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ELECTION ARE SUI GENERIS

Dictum

It is well settled that election matter are sui generis with a special character of their own, quite different from ordinary civil or criminal proceedings. They are governed by their own statutory provisions regulating their practice and procedure. See Hassan v. Aliyu (2010) All FWLR (Pt. 539) 1007, (2010) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1223 ) 547; Ehuwa v. OSIEC (2006) All FWLR (Pt. 298) 1299, (2006) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1012) 544.

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

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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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HISTORY OF THE EVIDENTIAL BURDEN OF NON-COMPLIANCE IN OUR ELECTORAL LAWS

This ground of non-compliance to the Electoral Act has been in all our Electoral Laws even from when we had parliamentary system of government. The Courts have over the years shed a lot of light on the requirement of the law in proving the allegation of non-compliance. A short chronicle of the decisions of our Courts will throw more light on the evidential burden of proving non-compliance. In BASSEY V. YOUNG (1963) LPELR-15465 (SC), BRETT JSC in the then Federal Supreme Court held as follows: “…Akinfosile v. ljose (1960) 5 F.S.C. 192, where the Court held that a petitioner who alleges in his petition a particular non compliance and avers in his prayer that the non-compliance was substantial must so satisfy the Court. If there should be any inconsistency between the two decisions, it is the decision of this Court that binds us, and it would appear to me that we are bound by the authority of Akinfosile v. ljose to hold that the petitioner must show both that irregularities took place and that they might have affected the result of the election.” In AWOLOWO V. SHAGARI & ORS (1979) LPELR-653 (SC), the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the 1979 election contest held per Obaseki JSC as follows: “Once a petitioner alleges a particular non-compliance and averred in his prayer that it was substantial it is his duty so to satisfy the Court or Tribunal having cognisance of the question. See AKINFOSILE v. IJOSE 5 FSC 92 AT 99 (a case dealing with Regulation 7 of the Elections (House of Representatives) Regulations 1958 which is in pari materia with Section 111 of the Electoral Decree 1977 as ………..to vitiate an election, the non-compliance must be proved to have affected the results of the election. See SORUNKE v. ODEBUNMI (1960) 5 FSC AT PP 177 AND 178, where Ademola, C.J.N, delivering the judgment of the Federal Supreme Court said: “Finally, in considering ….. whether the election was void under the Ballot Act, Lord Coleridge said at page 751 of the judgment: If this proposition be closely examined it will be found to be equivalent to this, that the non-observance of the rules or forms which is to render the election invalid, must be so great as to amount to a conducting of the election in a manner contrary to the principle of an election by ballot, and must be so great as to satisfy the tribunal that it did affect or might have affected the majority of the voters, or in other words, the result of the election. When Lord Coleridge refers to a majority of voters, he cannot mean to say that non-compliance may be overlooked unless it affects over half of the votes cast. He referred to a non compliance, which “affected the majority of voters, or in other words, the result of the election.” It cannot be doubted that here Lord Coleridge means that those electors wishing to vote who formed a majority in favour of a particular candidate must have been prevented from casting a majority of votes in his favour with effect. This does not require that all their votes must have been disallowed; it will be sufficient if enough of their votes are disallowed to give another candidate a majority of valid votes.” See also the cases of BUHARI & ANOR V. OBASANJO & ORS (2005) LPELR-815 (SC) and CPC V. INEC & ORS (2011) LPELR-8257 (SC).

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

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WHO ARE NECESSARY RESPONDENTS IN AN ELECTION PETITION

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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MEANING OF NON-COMPLIANCE WITH REGARDS TO ELECTION

Construing the word “non-compliance” in both provisions with regard to an election has created a situation where an election has been conducted in a manner not in accordance with the provisions of the Act and/or the guidelines prescribed therefrom.

— C.M. Chukwuma-Eneh, JSC. Akeredolu v. Mimiko (2013) – SC. 352/2013

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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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IN ELECTION PETITION, RECOURSE TO THE FHC RULES IS SUBJECT TO THE ELECTORAL ACT

Specifically, any recourse to the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules must be “subject to the express provisions” of the Act. It follows that it is only where the Electoral Act or First Schedule does not provide for a particular situation that reference would be made to the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules with necessary modification.

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

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