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INEC GUIDELINES CANNOT BE ELEVATED ABOVE THE ELECTORAL ACT

Dictum

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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PROVING NON-COMPLIANCE IN AN ELECTION

Any Petitioner who complains that the result as declared is either wrong or not in compliance with the Electoral Act has the onus of proving the contrary: see NYESOM V. PETERSIDE (2016) LPELR-40036 (SC). This case was relied upon by the Supreme Court in the case of ANDREW & ANOR V. INEC (2017) LPELR 48518 (SC) where the Supreme Court held per Onnoghen, J.S.C. (as he then was) as follows: “…Secondly, one of the main planks on which the petition is based is non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). For one to succeed on that ground, it is now settled law that where a petitioner alleges non compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, he has the onus of presenting credible evidence from eye witnesses at the various polling units who can testify directly in proof of the alleged non-compliance See Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1 at 315 316: Buhari v. INEC (2008) 18 NWLR (Pt.1120) 246 at 391 392: Okereke v. Umahi (2016) 11 NWLR (Pt.1524) 438 at 473. Nyesom v. Peterside (2016) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1512) 452, etc.”

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

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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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FORGERY IN INEC FORM MUST BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBTS

False information in INEC Form EC9 which is an affidavit, amounts to lying on oath and is invariably, a crime. Being a crime, its commission must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

– Aboki JSC. APC v. Obaseki (2021)

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DOUBLE NOMINATION IS A PRE-ELECTION MATTER; THE BASIS OF QUALIFICATION/DISQUALIFICATION

Considering the facts pleaded above, it is clear that, the claim of disqualification or non-qualification of the 3rd Respondent is centred solely on the invalid or double nomination of the 4th Respondent. However, it is the settled law that, the issue of nomination of a candidate at an election is a pre-election matter. Therefore, the issue of qualification or disqualification can only be ventilated on the grounds enumerated in Sections 131 or 137 of the Constitution … It therefore means that, the conditions of qualification or disqualifica are those prescribed under Sections 131 and 137, in case of persons contesting for Presidential Office. That means that, where it is alleged in an election petition, that a person is or was not qualified to contest election to the office of President of Nigeria, as stipulated in Section 134(1)(a) of the Electoral Act, 2022, it is Sections 131 and 137 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that are applicable. See PDP v. INEC (2014) 17 NWLR (pt.1437) 525; Kakih v. PDP (2014) 15 NWLR (pt. 1430) 424-425, Ucha v. Onwe (2011) 4 NWLR (pt. 1237) 386 at 427 and Captain Idris Ichaila Wada & Or v. Yahaya Bello & Ors (2016) LPELR 41263 (CA). Thus, where election has been conducted and result declared, such election cannot be questioned on grounds of qualification save under Sections 131 and 137 of the Constitution, in the case of a Presidential election. This postulation is supported by Section 134(3) of the Electoral Act where it is stipulated that: “With respect to Subsection 1(a), a person is deemed to be qualified for an elective office and his election shall not be questioned on grounds of qualification if, with respect to the particular election in question, he meets the applicable requirements of Sections 65, 106, 131 or 177 of the Constitution and he is not, as may be applicable, in breach of Sections 66, 107, 137 or 182 of the Constitution.” As stated earlier, the applicable provisions are Sections 131 and 137 of the Constitution. It is clear from the plenitude of the pleadings in this petition, that the facts grounding the Petitioner’s claim of disqualification or non-qualification of the 3rd and 4th Respondents is hinged on double and invalid nomination of the 4th Respondent. I had pointed out earlier in the course of this Ruling that, the issue of qualification or disqualification of a candidate at an election is strictly a requirement of the Constitution. It is held by the Supreme Court in Alhassan & Anor v. Ishaku & Ors (2016) LPELR 40083 (SC) That: “…, by virtue of the provisions of Section 138(1)(a) of the Electoral Act, a Tribunal’s power to decide whether a person is qualified to contest an election is restricted to establishing the requirements of Section 177 and 182 of the Constitution against the adverse party. An Election Tribunal has no jurisdiction to inquire into the primaries of a political party.”

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

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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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GROUNDS UPON WHICH AN ELECTION CAN BE QUESTIONED

The Electoral Act, 2022 in an explicit manner, has laid out clearly grounds upon which an election can be questioned in Section 134 thereof. Then there is Section 135 of the said Act which looks like a proviso to Section 134. For a proper appreciation of the intendment of the law, Section 134 and 135 of the Electoral Act must be considered together.

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

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