From Denen Achussah, Makurdi
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has upheld the election of Senator Emmanuel Udende (APC), Benue North East Senatorial District.
Presiding Justice of the three-member panel, Honourable Justice Onyekachi Otisi, who delivered the lead judgment arrived at the decision haven set aside the earlier decision of the Tribunal, which delivered judgment in favour of former Governor Gabriel Suswam of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
At the tribunal, Suswam, who called 19 witnesses, 11 of which were later quashed out of the records of the Tribunal by the Court of Appeal, predicated his petition on one ground that Sen Udende did not score majority of the lawful votes cast at the 25th February, 2023, Benue North East Senatorial District election.
Suswam had urge the Tribunal to deduct votes, he termed “unlawful” and return him winner. And the Tribunal agreed with him and gave him judgment.
However, the appellate court in its “considered judgment” said the lower court had no duty to do the petitioners’ case and that it was the duty of the petitioners to call witnesses and link to their case.
According to the judgment, the petitioners must succeed on the strenght of their case and not the weakness of the opponent.
Honourable Justice Otisi, held that evidence adduced by the petitioners was not sufficient to give them judgment as it is their duty to prove over voting and failed, given fewer documentary evidence tendered and witnesses called, majority of who were ward agents and not polling unit agents.
The Presiding Justice therefore, set aside the decision of the Tribunal and accordingly, upheld the return of Senator Udende by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the lawful winner of Benue North East Senatorial District election.
Innocent Daagba, Esq, who appeared for APC described the decision as “a sound judgment.”
According to Tavershima Pusa, of counsel to Sen Udende, there was no unlawful votes because there was nobody to speak to the documents tendered by the petitioners.
He explained that the Tribunal is not an investigative panel to have delve into scrutinising votes cast at the poll, stating that the judgment of the lower court was only based on assumption and not the position of the law.
Meanwhile, Senator Udende, through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Jerry Iorngaem, says the decision of the Court of Appeal is a reflection of the decision of the people of Benue North East at the poll.
He says with the conclusion of the matter, Sen Udende will settle down to doing the work he has sworn to do.