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

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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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HOW TO PROVE FALSIFICATION OF AN ELECTION RESULT

In order to establish falsification of election result, the Petitioner must produce in evidence two sets of results; one genuine and the other false. See: KAKIH v PDP & ORS (2014) LPELR-23277(SC) at pages 51-52, paras. C-C; and NWOBODO v ONOH (1984) LPELR-2120(SC). Indeed, in ADEWALE v OLAIFA (2012) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1330) 478 at 516, this Court held that: “To prove falsification of results of an election, two sets of results one genuine and the other false must be put in evidence by the party making the accusation. After putting in evidence the two sets of results, a witness or witnesses conversant with the entries made in the result sheets must be called by the party making the accusation of falsification or forgery of results of the election to prove from the electoral documents containing the results of the election how the results of the election were falsified or made up.”

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

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REGISTER OF VOTERS IS REQUIRED TO PROVE NO ACCREDITATION OF VOTERS

It is clear from the provisions of S.47(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 and Regulations 14(a) and (b), 18(a) and (b), 19(b) and (e) that the Register of voters for each polling unit is relevant evidence to prove the alleged non accreditations of voters in the 744 polling units on the election day. It is worth stating that in the event of a conflict between the record of accredited voters in the BVAS machine and ticked names in the Register of voters due to human errors in the ticking of the names in the Register of voters, the BVAS Record shall prevail.

— E.A. Agim, JSC. Oyetola v INEC & Ors. (2022) – SC/CV/508/2023

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ALL ELECTION PETITIONS LIE AS OF RIGHT TO THE COURT OF APPEAL

In the case of Awuse v. Odili (2003) 18 NWLR (pt. 851) 116 at 119, Ejiwunmi JSC supported the lead judgment of I.L. Kutugi JSC quoted the provision of Section 246 (1) (b) (ii) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and said of the Section as follows: “An appeal to the Court of Appeal shall lie as of right from the decision of the Governorship Election Tribunal on any question as to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of Governor”. “Though the word “any” when used as an adjective is defined in Longman Dictionary of the English Language thus: “One or some indiscriminately, whichever is chosen”. It would appear that the word “any” qualifying “question” was deliberately used by the law makers to indicate that an appeal to the Court of Appeal was not limited only to hearing appeals only to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of Governor —– It follows therefore that the provisions of Section 246 (1) allows appeals to lie to Court of Appeal in respect of interlocutory decision of the Governorship Election Tribunals and the other tribunals named in that section of the Constitution”.

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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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RATIONALE BEHIND WHY A GOVERNOR IS NOT IMMUNED FROM ELECTION PETITION

I am also of the view that the appeal can be allowed on the main issue of immunity of the governor under the provisions of section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. The issue can be resolved by a simple question as to whether a person declared and sworn-in as the governor elect can be sued by appropriate party to challenge the declaration. By law the answer must be in the positive. If the said person is said to be immuned under the section the resultant effect is that once a person is declared and sworn – in as governor elect that ends the matter, no one can complain or take any legal action even if the person conducted any gross election malpractice. This will encourage gross wrongful and illegal activities among the parties contesting for the position. This would undoubtedly negate the necessary intendment of our constitution and would destroy the democracy itself. In election petition where the status of the governor is being challenged, as in this, then the said immunity is also questioned. He has no immunity against being sued and consequently he cannot be immuned from being subpoened. It must be made clear that the provisions of section 308 of the Constitution are applicable to ordinary civil proceedings as in the case of Tinubu v. I.M.B. Securities Limited (supra) and criminal proceedings and not in election related matter as in Obih v. Mbakwe (supra) and our present case. In my judgment the appeal is to be allowed on this issue. It is allowed with an order that the matter be remitted for fresh trial by a tribunal of different membership.

— Ja’ Afaru Mika’ilu, J.C.A. AD v. Fayose (2004) – CA/IL/EP/GOV/1/2004

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MEANING OF NON-COMPLIANCE WITH REGARDS TO ELECTION

Construing the word “non-compliance” in both provisions with regard to an election has created a situation where an election has been conducted in a manner not in accordance with the provisions of the Act and/or the guidelines prescribed therefrom.

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

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