results (Form EC8As) are tendered before the tribunal and they are the original results from the reliable places where elections are won and lost. Again, before the tribunal are Certified documents and the Form EC8As Results were different from what’s in Forms EC8B, EC8C, EC8D hence the tribunal should focus on the witnesses depositions and documents before them which need no Witnesses to know who the winner is,” Agabi noted.
The three-man tribunal led by Justice Ezekiel Oyeyemi Ajayi delivered their judgement by Zoom.
In resolving the Preliminary Objections, the tribunal held that APC Objections on BVAS Machine/ Screenshots tendered by PDP is over-ruled because the BVAS reports were pleaded, relevant and admissible.
The tribunal further dismissed the objections and delved into the merits of the petition.
“The Tribunal deducted the votes of Chiroma having compared the entries in polling unit results with the ward result. Also the incorrect votes magically ascribed to Gayam is deducted.”
“Also the incorrect votes magically ascribed to Gayam is deducted. Chiroma and and Gayam regularised.
“The law is that only presiding officers can cancel Polling Units results. Ashige Results is here by Restored,” the tribunal held.
The tribunal agreed entirely with the 2nd Petitioner on Kanje-Abuni. Votes wrongly added to APC deducted while Petitioners’ votes unjustly reduced have been added.
“Alwazan Mada votes restored in favour of 2nd Petitioner (PDP).”
The Tribunal held that Petitioners’ witnesses were all competent witnesses. The evidence of Petitioners’ witnesses are all admissible.
The tribunal agreed with the 2nd Petitioner on all contentions on over voting. Votes of Parties in the 4 PUs discountenanced and accordingly deducted as prayed by Petitioners.
The tribunal upheld all the Contentions of the 1st and 2nd Petitioners.
By a majority decision of 2 to 1, the tribunal upheld the prayers of the Petitioners that the votes were indeed inflated, sacked the incumbent and affirmed Ombugadu (1st Petitioner) as duly elected having polled the majority of lawful votes cast.