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ONLY A PRACTICE WHICH IS CONTRARY TO THE ELECTORAL ACT CAN BE A GROUND TO QUESTION AN ELECTION

Dictum

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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ELECTION PETITION SHOULD STATE THE DATE OF THE ELECTION, RETURNED WINNER, AND RAW FIGURES

As it is, the sub-paragraph provides for three requirements: (a) That the election was held. In this respect, the petitioner is expected to depose to the fact that the election was held and the date on which it was held. (b) The scores of the candidates who contested the election. Here, the petitioner is under a legal duty to indicate the official scores of INEC and not what he thinks or thought should be the scores. He can reserve what he thinks or thought should be the scores to any subsequent paragraph or paragraphs in the petition. All that paragraph 5(1) (c) requires is the raw official figures of INEC. (c) The person returned as the winner of the election. Again, all that the petitioner is expected to state is the person officially declared by INEC as the winner of the election. In other words, paragraph 5(1) (c) enjoins the petitioner to name the candidate who won the election as declared by INEC. Again, he can contest the result of INEC in any subsequent paragraph or paragraphs in the petition to the effect that he was in law the winner of the election.

— Niki Tobi, JCA. Nnamdi Eriobuna & Ors. V. Ikechukwu Obiorah (CA/E/77/99, 24 May 1999)

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THE PROVISIONS OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT CIVIL PROCEDURE RULES ARE SUBJECT TO THE EXPRESS PROVISIONS OF THE ELECTORAL ACT

Permit me to still say a word or two of my own on Petitioners’ contention that Order 3 Rules 2 and 3 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019 permitting parties to file witness deposition of a subpoenaed witness even after commencement of their action applies automatically to election petitions by virtue of Paragraph 54 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022, so the Witnesses statement of their witnesses filed by them after hearing of the petition had long commenced were in order. In the first place, Paragraph 54 of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 simply states as follows: Subject to the express provisions of this Act, the practice and procedure of the Tribunal or the Court in relation to an election petition shall be as nearly as possible, similar to the practice and procedure of the Federal High Court in the exercise of its civil jurisdiction, and the Civil Procedure Rules shall apply with such modifications as may be necessary to render them applicable having regard to the provisions of this Act, as if the petitioner and the respondent were respectively the plaintiff and the defendant in an ordinary civil action. (Italics ours) This provision clearly makes application of the Civil Procedure Rules of the Federal High Court in election petitions subject to the express provisions of the Electoral Act.” It is not the other way round of modifying provisions of the Act to agree with the Rules of the Federal High Court as suggested by Petitioners’ counsel. That much, Paragraph 54 further clarifies by stating that even where the Federal High Court Rules are considered applicable, they “shall [only] apply with such modifications as may be necessary to render them applicable having regard to the provisions of this Act.” What all that means is that, where there is express provision in the Act on a particular situation, as it clearly is in Paragraph 4(5)(b) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022 that says the election petition shall be accompanied by Written statements on oath of the witnesses,” the provisions of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules will not apply.

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

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PURPORT OF A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION

A free and fair election is one in which all eligible voters who are willing to vote are given every opportunity to cast their votes which must be counted and declared for the candidate of their choice. See the case of JIMOH VS ADEKUNLE (1991) 1 LRECN 123. The essence of democratic elections, it has been held, is that they be free, fair and that in that atmosphere of freedom, fairness and impartiality, citizens will exercise their freedom of choice of who their representatives shall be by casting their votes in favour of those candidates who, in their deliberate judgment, they consider to possess the qualities which mark them out as preferable candidates to those others who are contesting with them. See the case of OJUKWU VS ONWUDIWE & ORS (1984) 1 S 15 AT 91. The above essential tenets of democratic elections are fundamentally negatived by election rigging.

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

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RIGHT OF APPEAL AGAINST INTERLOCUTORY DECISION IN AN ELECTION TRIBUNAL

In the case of Maduako V Onyejiocha (2009) 5 NWLR (pt. 1134) 259 at 280 the Court of Appeal Per Eko JCA held as follows:- “By way of emphasis, I wish to add that the decision of the Supreme Court in Alhaji Atiku Abubakar & Ors V. Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua & Ors SC 288/2007 of 25th January, 2008 (reported in (2008) 4 NWLR (pt. 1078) 465 Per Niki Tobi JSC, leave no doubt in me that an aggrieved party has right of appeal against an interlocutory decision of an election tribunal. That right is a constitutional right by dint of Section 246 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, which is in Pari materia with Section 233 (2) (3) of the Constitution under which Atiku V. Yar’Adua case was decided”.

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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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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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