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Benue North East: Appeal Court Quashes Evidence Of 11 Witnesses Called By Suswam

The appellate court held that the tribunal was wrong for setting aside its order foreclosing Senator Suswam from calling further witnesses in his petition.


A file photo of the Court of Appeal, Abuja

The Court of Appeal Abuja has set aside the ruling of the Benue State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which allowed Senator Gabriel Suswam to call 11 additional witnesses in his petition against Senator Emmanuel Udende, after he had been foreclosed from calling further witnesses.

The appellate court held that the tribunal was wrong for setting aside its order foreclosing Senator Suswam from calling further witnesses in his petition.

Consequently, the three-member panel of the Court of Appeal led by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu, ordered that the evidence of the 11 additional witnesses called by Suswam after the foreclosure should be expunged from the record of the tribunal.

The court held that after making an order foreclosing Senator Suswam from calling further witnesses, the tribunal was funtus officio from setting aside its order.

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It held that there was apparently no justification by the tribunal to reopen the case after rightly making an order foreclosing the petitioners from calling further witnesses.

The appellate court agreed with counsel to the appellants that by the provisions of paragraph 40 (10) of the first schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022, an election tribunal in a senatorial dispute has only five weeks to hear and determine an appeal.

That the tribunal has no powers to set aside its own ruling in the absence of special circumstances.

It held that once a judge delivers a ruling, he no longer has competence and jurisdiction to reopen the issue.

The Benue State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal presided over by Justice Ori Zik-Ikeorha had nullified the election of Senator Emmanuel Udende of the All Progressives Congress, representing Benue North East Senatorial District in the National Assembly.

Senator Udende was declared winner of the February 25, 2023, National Assembly election after polling a total of 135,573 votes to defeat Senator Gabriel Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who garnered 112,231 votes.

Not satisfied with the outcome of the election, Senator Suswam approached the tribunal on the ground that the election was marred by over-voting, irregularities, alterations and falsification of results.

The former governor challenged the results from 474 polling units across five Local Government Areas in the Senatorial Zone which is made up of seven LGAs with 1,844 polling units.