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A PETITIONER IN AN ELECTION PETITION HAS A HEAVY BURDEN

Dictum

In Ihute v Independent National Electoral Commission (1999) 4 NWLR (Part 599) 360, it was held that in an election petition, when a petitioner makes an allegation of non-compliance with the electoral law as the basis or foundation of his case, he has a heavy burden to show the tribunal by cogent and compelling evidence that the non-compliance is of such a nature as to affect the result of the election. The court followed the decision in Kudu v Aliyu, (supra). The decision was followed in the case of Haruna v Modibbo (2004) 16 NWLR (Part 900) 487. The court added in Haruna that the petitioner must satisfy the tribunal that he is a victim of the alleged malpractices. The court also relied on Nabature v Mahuta (1992) 0 NWLR (Part 263) 585 and Awolowo v Shagari, (supra).

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PETITIONER HAS BURDEN TO PROVE NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE ELECTORAL ACT

In the instant case, it is fundamental to point out that, from the pleadings, the allegation of non-compliance is generated by the Petitioners. Under Sections 134(1) and 135 of the Electoral Act, the level of proof required for the success of the Petition is doubled. There must be proof of non-compliance and the further proof that the non compliance affected substantially the result of the election. In the face of such an allegation of non-compliance, the court is enjoined by the law not to invalidate an election if it appears that the election was conducted substantially in accordance with the principles of the Electoral Act. All said and done, the Petitioners have the primary burden of proving that there was non-compliance and that the non-compliance affects substantially the result of the election before the burden can shift to the Respondents to establish that there was no substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the election.

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

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NOT EVERY GROUND OF NONCOMPLIANCE WILL AMOUNT TO CORRUPT PRACTICE

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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FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH MANDATORY PROVISION OF THE ELECTORAL DECREE WILL WARRANT A STRIKE OUT

The case of Chatjok v. Kato and others is relevant. The appellant was the petitioner at the Election Tribunal. In his petition, the petitioner claimed that the 1st and 2nd respondents were not qualified to contest the chairmanship election of Kachia Local Government council, Kaduna State in that the 1st respondent was still a public servant in the employment of Kaduna state Ministry of Works and Transport while the 2nd respondent was an ex-convict. The 2nd respondent was alleged by the appellant to have been convicted of the offence of house-breaking by Area Court I Zonkwua. During the hearing of the petition, a preliminary objection on point of law was raised on behalf of the 1st and 2nd respondents that the appellant’s petition did not comply with the requirements of paragraph 5(1) (c) of schedule 5 to Local Government (Basic constitutional and Transitional provisions) Decree No.36 of 1998 and as such the petition was defective and a nullity. Learned counsel to the appellant conceded to the objection and urged the tribunal to exercise its discretion and strike out the petition without costs. The petition was therefore struck out under the provision of paragraph 5(6) of schedule 5 to the Decree. The Court of Appeal held that where an election petition does not state the scores of the candidates as required under paragraph 5(1) (C) of Decree No.36 of 1998, the Election Tribunal has the discretion to strike out the petition. This is more so when the petitioner cannot amend the petition.

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ELECTION PETITION SHOULD STATE THE DATE OF THE ELECTION, RETURNED WINNER, AND RAW FIGURES

As it is, the sub-paragraph provides for three requirements: (a) That the election was held. In this respect, the petitioner is expected to depose to the fact that the election was held and the date on which it was held. (b) The scores of the candidates who contested the election. Here, the petitioner is under a legal duty to indicate the official scores of INEC and not what he thinks or thought should be the scores. He can reserve what he thinks or thought should be the scores to any subsequent paragraph or paragraphs in the petition. All that paragraph 5(1) (c) requires is the raw official figures of INEC. (c) The person returned as the winner of the election. Again, all that the petitioner is expected to state is the person officially declared by INEC as the winner of the election. In other words, paragraph 5(1) (c) enjoins the petitioner to name the candidate who won the election as declared by INEC. Again, he can contest the result of INEC in any subsequent paragraph or paragraphs in the petition to the effect that he was in law the winner of the election.

— Niki Tobi, JCA. Nnamdi Eriobuna & Ors. V. Ikechukwu Obiorah (CA/E/77/99, 24 May 1999)

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SECTION 177 & 182 IS THE RELEVANT PROVISION FOR QUALIFICATION TO CONTEST AS GOVERNOR

Before rounding off this matter there can be no doubt that the qualification or non-qualification of a candidate for election purposes as here is within the purview of sections 177 and 182 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and not Section 34 of the Electoral Act as failure to comply with the provisions of section 34 (supra) cannot in my view succeed in disqualifying a candidate properly so sponsored by this political party. Howbeit, once a sponsored candidate has satisfied the provisions sections 177 and 182 (supra) he is qualified to stand election for the office of Governor. The 1st respondent is therefore qualified to stand election for the office of Governor for Bayelsa State having so qualified under the aforesaid provisions of the amended constitution. And I so hold.

— C.M. Chukwuma-Eneh, JSC. Kubor v. Dickson (2012) – SC.369/2012

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PRE-ELECTION MATTER CANNOT BE STALLED BECAUSE ELECTION IS OVER

So, does the mere holding of an election and the declaration of a winner or even the swearing in of a winner into office alone render a pre – election matter duly commenced and pending before a Court of competent jurisdiction to become merely academic and or over taken by events and thus liable to be struck out? In law whether a pre-election matter is academic or not is dependent on the facts giving rise to the pre-election matter and if those facts or issues remain live, then the pre – election would be determined on its merit notwithstanding whether or not the election has been held and or the outcome of the election.

– B.A. Georgewill, JCA. Ganiyu v. Oshoakpemhe & Ors. (2021) – CA/B/12A/2021

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