By Bisi LAWAL
The Senator representing Benue North East Senatorial District in the Senate, former Governor Gabriel Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been sacked.
A three-member panel Justices of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Wednesday, in a unanimous judgement ruled that, it was satisfied that Suswam was not the valid winner of the senatorial election that held in Benue North East Senatorial District of Benue state on February 25, 2023.
It faulted the judgement of the Benue State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, which returned Suswam of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the Senate after it nullified the election of Mr. Emmanuel Udende of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to the Court of Appeal, the tribunal wrongly evaluated the evidence that was presented before it by the parties in the matter and thereby arrived at an erroneous conclusion that upheld the petition Suswam filed to challenge Udende’s election victory.
Consequently, the appellate court voided the judgement of the tribunal and held that, it found merit in the appeal that was lodged before it by the APC candidate.
According to the court, “The judgment of the tribunal delivered on September 8, 2023 is hereby set aside. The return of the Appellant as the winner of the Benue North East senatorial election that was held on February 25 is hereby affirmed.
“Parties are to bear their respective cost,” the appellate court held in its lead judgment delivered by Justice Abimbola Osarugue Obaseki Adejumo, who led the panel.
Recall, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Udende as winner of the senatorial election after he polled a total of 135,573 votes to defeat Senator Suswam who garnered 112,231 votes.
Not satisfied with the outcome of the election, Suswam approached the tribunal on the ground that it was marred by over-voting, irregularities, alterations and falsification of results.
In its judgement, the tribunal held that Suswam successfully established his case that irregularities took place in five out of seven Local Government Areas in the Senatorial District.
The tribunal cancelled 51,895 votes entered for Senator Udende and also cancelled 21,229 votes entered for Senator Suswam.
After subtracting the padded votes, Senator Suswam was left with 90,590 while Senator Udende scored 82,699 votes.
Upholding the petition, Justice Ori Zik-Ikeoha led panel entered judgment in Suswam’s favour, a decision that was vacated by the appellate court in its judgement.