The Court of Appeal in Abuja has overturned the Benue State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal’s decision to allow Senator Gabriel Suswam to call 11 new witnesses in his petition against Senator Emmanuel Udende, after he had previously been barred from doing so.
The appellate court said that the panel erred in overturning its judgement barring Senator Suswam from calling more witnesses in his case.
As a result, the three-member Court of Appeal panel chaired by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu ordered that the evidence of the 11 additional witnesses called by Suswam after the foreclosure be removed from the tribunal’s record.
The court ruled that after making an order barring Senator Suswam from calling any more witnesses, the panel was barred from overturning its decision.
It held that the tribunal’s decision to restart the matter after correctly prohibiting the petitioners from calling more witnesses was evidently without justification.
The appellate court agreed with the appellants’ counsel that, under the terms of paragraph 40 (10) of the first schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022, an electoral tribunal hearing and deciding an appeal in a senatorial dispute has just five weeks to hear and decide an appeal.
That the tribunal lacks the authority to overturn its own decision in the absence of exceptional circumstances.
It was decided that once a judge issues a judgement, he no longer has the competence or jurisdiction to reopen the case.
The Benue State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, presided over by Justice Ori Zik-Ikeorha, declared Senator Emmanuel Udende of the All Progressives Congress ineligible to represent Benue North East Senatorial District in the National Assembly.
Senator Udende was proclaimed the victor of the National Assembly election on February 25, 2023, after receiving 135,573 votes to defeat Senator Gabriel Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who received 112,231 votes.
Senator Suswam filed a complaint with the tribunal, claiming that the election was plagued by over-voting, anomalies, modifications, and falsification of results.
The results of 474 polling units across five Local Government Areas in the Senatorial Zone, which is made up of seven LGAs with 1,844 polling units, were disputed by the previous governor.