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GROUNDS UPON WHICH AN ELECTION CAN BE QUESTIONED

Dictum

The Electoral Act, 2022 in an explicit manner, has laid out clearly grounds upon which an election can be questioned in Section 134 thereof. Then there is Section 135 of the said Act which looks like a proviso to Section 134. For a proper appreciation of the intendment of the law, Section 134 and 135 of the Electoral Act must be considered together.

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

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DEFECTIVE VOTERS REGISTER USED FOR AN ELECTION

Whereas the process of compiling a Voters Register is a pre-election matter, the use to which an alleged fundamentally defective Voters Register so compiled is put to in an election which may substantially affect the result of the said election is clearly an issue of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, which constitutes a ground for challenging an election in a petition under section 138(l)(b) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended.

— W.S.N. Onnoghen, JSC. Akeredolu v. Mimiko (2013) – SC. 352/2013

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IRREGULARITY MUST SUBSTANTIALLY AFFECT THE ELECTION

Chief Awolowo v Alhaji Shagari (1979) 6–9 SC 37. In his contribution to the majority judgment, Qbaseki, JSC said at pages 82 and 84:– “There is no evidence that the non compliance with section 34A(1)(c)(ii) one of the provisions of Part II has affected the result i.e. but for the non-compliance, the petitioner would have won, to enable the tribunal declare the result invalid. The petitioner pleaded a substantial non-compliance i.e. failure to obtain one-quarter of the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation. But the evidence established this non-compliance in only one State. In other words, the evidence established that the first respondent obtained in each of the 12 States one-quarter or more of the votes cast but did not in the 13th State in Kano State. The third respondent claimed that first respondent received 25% of the votes in 2/3 Kano State. There is no evidence of counting in 2/3, Kano State… In this appeal, the appellant has failed to satisfy the tribunal and this Court that the non-compliance has affected the result of the election or has prevented a majority of votes in his favour with effect, and for that reason the appeal must fail.”

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NONCOMPLIANCE MUST AFFECT THE RESULT OF THE ELECTION

In Akinfosile v Ijose (1960) 5 FSC 192, one of the earliest cases, if not the earliest, it was held that the onus is on the petitioner to prove not only that there was substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, but also that such non-compliance affected the result of the election. The decision was followed in the case of Kudu v Aliyu (1992) 3 NWLR (Part 231) 598

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PROVING NON-COMPLIANCE IN AN ELECTION

Any Petitioner who complains that the result as declared is either wrong or not in compliance with the Electoral Act has the onus of proving the contrary: see NYESOM V. PETERSIDE (2016) LPELR-40036 (SC). This case was relied upon by the Supreme Court in the case of ANDREW & ANOR V. INEC (2017) LPELR 48518 (SC) where the Supreme Court held per Onnoghen, J.S.C. (as he then was) as follows: “…Secondly, one of the main planks on which the petition is based is non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). For one to succeed on that ground, it is now settled law that where a petitioner alleges non compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, he has the onus of presenting credible evidence from eye witnesses at the various polling units who can testify directly in proof of the alleged non-compliance See Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1 at 315 316: Buhari v. INEC (2008) 18 NWLR (Pt.1120) 246 at 391 392: Okereke v. Umahi (2016) 11 NWLR (Pt.1524) 438 at 473. Nyesom v. Peterside (2016) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1512) 452, etc.”

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

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FRESH PRIMARY ELECTION IS NOT NEEDED FOR SUBSTITUTED VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

By the proviso thereto, the political party affected, is enjoined to conduct a fresh primary election for the purpose of producing a new or fresh candidate to submit to the Electoral Commission. The grouse of the Petitioner here is that, the 5th Respondent withdrew his nomination as Vice-Presidential candidate of 2nd Respondent but the 2nd Respondent did not conduct another primary election for the purpose of producing a new Vice-Presidential candidate within the 14 days prescribed by Section 33 of the Electoral Act. It should be remembered that by Section 142(1) of the 1999 Constitution, a Presidential candidate for election to the office of President has the sole discretion, authority or power of nominating his associate who shall run with him in the election as Vice-President. The choice or nomination of a Vice-Presidential candidate is, not the product of any primary election. Therefore, in my view, the requirement to conduct a fresh primary election does not apply to the nomination of a Vice-Presidential candidate. Thus, my Lord Augie, JSC highlighted the point in his contributory judgment in PDP v. INEC & 3 Ors (Exhibit X1) as follows: “No; the fourth Respondent was not required to buy any nomination Form. He was the second Respondent (APC’s) candidate at the election into the office of Senator representing Borno Central Senatorial District. But before the election could hold, he was nominated as the third Respondent’s associate, who is to occupy the office of Vice President. The fourth Respondent did not buy a nomination Form for the said office, and most importantly, did not contest any primary election in order to emerge as APC’s Vice-Presidential candidate.”

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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ONLY A PRACTICE WHICH IS CONTRARY TO THE ELECTORAL ACT CAN BE A GROUND TO QUESTION AN ELECTION

As I stated earlier, the electronic transmission of results of an election is not expressly stated anywhere in the Electoral Act, but was only introduced by the 1st Respondent in its Regulations and Guidelines, 2022 and in the INEC Manual for Election Officials, 2023. By Section 134(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 only an act or omission which is contrary to the Electoral Act, 2022 can be a ground for questioning an election. Thus, complaints relating to non-compliance with provisions of the Regulations and Guidelines or the Manual of Election Officials are not legally cognizable complaints for questioning an election. In interpreting Section 138(2) of the Electoral Act, 2010, which is similar to Section 134(2) of the extant Electoral Act, 2022, the Supreme Court held in NYESOM V PETERSIDE (supra), at page 66 67, paras. F-C, as follows: “The above provisions appear to be quite clear and unambiguous. While the Electoral Commission is duly conferred with powers to issue regulations, guidelines or manuals for the smooth conduct of elections, by Section 138(2) of the Act, so long as an act or omission regarding such regulations or guidelines is not contrary to the provisions of the Act itself, it shall not of itself be a ground for questioning the election.” See also: JEGEDE v INEC (2021) LPELR-55481(SC) at 25 – 26 at paras. A – D.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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