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HISTORY OF THE EVIDENTIAL BURDEN OF NON-COMPLIANCE IN OUR ELECTORAL LAWS

Dictum

This ground of non-compliance to the Electoral Act has been in all our Electoral Laws even from when we had parliamentary system of government. The Courts have over the years shed a lot of light on the requirement of the law in proving the allegation of non-compliance. A short chronicle of the decisions of our Courts will throw more light on the evidential burden of proving non-compliance. In BASSEY V. YOUNG (1963) LPELR-15465 (SC), BRETT JSC in the then Federal Supreme Court held as follows: “…Akinfosile v. ljose (1960) 5 F.S.C. 192, where the Court held that a petitioner who alleges in his petition a particular non compliance and avers in his prayer that the non-compliance was substantial must so satisfy the Court. If there should be any inconsistency between the two decisions, it is the decision of this Court that binds us, and it would appear to me that we are bound by the authority of Akinfosile v. ljose to hold that the petitioner must show both that irregularities took place and that they might have affected the result of the election.” In AWOLOWO V. SHAGARI & ORS (1979) LPELR-653 (SC), the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the 1979 election contest held per Obaseki JSC as follows: “Once a petitioner alleges a particular non-compliance and averred in his prayer that it was substantial it is his duty so to satisfy the Court or Tribunal having cognisance of the question. See AKINFOSILE v. IJOSE 5 FSC 92 AT 99 (a case dealing with Regulation 7 of the Elections (House of Representatives) Regulations 1958 which is in pari materia with Section 111 of the Electoral Decree 1977 as ………..to vitiate an election, the non-compliance must be proved to have affected the results of the election. See SORUNKE v. ODEBUNMI (1960) 5 FSC AT PP 177 AND 178, where Ademola, C.J.N, delivering the judgment of the Federal Supreme Court said: “Finally, in considering ….. whether the election was void under the Ballot Act, Lord Coleridge said at page 751 of the judgment: If this proposition be closely examined it will be found to be equivalent to this, that the non-observance of the rules or forms which is to render the election invalid, must be so great as to amount to a conducting of the election in a manner contrary to the principle of an election by ballot, and must be so great as to satisfy the tribunal that it did affect or might have affected the majority of the voters, or in other words, the result of the election. When Lord Coleridge refers to a majority of voters, he cannot mean to say that non-compliance may be overlooked unless it affects over half of the votes cast. He referred to a non compliance, which “affected the majority of voters, or in other words, the result of the election.” It cannot be doubted that here Lord Coleridge means that those electors wishing to vote who formed a majority in favour of a particular candidate must have been prevented from casting a majority of votes in his favour with effect. This does not require that all their votes must have been disallowed; it will be sufficient if enough of their votes are disallowed to give another candidate a majority of valid votes.” See also the cases of BUHARI & ANOR V. OBASANJO & ORS (2005) LPELR-815 (SC) and CPC V. INEC & ORS (2011) LPELR-8257 (SC).

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 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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RATIONALE BEHIND WHY A GOVERNOR IS NOT IMMUNED FROM ELECTION PETITION

I am also of the view that the appeal can be allowed on the main issue of immunity of the governor under the provisions of section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. The issue can be resolved by a simple question as to whether a person declared and sworn-in as the governor elect can be sued by appropriate party to challenge the declaration. By law the answer must be in the positive. If the said person is said to be immuned under the section the resultant effect is that once a person is declared and sworn – in as governor elect that ends the matter, no one can complain or take any legal action even if the person conducted any gross election malpractice. This will encourage gross wrongful and illegal activities among the parties contesting for the position. This would undoubtedly negate the necessary intendment of our constitution and would destroy the democracy itself. In election petition where the status of the governor is being challenged, as in this, then the said immunity is also questioned. He has no immunity against being sued and consequently he cannot be immuned from being subpoened. It must be made clear that the provisions of section 308 of the Constitution are applicable to ordinary civil proceedings as in the case of Tinubu v. I.M.B. Securities Limited (supra) and criminal proceedings and not in election related matter as in Obih v. Mbakwe (supra) and our present case. In my judgment the appeal is to be allowed on this issue. It is allowed with an order that the matter be remitted for fresh trial by a tribunal of different membership.

— Ja’ Afaru Mika’ilu, J.C.A. AD v. Fayose (2004) – CA/IL/EP/GOV/1/2004

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THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF SUI GENERIS NATURE OF ELECTION PETITION

Tobi, J.S.C., in his lead judgment in Buhari v, INEC (2008) LPELR-814 (SC) p. 97 paragraph A-B: “The whole concept of Election Petition being sui generis, in my view, is to project the peculiarity of the reliefs sought, the time element and peculiar procedure adopted for the hearing of the petition and all that.”

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ALLEGATIONS OF CRIME IN ELECTION PETITION MUST BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

Now, notwithstanding the fact that election petitions are a specie of civil proceedings, where in any such election petition, allegations, which are criminal in nature are made in the pleadings, they must be proved beyond reasonable doubt Abubakar v. Yar ‘Adua (2008) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1120) 1, 143; 144; Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1; Omoboriowo v. Ajasin (1984) 1 SCNLR 108; Kakih v. PDP (2014) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1430) 374, 422 – 423; B-C; Nwobodo v. Onoh (1984) 1 SCNLR 27-28; Emmanuel v. Umanah and Ors (2016) LPELR – 40037 (SC) 93 et seq. reported as Udom v. Emmanuel (2016) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1526) 179.

— Nweze, JSC. Anyanwu v. PDP (2020) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1710) 134

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PETITIONER HAS BURDEN TO PROVE NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE ELECTORAL ACT

In the instant case, it is fundamental to point out that, from the pleadings, the allegation of non-compliance is generated by the Petitioners. Under Sections 134(1) and 135 of the Electoral Act, the level of proof required for the success of the Petition is doubled. There must be proof of non-compliance and the further proof that the non compliance affected substantially the result of the election. In the face of such an allegation of non-compliance, the court is enjoined by the law not to invalidate an election if it appears that the election was conducted substantially in accordance with the principles of the Electoral Act. All said and done, the Petitioners have the primary burden of proving that there was non-compliance and that the non-compliance affects substantially the result of the election before the burden can shift to the Respondents to establish that there was no substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election.

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

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HOW TO PROVE FALSIFICATION OF AN ELECTION RESULT

In order to establish falsification of election result, the Petitioner must produce in evidence two sets of results; one genuine and the other false. See: KAKIH v PDP & ORS (2014) LPELR-23277(SC) at pages 51-52, paras. C-C; and NWOBODO v ONOH (1984) LPELR-2120(SC). Indeed, in ADEWALE v OLAIFA (2012) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1330) 478 at 516, this Court held that: “To prove falsification of results of an election, two sets of results one genuine and the other false must be put in evidence by the party making the accusation. After putting in evidence the two sets of results, a witness or witnesses conversant with the entries made in the result sheets must be called by the party making the accusation of falsification or forgery of results of the election to prove from the electoral documents containing the results of the election how the results of the election were falsified or made up.”

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

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