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INVALID NOMINATION PROCESS CANNOT PRODUCE A VALID CANDIDATE FOR AN ELECTION

Dictum

It is my thinking, and I hold the firm view on this, that by Section 29(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, the sponsorship referred to in Section 65(2)(a) & (b) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), means nothing else than a valid sponsorship by a political party. It cannot be otherwise. Thus, a sponsorship by a political party which results from an invalid nomination process would be incapable of meeting the stringent requirement of Section 65 (2) (a) & (b) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Therefore, a person who is shown to have emerged from an invalid primary or nomination process of a political party as required by law is not and cannot be said to have been sponsored by that political party since such a sponsorship is invalid by virtue of Section 65 (2) (a) & (b) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), and I so hold firmly. The law is and has always been, that a primary election of a political party conducted in contravention of the provisions of Section 84 (5) (c) (i) of the Electoral Act 2022, as where for instance such a primary election of the 2nd Appellant for a Federal Constituency was on 25/5/2022 at the Aladinma Shopping Mall, Owerri, Imo State a location outside the Ehime Mbano Ihitte Uboma Federal Constituency, is a nullity and of no legal consequence whatsoever. It follows therefore, a candidate who purportedly emerges from such an illegal primary election is not and cannot be said to be qualified to contest an election conducted under the Electoral Act 2022 by INEC. He remains disqualified for all purpose and if inadvertently declared and returned elected in an election conducted by INEC, which on its own has no power to disqualify him, and if he is challenged before an Election Tribunal, his declaration and return would be nullified and the candidate with the second highest lawful votes cast at the questioned election would be declared and returned at the winner of such an election by the Election Tribunal, or this Court where the lower Tribunal fails to do so. See Section 136 (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2022. See also Hon. Jerry Alagbaoso v. Independent National Electoral Commission & Ors. (2023) LPELR-59702 (SC), Hon. Nnamdi Thankgod Ezeani v. Jones Onyeneri & Ors. (2023) LPELR-59701(SC).

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

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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EVIDENCE REQUIRED FO PROVE VOTES ALLOWED WITHOUT ACCREDITATION

It is glaring from the above reproduced provisions of the Electoral Act and the INEC Regulations and Guidelines that the evidence required to prove that voting was allowed without accreditation or that there was improper accreditation are the Register of Voters, BVAS and the Polling Unit result in Form EC8A and that the evidence required to prove that there was over voting are the record of accredited voters in the BVAS and the Polling Unit result in Form EC8A.

— E.A. Agim, JSC. Oyetola v INEC & Ors. (2022) – SC/CV/508/2023

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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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VOTERS REGISTER CANNOT BE REPLACED BY CARD READER TO PROVE OVERVOTING

This court in a number of recent decisions has commended the introduction of the card reader in the 2015 elections by INEC. The court has noted however, that its function is solely to authenticate the owner of a voter’s card and to prevent multi-voting by a voter and cannot replace the voters register or statement of results in appropriate forms. See Shinkafi v. Yari ; Okereke v. Umahi (unreported) SC.1004/ 2015 delivered on 5/2/2016 at pages 31 – 34.

— Kekere-Ekun, JSC. Nyesom v. Peterside (SC.1002/2015 (REASONS), 12 Feb 2016)

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ALL ELECTION PETITIONS LIE AS OF RIGHT TO THE COURT OF APPEAL

In the case of Awuse v. Odili (2003) 18 NWLR (pt. 851) 116 at 119, Ejiwunmi JSC supported the lead judgment of I.L. Kutugi JSC quoted the provision of Section 246 (1) (b) (ii) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and said of the Section as follows: “An appeal to the Court of Appeal shall lie as of right from the decision of the Governorship Election Tribunal on any question as to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of Governor”. “Though the word “any” when used as an adjective is defined in Longman Dictionary of the English Language thus: “One or some indiscriminately, whichever is chosen”. It would appear that the word “any” qualifying “question” was deliberately used by the law makers to indicate that an appeal to the Court of Appeal was not limited only to hearing appeals only to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of Governor —– It follows therefore that the provisions of Section 246 (1) allows appeals to lie to Court of Appeal in respect of interlocutory decision of the Governorship Election Tribunals and the other tribunals named in that section of the Constitution”.

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RESULT ANNOUNCED BY INEC IS PRESUMED TO BE CORRECT

The law is trite that the results declared by INEC enjoy a presumption of regularity. In other words, they are prima facie correct. The onus is on the petitioner to prove the contrary. See Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1; Awolowo v. Shagari (1979 ) 6 – 9 SC 51; Akinfosile v. Ijose (1960) SCNLR 447, (1960) WNLR 160.

— Kekere-Ekun, JSC. Nyesom v. Peterside (SC.1002/2015 (REASONS), 12 Feb 2016)

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