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PROCESSES THAT MUST BE FOLLOWED FOR A SUCCESSFUL ELECTION

Dictum

Let me underline here that in the conduct of an election, certain processes must have been walked over to conclude and confirm that the election was conclusive. The steps outlined by the law must not be broken. These steps are: (a) Accreditation (b) Conduct of poils (c) Counting of votes (d) Collation and announcement of results (e) Signing of result forms (f) Publication of results.

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

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ANY ACTION RELATING TO THE PROCESS OF AN ELECTION FALLS WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF THE ELECTION TRIBUNAL

Ohakim v Agbaso (2011) ALL PWLR (Pt. 553) 1806 at 1846 per Onnoghen JSC where he state as follows: “it is necessary that everything connected will the process leading to the election including the actual election and its aftermath come within the jurisdiction of election tribunal. That will stem the tide of parties trying to pursue election related matters in parallel courts which will only result in conclusion, a gleam of which can be seen in the Sokoto State Gubernatorial election petition saga, in any event, it is my considered view that since the action concerned on election conducted on 14th April 2007 by the appropriate authority whether inchoate or not, the proper court with jurisdiction to entertain any action arising therefrom or relating thereto is the relevant election tribunal established by the Constitution of this country as the matter is not a pre-election matter neither can it be accommodated under the procedure of judicial review. Section 164 of the Electoral Act 2006 defines election as meaning any election held under this Act and includes a referendum. It is therefore beyond doubt that what took place on 4th April, 2007 in Imo State in particular was an election and as such any action relating to the processes leading thereto including the actual conduct of the event or its cancellation fall within the jurisdiction of the election tribunal by operation of law and no other court or tribunal is clothed with jurisdiction to entertain it in any guise.”

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THERE IS A REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION THAT AN ELECTION RESULT DECLARED BY A RETUNING OFFICER IS CORRECT

Election results are presumed by law to be correct until the contrary is proved. It is however a rebuttable presumption. In other words, there is a rebuttable presumption that the result of any election declared by a returning officer is correct and authentic and the burden is on the person who denies the correctness and authenticity of the return to rebut the presumption. (See Omoboriowo v Ajasin (1984) 1 SCNLR 108; Jalingo v Nyame (1992) 3 NWLR (Part 231) 538; Finebone v Brown (1999) 4 NWLR (Part 600) 613; Hashidu v Goje (2003) 15 NWLR (Part 843) 361 and Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Part 941) 1).

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

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CANNOT TESTIFY ON POLLING UNIT RESULT IF NOT POLLING UNIT AGENT

This witness is not fit to testify on polling unit result not being a polling unit agent. His testimony on the polling unit is hearsay and shall therefore be discountenanced with … The testimony of PW26 is not reliable in this case. Testimony was to the effect that he was the Party Chairman, and never served as an Agent in any of the polling units or wards but monitored the election. His testimony can at best be described as hearsay and not reliable. We so hold.

— K.M. Akano, J. Edeoga v Mbah (2023) – EPT/EN/GOV/01/2023

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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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IMPORTANCE OF AUTHENTIC REGISTER OF VOTERS

Again, let me pause here to observe that the importance of an authentic Register of voters for an open and transparent election process cannot be underestimated. Not only that the candidate who intends to contest in a particular election is required to be a registered voter as per the Register of voters, also a person who is minded to cast his vote in an election must be a Registered Voter as per the register of voters to be enabled to cast his vote in an election.

— C.M. Chukwuma-Eneh, JSC. Akeredolu v. Mimiko (2013) – SC. 352/2013

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AMENDMENTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO ELECTION PETITION AFTER FILING PARTICULARLY WHEN THE 21 DAYS PERIOD HAVE ELAPSED; EXTENSION OF TIME ARE PROHIBITED TOO

In OKE & ANOR v MIMIKO & ORS (2013) LPELR 20645(SC), the Apex Court, per Ogunbiyi, JSC held that: ‘By Paragraph 4(1) and (5) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, a composite analysis of an election petition has been spelt out and also a list of materials which must be accompanied. The use of the word “shall” in the subsections is very instructive, mandatory and conclusive. In other words, the provisions do not allow for additions and hence, the procedure adopted by the appellants in seeking for an extension of time is nothing other than surreptitious attempt to amend the petition. This is obvious from the nature and substance of the application especially where one of the grounds seeks to put in facts which were allegedly not available at the time of filing the petition but only came into their possession after the statutory time limit allowed for the presentation of election petition. Expressly, there is no provision in the legislation which provides for extension of time. What is more, vide paragraph 14(2) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, the Appellants by Section 134(1) of the Electoral Act had been totally foreclosed from any amendment which was in fact the hidden agenda promoting the application. The saying is true that even the devil does not know a man’s intention; it can only be inferred from the act exhibiting that which is conceived in the heart and mind. The use of the word “shall” in paragraph 14(2)(a) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act is mandatory and places a complete bar on any form of amendment to a petition filed and does not also allow for an exercise of discretion whatsoever. See UGWU v ARARUME (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1048) 367 at 510 511 and BAMAIYI V A.G FEDERATION (2001) 12 NWLR (Pt. 727) 428 at 497. Further still and on a critical perusal of the application, relief 2 seeks “leave to call additional witness, to wit A.E.O”. It is pertinent to restate that at the close of pleadings parties had submitted the list of witnesses who were to testify together with their depositions. The idea, purpose and intention of the application is suggestive of nothing more but a clear confirmation seeking for an order of an amendment as rightly and ingeniously thought out by the trial tribunal and also affirmed by the lower court. This will certainly violate the provisions of Section 285(5) of the Constitution and Section 134 of the Electoral Act.’

In his concurring judgment in the same case, Ngwuta, JSC specifically stated that: ‘The additional or further witness depositions sought to be allowed for a just and fair determination of the petition are fresh facts as found by the tribunal and which finding was endorsed by the lower court. This Court will not interfere with a concurrent finding of fact of the two lower courts when the appellants have failed to show a special circumstance for this Court to do so. Election petitions are time-bound and the Court will not allow a party to resort to any sort of subterfuge to frustrate the intention of the Electoral Act that petitions be disposed of expeditiously.’

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