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ELECTORAL RESULT DECLARED BY INEC ENJOY PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY

Dictum

Primarily, the law is well settled that the results declared by INEC (1st Respondent) in an election enjoy a presumption of regularity. In other words, they are prima facie correct. See Section 168(1) of the Evidence Act 2011, recently applied by the Supreme Court in ATUMA V. APC & ORS (2023) LPELR-60352 (SC) where JAURO, JSC held at PP 40-41 as follows: “By virtue of Section 168(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011, presumption of regularity inures in favour of judicial or official acts, including those carried out by INEC. The exact words of the subsection are thus: “When any judicial or official act is shown to have been done in a manner substantially regular, it is presumed that formal requisites for its validity were complied with.” See P.D.P. V.I.N.E.C. (2022) 18 NWLR (PT. 1863) 653, UDOM V. UMANA (NO. 1)(2016) 12 NWLR (PT. 1526) 179. Fortunately for the Appellant and 1st Respondent, it is only a presumption, which implies that it is rebuttable. Any person who questions the validity of an act in favour of which there is a presumption of regularity, has a duty to rebut the presumption with cogent and credible evidence. A flimsy or half-hearted rebuttal will not suffice.”

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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WHAT A PETITIONER WHO CONTESTS THE LEGALITY OF VOTES CAST IN AN ELECTION MUST DO

A petitioner who contests the legality or lawfulness of votes cast in an election and the subsequent result must tender in evidence all the necessary documents by way of forms and other documents used at the election. He should not stop there. He must call witnesses to testify to the illegality or unlawfulness of the votes cast and prove that the illegality or unlawfulness substantially affected the result of the election. The documents are amongst those in which the results of the votes are recorded. The witnesses are those who saw it all on the day of the election; not those who picked the evidence from an eye witness. No. They must be eye witnesses too. Both forms and witnesses are vital for contesting the legality or lawfulness of the votes cast and the subsequent result of the election. One cannot be a substitute for the other. It is not enough for the petitioner to tender only the documents. It is incumbent on him to lead evidence in respect of the wrong doings or irregularities both in the conduct of the election and the recording of the votes; wrong doings and irregularities which affected substantially the result of the election.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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WHERE A PERSON WHO ATTAINED THE HIGHEST VOTE IS DECLARED NULL, THE SECOND HIGHEST WITH VOTES IS TO BE DECLARED THE WINNER

By Section 136 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022, it is provided thus: “Where an Election Tribunal or Court nullifies an election on the grounds that person who obtained the highest votes at the election was not qualified to contest the election, the Election Tribunal or Court shall declare the person who scored the second highest number of valid votes cast at the election who satisfied the requirement of the Constitution and the Act as dully elected.” In law, once an Election Petition succeeds under Section 134 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022, the only consequential order for the Election Tribunal or Court, where the Election Tribunal fails to do so, is an order declaring and returning the candidate with the second highest score of lawful votes as the winner of the said election. Indeed, neither the Election Tribunal nor this Court, has any discretion in this matter nor is it dependent on the reliefs claimed or not claimed by the Petitioner.

— B.A. Georgewill JCA. Okeke, PDP v. Nwachukwu, Labour Party, INEC (CA/ABJ/EP/IM/HR/86/2023, November 04, 2023)

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PRE-ELECTION MATTER CANNOT BE STALLED BECAUSE ELECTION IS OVER

So, does the mere holding of an election and the declaration of a winner or even the swearing in of a winner into office alone render a pre – election matter duly commenced and pending before a Court of competent jurisdiction to become merely academic and or over taken by events and thus liable to be struck out? In law whether a pre-election matter is academic or not is dependent on the facts giving rise to the pre-election matter and if those facts or issues remain live, then the pre – election would be determined on its merit notwithstanding whether or not the election has been held and or the outcome of the election.

– B.A. Georgewill, JCA. Ganiyu v. Oshoakpemhe & Ors. (2021) – CA/B/12A/2021

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WHERE CIVIL AND CRIMINAL INGREDIENTS ARE INTERTWINED IN AN ELECTION PETITION

I take the line of thought of the respondents in that it is not enough to allege, non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the Petitioner now Appellant ought to establish by concrete evidence not only the non-compliance but that it was substantial to vitiate the election. Nothing other than that would suffice. Also the petitioner cannot run away from his responsibility on the burden of proof and on-whom it lies. In the present circumstances, the allegations are civil in character as well as criminal and so intertwined or interwoven as to make severance of one genre from the other which is impossible. Therefore the standard of proof must be of the higher standard which is beyond reasonable doubt. It is when the petitioner has discharged the onus on this that the burden can shift to the respondents to see how far he can go to impugn such a rock solid evidence put forward by the appellant. That is the prescription of law in practice and there is no running away from it See Awofowo v Shaman (1979) 1 ALL NLR 120 at 126: Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941).

— M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Akeredolu v. Mimiko (2013) – SC. 352/2013

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ANY ACTION RELATING TO THE PROCESS OF AN ELECTION FALLS WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF THE ELECTION TRIBUNAL

Ohakim v Agbaso (2011) ALL PWLR (Pt. 553) 1806 at 1846 per Onnoghen JSC where he state as follows: “it is necessary that everything connected will the process leading to the election including the actual election and its aftermath come within the jurisdiction of election tribunal. That will stem the tide of parties trying to pursue election related matters in parallel courts which will only result in conclusion, a gleam of which can be seen in the Sokoto State Gubernatorial election petition saga, in any event, it is my considered view that since the action concerned on election conducted on 14th April 2007 by the appropriate authority whether inchoate or not, the proper court with jurisdiction to entertain any action arising therefrom or relating thereto is the relevant election tribunal established by the Constitution of this country as the matter is not a pre-election matter neither can it be accommodated under the procedure of judicial review. Section 164 of the Electoral Act 2006 defines election as meaning any election held under this Act and includes a referendum. It is therefore beyond doubt that what took place on 4th April, 2007 in Imo State in particular was an election and as such any action relating to the processes leading thereto including the actual conduct of the event or its cancellation fall within the jurisdiction of the election tribunal by operation of law and no other court or tribunal is clothed with jurisdiction to entertain it in any guise.”

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QUALIFICATION TO CONTEST GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION

In the Supreme Court case of AL-HASSAN V ISIHAKU 2016 10 NWLR PART 520, PG 230, the court reiterated at pages 275- 276 PARAS H-A; 277 PARAS A-F as follows; “…Where it is alleged that a person is or was not qualified to contest election into the office of Governor as envisaged by section 138(1) (a) of the Electoral Act, it is S177 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) that are being contemplated. Taking the provisions together, it is seen that both the provision for qualification and that for disqualification are so comprehensive which makes them exhaustive. Thus the Constitution, as the Supreme law of the land, having such elaborate and allencompassing provisions for qualification and disqualification of persons seeking the office of Governorship of a state, does not leave any room for addition to those conditions already set out. Once a candidate sponsored by his political party has satisfied the provisions set out in S177 of the Constitution and is not disqualified under S182 (1) thereof, he is qualified to stand for election to the office of Governor of a State. No other law can disqualify him (P.D.P V INEC (2014) 17 NWLR (PT 1437) 525, Shinkafi V Yari (2016) 7 NWLR (PT 1511) 340 referred to (Pp 275, paras H_A;277 Paras A-F.”

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