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HOW TO PROVE FALSIFICATION OF AN ELECTION RESULT

Dictum

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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ORDINARY COURTS HAVE JURISDICTION IN PRE-ELECTION MATTERS

The same approach adopted by the Respondents in Amaechi’s case was also adopted in the instant case. The belief was that if elections were conducted that would put an end to the appellants case or “kill his case”. The jurisdiction of ordinary court in pre-election matters is sacrosanct and the holding of such an election when the action was pending would not deprive the ordinary court of its jurisdiction to conclude the matter, even to the appeal court. It is to be noted that the appellant in this case took steps immediately he was aware of this substitution. He instituted this action before the conduct of the election and had been steadfast, believing in the judicial process that justice would be done. He did not stand by and allowed the party to be heard to fight for the election and therefore seek to take the benefit of the result of the election by proceeding to seeks for the enforcement of his right after the election. All what I have been labouring to state is that he did not sleep over his right. If this action had been instituted after the conduct and declaration of the election I would have held that the jurisdiction of the trial court to hear the pre-election matters has been over taken by event.

– Coomassie JSC. Odedo v. INEC (2008)

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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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GROUND; GROUND FOR QUESTIONING AN ELECTION

It is trite law, that a Petitioner is required to question an election on any of the grounds set out in Section 134 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022. For ease of reference, Section 134(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides as follows: “An election may be questioned on any of the following grounds – a. A person whose election is questioned was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the election; b. The election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of this Act; or c. The Respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election. What then is the meaning of the word “ground”? In the case of KALU VS CHUKWUMERIJE (2012) 12 NWLR (PT. 1315) 425 AT 485, the Court of Appeal per Owoade, JCA puts it succinctly, thus: “The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971) US reprint (1988) defines the word “Ground” in numerous terms and with an array of examples at pages 1214 to 1225 as follows: “Ground”: (a) The fundamental constituent or the essential part of anything. (b) A fundamental principle, also the elements or rudiments of any study or branch of knowledge. (c) A circumstance on which an opinion, inference, arguments, statement or claim is founded, or which has given rise to an action, procedure or mental feeling, a motive often with additional implication. A valid reason justifying motive or what is alleged as such.” Thus, a ground in the context of an election petition, is the fundamental reason, basis or justification for questioning the election. Before a party can question an election, his petition must fall within the grounds specified by the Electoral Act 2022. See the following cases: OYEGUN VS IGBENEDION & ORS (1992) 2 NWLR (PT. 226) 947; OKONKWO VS INEC & ORS (2003) 3 LRECN 599; ABUBAKAR VS INEC (2020) 12 NWLR (PT. 1737); and MODIBO VS USMAN (2020) 3 NWLR (PT. 1712) 470.

— A. Osadebay, J. APC v INEC & Ors. (EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023, 20th Day of September, 2023)

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DESPITE ELECTIONS BEING SUI GENERIS, THEY ARE GOVERNED BY THE EVIDENCE ACT

It is important to note here that although Election petitions are sui generis, they are governed by the Evidence Act. See BUHARI V. OBASANJO (2005) 2 NWLR (PT. 910) 241; APC V PDP & ORS (2015) LPELR-24587(SC). — H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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HE WHO ASSERTS FORGERY MUST PROVE IT

The burden of proving the allegation of falsification and forgery is on the person asserting it, and must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

– Tijjani Abubakar JSC. APC v. Obaseki (2021)

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GROUNDS UPON WHICH AN ELECTION CAN BE QUESTIONED

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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