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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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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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WHOEVER ALLEGATION IS MADE AGAINST SHOULD BE JOINED IN AN ELECTION PETITION, NOT JUST THE CONTESTANTS

I am however of the opinion that the second complaint of 1st respondent against paragraph 129 of the petition, that it also deserves to be struck out for petitioners’ failure to join Hon. Adejoh, Chairman of Olamaboro L.G.A. of Kogi State accused by them of having led thugs at gun point to force Electoral officers in named polling units in Olamaboro L.G.A. of Kogi State to declare concluded elections in the said units cancelled, is well made. The petitioners’ response that not only was no relief claimed by them against Hon. Adejoh, he did not even participate’ in the election neither was he returned so he is not a person contemplated by section 133 of the Electoral Act 2022 to be joined to an election petition, is not a valid response. Section of 133 of the Electoral Act 2022 only deals with the issue of which contestant of an election ought to be joined in an election petition by a co-contestant. It has nothing to do with the issue of joining of third parties against whom allegations of electoral infraction are made by petitioners as in this case. Such persons must be joined to the petition if the court is not to be exposed to the risk of infringing their fundamental right to fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution. It is also of no moment that no relief was claimed against such persons in the petition; what is important is that allegations of electoral malpractice, which will require the court to make findings, including condemnation of their alleged conduct where necessary, are made in the petition. Support for that position can be found in NWANKWO V. YAR’ADUA (2010) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1209) 518 at 583 where Muntaka-Coomassie, J.S.C., after reproducing the provisions of the then newly enacted section 144(2) of the Electoral Act 2006 (in pari materia with section 133(2) of the Electoral Act 2022) and confirming that that provision had done away with the old regime of the Electoral Act 2002 that required petitioners to join all relevant Electoral Officers of INEC that conducted an impugned election, in addition to INEC itself, spoke thus at page 583: “Unless the conduct of a party who is not an agent of the Commission is in question, it will then be necessary to join such party as a necessary party to the petition in order to afford such party a fair hearing.” (Italics mine) As regards the consequence of failure to join such necessary parties on the petition itself, His Lordship again said as follows: “However, where such a party is not made a party, it will not result into the whole petition being struck out, but the particular allegation against such party is liable to be struck out.” That is the fate of paragraph 129 of the petition where allegations of electoral malpractice were made by the Petitioners against Hon. Adejoh yet he was not cited in the petition. Incidentally, this is also one of the main reasons the Supreme Court gave in dismissing the appeal of the petitioners in the Ondo State Governorship case of Eyitayo Jegede & Another v. I.N.E.C. & Ors (2021) LPELR-55481 (SC) where allegations were made by the Petitioners in that case against the then National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the present 3rd Respondent, APC, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, yet he was not joined to the petition by the Petitioners.

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

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A PETITIONER IN AN ELECTION PETITION HAS A HEAVY BURDEN

In Ihute v Independent National Electoral Commission (1999) 4 NWLR (Part 599) 360, it was held that in an election petition, when a petitioner makes an allegation of non-compliance with the electoral law as the basis or foundation of his case, he has a heavy burden to show the tribunal by cogent and compelling evidence that the non-compliance is of such a nature as to affect the result of the election. The court followed the decision in Kudu v Aliyu, (supra). The decision was followed in the case of Haruna v Modibbo (2004) 16 NWLR (Part 900) 487. The court added in Haruna that the petitioner must satisfy the tribunal that he is a victim of the alleged malpractices. The court also relied on Nabature v Mahuta (1992) 0 NWLR (Part 263) 585 and Awolowo v Shagari, (supra).

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FAILURE TO JOIN A PARTICULAR PARTY WILL NOT WARRANT STRIKING OUT OF ENTIRE PETITION

The other argument of note of 2nd Respondent in this application is the one of failure of petitioners to join Friday Adejoh and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and its effect on the petition. We have already struck out the relevant paragraphs of the petition where allegations of malpractice were made against the two men. We abide by that decision. We shall simply add that we do not agree with 2nd respondent’s argument that the entire petition merits dismissal for non-joinder of those two men. The proper sanction, in the circumstances of this case as we have already pointed out citing Nwankwo v. Yar’Adua (2010) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1209) 518 @ 583 paras G-H. (SC), is to strike out the paragraphs of the petition where those allegations were made. That order, we also further add, and contrary to the argument of 2nd Respondent, will not affect the paragraphs where allegations were made against unnamed thugs.

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

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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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NOT EVERY GROUND OF NONCOMPLIANCE WILL AMOUNT TO CORRUPT PRACTICE

It is also pertinent to observe that in paragraph 79 of the Petition where the Petitioners alleged corrupt practices, they merely stated that they are repeating their pleadings in support of the grounds of non compliance to be in support of their allegations of corrupt practices. It should be noted however, that not every ground of non-compliance will amount to corrupt practice. In fact, the standard of proof of non compliance differs from that of corrupt practice. While the standard of proof of non-compliance is on the balance of probabilities, that of corrupt practice is beyond reasonable doubt. See: PDP v INEC (supra) at page 31, paras. A – B, per Rhodes-Vivour, JSC; MOHAMMED v WAMAKKO (2017) LPELR-42667(SC) at page 10, paras. D-F, per Nweze, JSC; and BOARD OF CUSTOMS & EXCISE v ALHAJI IBRAHIM BARAU (1982) LPELR-786(SC) at pages 41-43, paras. F-E, per Idigbe, JSC.

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

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