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NON-QUALIFICATION IS A GROUND TO NULLIFY THE RETURN OF A CANDIDATE IN AN ELECTION; IT IS NOT A PRE-ELECTION MATTER

Dictum

This is so because issues of non-qualification of a candidate to contest an election are cognizable grounds in an Election Petition challenging the
29 declaration and return of the person so declared and returned by INEC, and in such a claim, the 1st Respondent, though not a member of the 2nd Appellant and having also not participated in the primaries of the 2nd Appellant, would have the requisite locus standi to challenge, in an Election Petition, the valid nomination and sponsorship of the 1st Appellant as candidate of the 2nd Appellant, a locus standi he would have lacked if the claims were in a pre – election matter before the Federal High Court for being a mere busy body dabbling into the internal affairs of the 2nd Appellant. Thus, whilst the issue of nomination of a candidate cannot be questioned by a person who is neither a member of the affected political party and who did not also participate in the questioned primary election and nomination of a candidate in a pre-election matter by reason of lack of requisite locus standi, yet the same issue of valid nomination and sponsorship by a political party as required by Section 35 of the Electoral Act 2022 can rightly ground a complaint in an Election Petition before the lower Tribunal and the issue of locus standi would not operate against such 30 a person and so also would the jurisdiction of the lower Tribunal not be ousted by the mere fact that the person so challenging the qualification of the other person declared and returned as the winner of the questioned election is not a member of the political party of the other person so declared and returned as winner and had also not participated in the alleged primary of that political party that had thrown up the other person as the candidate of his political party. It follows therefore, if a claim such as the one filed by the 1st and 2nd Respondents, which I hold was competently before the lower Tribunal, which also had the requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine it according to law, is made out it would result into the nullification of the declaration and return of the 1st Appellant, having not been validly sponsored as the candidate of a political party and thus, not qualified to contest the questioned election. The only way out of all these is simply the entrenchment of internal democracy and obedience to the provisions of both their constitution and guidelines by all the registered political parties in Nigeria in the due conduct of their affairs.

— 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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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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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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IRREGULARITIES FOR THE PURPOSE ELECTIONS MUST BE COMPELLING TO VOID THE ELECTION

Nigeria is one vast and huge country made up of so many diversities in terms of tribes, cultures, sociology, anthropology and above all, quite a number of political parties (some large, some small). These diversities, coupled with the usual aggressiveness of Nigerians arising particularly from the do or die behaviour in politics; there must be irregularities. Courts of law must therefore take the irregularities for granted unless they are of such compelling proportion or magnitude as to “affect substantially the result of the election.” This may appear to the ordinary Nigerian mind as a stupid statement but that is the law as provided in section 146(1) of the Electoral Act and there is nothing anybody can do about it, as long as the Legislature keeps it in the Electoral Act. The subsection is like the rock of Gibraltar, solidly standing behind and for a respondent to an election petition. I am not saying that a Presidential Election can never succeed in the light of section 146(1). No. It can if the petitioner discharges the burden the subsection places on him.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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FORGERY IN INEC FORM MUST BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBTS

False information in INEC Form EC9 which is an affidavit, amounts to lying on oath and is invariably, a crime. Being a crime, its commission must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

– Aboki JSC. APC v. Obaseki (2021)

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IT IS A POLITICAL PARTY OR ITS CANDIDATE WHO CAN CHALLENGE AN ELECTION

In the case of ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS V PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY 2019 LPELR-49499 CA, in the interpretation of the provision of S137(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, which provision is in pari material with the extant provisions of S133 (1) (a) and (b) the Electoral Act 2022, the Court of Appeal, Per Ali Abubakar Babandi Gummel JCA, took the stance that: ‘….it is clear from this provision, that either the political party, or its candidate for the election, or both of them jointly can present an election petition….this provision recognizes that a political party, can in its name, present an election petition challenging the election for the benefit of the candidate and itself….’ Ditto, in the lead judgment delivered by per Emmanuel Akomaye Agim JCA, the court reiterated and expounded as follows; ‘….therefore such a petition is a representative action by the political party on behalf of its candidate for the election and its members, the political party’s candidate for the election is an unnamed party for his benefit and that of the political party. An unnamed party in a representative action is a party to the action…….”

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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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