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WHO ARE NECESSARY RESPONDENTS IN AN ELECTION PETITION

Dictum

Generally, necessary respondents in an election petition are the persons whose election or return is complained of, and the Electoral body that conducted the election. See Section 133(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act, 2022. Those are what are termed statutory respondents. It should be remembered the Election Petitions are sui generis, and its procedure strictly regulated by statute. Thus, where a person does not fall within the category of statutory respondents, they are not necessary parties in an election petition. See Agbareh v. Mimra (2008) All FWLR (pt.409) 559; APC v. PDP (2015) LPELR – 24587 (SC) and Buhari v. Yusuf (2003) 4 NWLR (pt.841) 446 at 498. Thus, in Waziri v. Gaidam (2016) 11 NWLR (pt. 1523) 230 at 265 paragraphs F-G; the Supreme Court held that: “From the above, I have no difficulty in going along with the submissions of the respective counsel for the respondent that Section 137(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 has no room for the joinder of the 5th Respondent who neither won the election nor performed any role as electoral officer or agent of the third Respondent in the election petition challenging the result of such an election and even no relief was claimed against the said 5th respondent and indeed, he had nothing to gain or lose in the petition aforesaid.”

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

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PETITIONER IN AN ELECTION MUST PROVE NONCOMPLIANCE FIRST

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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PROVING CORRUPT PRACTICES IN AN ELECTION

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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IRREGULARITY MUST SUBSTANTIALLY AFFECT THE ELECTION

Chief Awolowo v Alhaji Shagari (1979) 6–9 SC 37. In his contribution to the majority judgment, Qbaseki, JSC said at pages 82 and 84:– “There is no evidence that the non compliance with section 34A(1)(c)(ii) one of the provisions of Part II has affected the result i.e. but for the non-compliance, the petitioner would have won, to enable the tribunal declare the result invalid. The petitioner pleaded a substantial non-compliance i.e. failure to obtain one-quarter of the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation. But the evidence established this non-compliance in only one State. In other words, the evidence established that the first respondent obtained in each of the 12 States one-quarter or more of the votes cast but did not in the 13th State in Kano State. The third respondent claimed that first respondent received 25% of the votes in 2/3 Kano State. There is no evidence of counting in 2/3, Kano State… In this appeal, the appellant has failed to satisfy the tribunal and this Court that the non-compliance has affected the result of the election or has prevented a majority of votes in his favour with effect, and for that reason the appeal must fail.”

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ELECTION RIGGING REFERS TO

Basically, election rigging refers to electoral malpractices which are palpable illegalities such as over voting, disruption of election, emergency declaration, violence, non-conduct of election, disenfranchisement of voters, voters resistance to the use of BVAS or BVAS by pass and so on, which no doubt will substantially affect the result of any election in any civilized jurisdiction and therefore translate to non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

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

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INEC GUIDELINES CANNOT BE ELEVATED ABOVE THE ELECTORAL ACT

As held by this court, the INEC directives, guidelines and manual cannot be elevated above the provisions of the Electoral Act as to eliminate manual accreditation of voters. This will remain so until INEC takes steps to have the necessary amendments made to bring the usage of the card reader within the ambit of the substantive Electoral Act. These issues are accordingly resolved in favour of the appellant.

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

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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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