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ANY ACTION RELATING TO THE PROCESS OF AN ELECTION FALLS WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF THE ELECTION TRIBUNAL

Dictum

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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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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PURPORT OF A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION

A free and fair election is one in which all eligible voters who are willing to vote are given every opportunity to cast their votes which must be counted and declared for the candidate of their choice. See the case of JIMOH VS ADEKUNLE (1991) 1 LRECN 123. The essence of democratic elections, it has been held, is that they be free, fair and that in that atmosphere of freedom, fairness and impartiality, citizens will exercise their freedom of choice of who their representatives shall be by casting their votes in favour of those candidates who, in their deliberate judgment, they consider to possess the qualities which mark them out as preferable candidates to those others who are contesting with them. See the case of OJUKWU VS ONWUDIWE & ORS (1984) 1 S 15 AT 91. The above essential tenets of democratic elections are fundamentally negatived by election rigging.

— A. Osadebay, J. APC v INEC & Ors. (EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023, 20th Day 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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EVIDENCE REQUIRED FO PROVE VOTES ALLOWED WITHOUT ACCREDITATION

It is glaring from the above reproduced provisions of the Electoral Act and the INEC Regulations and Guidelines that the evidence required to prove that voting was allowed without accreditation or that there was improper accreditation are the Register of Voters, BVAS and the Polling Unit result in Form EC8A and that the evidence required to prove that there was over voting are the record of accredited voters in the BVAS and the Polling Unit result in Form EC8A.

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

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FAILURE TO JOIN A PARTICULAR PARTY WILL NOT WARRANT STRIKING OUT OF ENTIRE PETITION

The other argument of note of 2nd Respondent in this application is the one of failure of petitioners to join Friday Adejoh and Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and its effect on the petition. We have already struck out the relevant paragraphs of the petition where allegations of malpractice were made against the two men. We abide by that decision. We shall simply add that we do not agree with 2nd respondent’s argument that the entire petition merits dismissal for non-joinder of those two men. The proper sanction, in the circumstances of this case as we have already pointed out citing Nwankwo v. Yar’Adua (2010) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1209) 518 @ 583 paras G-H. (SC), is to strike out the paragraphs of the petition where those allegations were made. That order, we also further add, and contrary to the argument of 2nd Respondent, will not affect the paragraphs where allegations were made against unnamed thugs.

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

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ALLEGATIONS OF CRIME IN ELECTION PETITION MUST BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

Now, notwithstanding the fact that election petitions are a specie of civil proceedings, where in any such election petition, allegations, which are criminal in nature are made in the pleadings, they must be proved beyond reasonable doubt Abubakar v. Yar ‘Adua (2008) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1120) 1, 143; 144; Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1; Omoboriowo v. Ajasin (1984) 1 SCNLR 108; Kakih v. PDP (2014) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1430) 374, 422 – 423; B-C; Nwobodo v. Onoh (1984) 1 SCNLR 27-28; Emmanuel v. Umanah and Ors (2016) LPELR – 40037 (SC) 93 et seq. reported as Udom v. Emmanuel (2016) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1526) 179.

— Nweze, JSC. Anyanwu v. PDP (2020) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1710) 134

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