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INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 134(2) OF THE CFRN

Dictum

It is obvious that states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja were lumped together as a group by Subsection (2) (b) above. What differentiates the constituents of the group is their names and nothing more. One of them is called Federal Capital Territory and the rest called states of the Federation. Subsection (2) (b) clearly refers to two thirds of all the constituents of the group enumerated therein as the minimum number from each of which a candidate must have one-quarter of the votes cast therein. There is nothing in Subsection (2)(b) that requires or suggests that it will not apply to the areas listed therein as a group. The argument of Learned SAN that the provision by using the word “and” to conclude the listing of the areas to which it applies has created two groups to which it applies differently is, with due respects, a very imaginative and ingenious proposition that the wordings of that provision cannot by any stretch accommodate or reasonably bear. If S. 134(2) of the 1999 Constitution intended that the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja should be distinct from states of the Federation as a distinct group it would not have listed it together with states of the Federation in (b). Also, if S. 134(2) had intended having one-quarter of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja as a 4 separate requirement additional to the ones enumerated therein, it would have clearly stated so in a separate paragraph numbered (c). It is glaring that S.134(2) prescribed two requirements that must be cumulatively satisfied by a Presidential candidate in an election contested by not less than two candidates, before he or she can be deemed duly elected President. It prescribed the first requirement in (a) and the second one in (b). It did not impose a third requirement and so there is no (c) therein … Such meaning would result a Presidential candidate that has the highest votes cast in the election and not less than one-quarter of the votes cast in not less than two-thirds of 36 states of the Federation or in all the states of the Federation cannot be deemed duly elected as President because he did not have one-quarter of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. This certainly violates the egalitarian principle of equality of persons, votes and the constituent territories of Nigeria, a fundamental principle and purpose of our Constitution. Such a meaning is unconstitutional. I think that his said proposition is the result of reading those provisions in isolated patches instead of reading them as a whole and in relation to other parts of the Constitution. Reading and interpreting the relevant provision as a whole and together with other parts of the Constitution as a whole is an interpretation that best reveals the legislative intention in the relevant provision.

— Agim JSC. Peter Obi & Anor. v. INEC & Ors. (SC/CV/937/2023, Thursday the 26th day of October 2023)

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PROCESSES THAT MUST BE FOLLOWED FOR A SUCCESSFUL ELECTION

Let me underline here that in the conduct of an election, certain processes must have been walked over to conclude and confirm that the election was conclusive. The steps outlined by the law must not be broken. These steps are: (a) Accreditation (b) Conduct of poils (c) Counting of votes (d) Collation and announcement of results (e) Signing of result forms (f) Publication of results.

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

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PETITIONER IN AN ELECTION MUST PROVE NONCOMPLIANCE FIRST

In Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Part 941) 1, when the case came to the Supreme Court on appeal, the court held that where an allegation of non-compliance with the electoral law is made, the onus lies on the petitioner firstly to establish the non-compliance, and secondly, that it did or could have affected the result of the election. It is after the petitioner has established the foregoing that the onus would shift to the respondent whose election is challenged, to establish that the result was not affected.

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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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ORDINARY COURTS HAVE JURISDICTION IN PRE-ELECTION MATTERS

The same approach adopted by the Respondents in Amaechi’s case was also adopted in the instant case. The belief was that if elections were conducted that would put an end to the appellants case or “kill his case”. The jurisdiction of ordinary court in pre-election matters is sacrosanct and the holding of such an election when the action was pending would not deprive the ordinary court of its jurisdiction to conclude the matter, even to the appeal court. It is to be noted that the appellant in this case took steps immediately he was aware of this substitution. He instituted this action before the conduct of the election and had been steadfast, believing in the judicial process that justice would be done. He did not stand by and allowed the party to be heard to fight for the election and therefore seek to take the benefit of the result of the election by proceeding to seeks for the enforcement of his right after the election. All what I have been labouring to state is that he did not sleep over his right. If this action had been instituted after the conduct and declaration of the election I would have held that the jurisdiction of the trial court to hear the pre-election matters has been over taken by event.

– Coomassie JSC. Odedo v. INEC (2008)

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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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WHAT A PETITIONER WHO CONTESTS THE LEGALITY OF VOTES CAST IN AN ELECTION MUST DO

A petitioner who contests the legality or lawfulness of votes cast in an election and the subsequent result must tender in evidence all the necessary documents by way of forms and other documents used at the election. He should not stop there. He must call witnesses to testify to the illegality or unlawfulness of the votes cast and prove that the illegality or unlawfulness substantially affected the result of the election. The documents are amongst those in which the results of the votes are recorded. The witnesses are those who saw it all on the day of the election; not those who picked the evidence from an eye witness. No. They must be eye witnesses too. Both forms and witnesses are vital for contesting the legality or lawfulness of the votes cast and the subsequent result of the election. One cannot be a substitute for the other. It is not enough for the petitioner to tender only the documents. It is incumbent on him to lead evidence in respect of the wrong doings or irregularities both in the conduct of the election and the recording of the votes; wrong doings and irregularities which affected substantially the result of the election.

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

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