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WHERE A PERSON WHO ATTAINED THE HIGHEST VOTE IS DECLARED NULL, THE SECOND HIGHEST WITH VOTES IS TO BE DECLARED THE WINNER

Dictum

By Section 136 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022, it is provided thus: “Where an Election Tribunal or Court nullifies an election on the grounds that person who obtained the highest votes at the election was not qualified to contest the election, the Election Tribunal or Court shall declare the person who scored the second highest number of valid votes cast at the election who satisfied the requirement of the Constitution and the Act as dully elected.” In law, once an Election Petition succeeds under Section 134 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022, the only consequential order for the Election Tribunal or Court, where the Election Tribunal fails to do so, is an order declaring and returning the candidate with the second highest score of lawful votes as the winner of the said election. Indeed, neither the Election Tribunal nor this Court, has any discretion in this matter nor is it dependent on the reliefs claimed or not claimed by the Petitioner.

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

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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AN ELECTION CANNOT BE INVALIDATED BY REASON OF NONCOMPLIANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE ELECTORAL ACT

… an election cannot be invalidated by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Act if it appears to the Election Tribunal or court that the election was conducted substantially in accordance with the principles of the Act and that the non-compliance did not affect substantially the result of the election. In other words, a petitioner cannot be heard to say that an election is invalid by reason of non-compliance with the principles of the Act if it appears to the Election Tribunal or Court that the election was conducted substantially in accordance with the principles of the Act and that the non-compliance did not affect substantially the result of the election. The words “cannot be heard to say” above are trite legalism that express the notion of estoppel, as a respondent can say in defence, the petitioner cannot be heard to say that the election is invalid.

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

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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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WHERE CIVIL AND CRIMINAL INGREDIENTS ARE INTERTWINED IN AN ELECTION PETITION

I take the line of thought of the respondents in that it is not enough to allege, non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the Petitioner now Appellant ought to establish by concrete evidence not only the non-compliance but that it was substantial to vitiate the election. Nothing other than that would suffice. Also the petitioner cannot run away from his responsibility on the burden of proof and on-whom it lies. In the present circumstances, the allegations are civil in character as well as criminal and so intertwined or interwoven as to make severance of one genre from the other which is impossible. Therefore the standard of proof must be of the higher standard which is beyond reasonable doubt. It is when the petitioner has discharged the onus on this that the burden can shift to the respondents to see how far he can go to impugn such a rock solid evidence put forward by the appellant. That is the prescription of law in practice and there is no running away from it See Awofowo v Shaman (1979) 1 ALL NLR 120 at 126: Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941).

— M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Akeredolu v. Mimiko (2013) – SC. 352/2013

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