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

Dictum

… 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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IF THE RESULT OF AN ELECTION IS NOT AFFECTED SUBSTANTIALLY, THE PETITION WILL FAIL

If there is evidence that despite all the non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the result of the election was not affected substantially, the petition must fail. In other words, the Election Tribunal, must, as a matter of law, dismiss the petition; and that accords with section 146(1) of the Electoral Act.

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

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

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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INEC COLLATION SYSTEM VERSUS THE INEC RESULT VIEWING PORTAL

As their names depict, the Collation System and the INEC Result Viewing Portal are part of the election process and play particular roles in that process. The Collation System is made of the centres where results are collated at various stages of the election. So the polling units results transmitted to the collation system provides the relevant collation officer the means to verify a polling unit result as the need arises for the purpose of collation. The results transmitted to the Result Viewing Portal is to give the public at large the opportunity to view the polling unit results on the election day. It is clear from the provisions of Regulation 38(i) and (ii) that the Collation System and Result Viewing Portal are different from the National Electronic Register of Election Results. The Collation System and Result Viewing Portal are operational during the election as part of the process, the National Electronic Register of Election Results is a post election record and is not part of the election process.

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

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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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THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF SUI GENERIS NATURE OF ELECTION PETITION

Tobi, J.S.C., in his lead judgment in Buhari v, INEC (2008) LPELR-814 (SC) p. 97 paragraph A-B: “The whole concept of Election Petition being sui generis, in my view, is to project the peculiarity of the reliefs sought, the time element and peculiar procedure adopted for the hearing of the petition and all that.”

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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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