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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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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In Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Part 941) 1, when the case came to the Supreme Court on appeal, the court held that where an allegation of non-compliance with the electoral law is made, the onus lies on the petitioner firstly to establish the non-compliance, and secondly, that it did or could have affected the result of the election. It is after the petitioner has established the foregoing that the onus would shift to the respondent whose election is challenged, to establish that the result was not affected.

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By the proviso thereto, the political party affected, is enjoined to conduct a fresh primary election for the purpose of producing a new or fresh candidate to submit to the Electoral Commission. The grouse of the Petitioner here is that, the 5th Respondent withdrew his nomination as Vice-Presidential candidate of 2nd Respondent but the 2nd Respondent did not conduct another primary election for the purpose of producing a new Vice-Presidential candidate within the 14 days prescribed by Section 33 of the Electoral Act. It should be remembered that by Section 142(1) of the 1999 Constitution, a Presidential candidate for election to the office of President has the sole discretion, authority or power of nominating his associate who shall run with him in the election as Vice-President. The choice or nomination of a Vice-Presidential candidate is, not the product of any primary election. Therefore, in my view, the requirement to conduct a fresh primary election does not apply to the nomination of a Vice-Presidential candidate. Thus, my Lord Augie, JSC highlighted the point in his contributory judgment in PDP v. INEC & 3 Ors (Exhibit X1) as follows: “No; the fourth Respondent was not required to buy any nomination Form. He was the second Respondent (APC’s) candidate at the election into the office of Senator representing Borno Central Senatorial District. But before the election could hold, he was nominated as the third Respondent’s associate, who is to occupy the office of Vice President. The fourth Respondent did not buy a nomination Form for the said office, and most importantly, did not contest any primary election in order to emerge as APC’s Vice-Presidential candidate.”

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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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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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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Furthermore, where the ground for challenging the return of a candidate in an election is by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, the petitioner must prove: (a) that the corrupt practice or non-compliance took place; and (b) that the corrupt practice or non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election. See Yahaya v. Dankwambo ; Awolowo v. Shagari (1979) All NLR 120, (2001) FWLR (Pt. 73) 53; Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 258) 1604, (2005) 2 NWLR (Pt. 910) 241 and sections 138(1)(b) and 139(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.

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

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