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IRREGULARITY MUST SUBSTANTIALLY AFFECT THE ELECTION

Dictum

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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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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ONLY ASPIRANT CAN CHALLENGE PRIMARIES OF A PARTY AND MUST BE HIS OWN PARTY

In AL-HASSAN V. ISHAKU (2016) 10 NWLR (PT. 1520) 230, this court per Peter-Odili, JSC in interpreting Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) at 281, Paras DH, held thus: “Indeed, this court has settled the matter in a plethora of judicial authorities that it is only candidate/aspirant at the primaries of a party that has the locus standi to complain about the conduct of such primaries and so, the grouse of the appellants have nothing to stand on as they are clearly interlopers in regard to how the 1st respondent emerged as candidate and also how, where and when the 2nd respondent produced its candidate. Therefore, no matter how loudly the appellants shout on the irregularity, impropriety of the primaries of the 1st and 2nd respondents, the noise will remain unheard and unattended to, coming from those whose voices ought not to be heard in the internal matters of another. I refer to the following cases for assistance being: Onuoha v. Okafor (1983) 14 NSCC 494, (1983) 2 SCNLR 244; Dalhatu v. Turaki (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt.843) 310; Ardo v. Nyako (2014) LPELR 22878 (SC), (2014) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1416) 591; Emeka v. Okadigbo (2012) 18 NWLR (Pt.1331) 55 at 88; PDP v. Sylva (2012) All FWLR (Pt.637) 606 at 654, (2012) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1316) 85.”

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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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NON-QUALIFICATION IS A GROUND TO NULLIFY THE RETURN OF A CANDIDATE IN AN ELECTION; IT IS NOT A PRE-ELECTION MATTER

This is so because issues of non-qualification of a candidate to contest an election are cognizable grounds in an Election Petition challenging the
29 declaration and return of the person so declared and returned by INEC, and in such a claim, the 1st Respondent, though not a member of the 2nd Appellant and having also not participated in the primaries of the 2nd Appellant, would have the requisite locus standi to challenge, in an Election Petition, the valid nomination and sponsorship of the 1st Appellant as candidate of the 2nd Appellant, a locus standi he would have lacked if the claims were in a pre – election matter before the Federal High Court for being a mere busy body dabbling into the internal affairs of the 2nd Appellant. Thus, whilst the issue of nomination of a candidate cannot be questioned by a person who is neither a member of the affected political party and who did not also participate in the questioned primary election and nomination of a candidate in a pre-election matter by reason of lack of requisite locus standi, yet the same issue of valid nomination and sponsorship by a political party as required by Section 35 of the Electoral Act 2022 can rightly ground a complaint in an Election Petition before the lower Tribunal and the issue of locus standi would not operate against such 30 a person and so also would the jurisdiction of the lower Tribunal not be ousted by the mere fact that the person so challenging the qualification of the other person declared and returned as the winner of the questioned election is not a member of the political party of the other person so declared and returned as winner and had also not participated in the alleged primary of that political party that had thrown up the other person as the candidate of his political party. It follows therefore, if a claim such as the one filed by the 1st and 2nd Respondents, which I hold was competently before the lower Tribunal, which also had the requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine it according to law, is made out it would result into the nullification of the declaration and return of the 1st Appellant, having not been validly sponsored as the candidate of a political party and thus, not qualified to contest the questioned election. The only way out of all these is simply the entrenchment of internal democracy and obedience to the provisions of both their constitution and guidelines by all the registered political parties in Nigeria in the due conduct of their affairs.

— B.A. Georgewill JCA. Okeke, PDP v. Nwachukwu, Labour Party, INEC (CA/ABJ/EP/IM/HR/86/2023, November 04, 2023)

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GROUND; GROUND FOR QUESTIONING AN ELECTION

It is trite law, that a Petitioner is required to question an election on any of the grounds set out in Section 134 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022. For ease of reference, Section 134(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides as follows: “An election may be questioned on any of the following grounds – a. A person whose election is questioned was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the election; b. The election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of this Act; or c. The Respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election. What then is the meaning of the word “ground”? In the case of KALU VS CHUKWUMERIJE (2012) 12 NWLR (PT. 1315) 425 AT 485, the Court of Appeal per Owoade, JCA puts it succinctly, thus: “The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971) US reprint (1988) defines the word “Ground” in numerous terms and with an array of examples at pages 1214 to 1225 as follows: “Ground”: (a) The fundamental constituent or the essential part of anything. (b) A fundamental principle, also the elements or rudiments of any study or branch of knowledge. (c) A circumstance on which an opinion, inference, arguments, statement or claim is founded, or which has given rise to an action, procedure or mental feeling, a motive often with additional implication. A valid reason justifying motive or what is alleged as such.” Thus, a ground in the context of an election petition, is the fundamental reason, basis or justification for questioning the election. Before a party can question an election, his petition must fall within the grounds specified by the Electoral Act 2022. See the following cases: OYEGUN VS IGBENEDION & ORS (1992) 2 NWLR (PT. 226) 947; OKONKWO VS INEC & ORS (2003) 3 LRECN 599; ABUBAKAR VS INEC (2020) 12 NWLR (PT. 1737); and MODIBO VS USMAN (2020) 3 NWLR (PT. 1712) 470.

— A. Osadebay, J. APC v INEC & Ors. (EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023, 20th Day of September, 2023)

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ELECTORAL RESULT DECLARED BY INEC ENJOY PRESUMPTION OF REGULARITY

Primarily, the law is well settled that the results declared by INEC (1st Respondent) in an election enjoy a presumption of regularity. In other words, they are prima facie correct. See Section 168(1) of the Evidence Act 2011, recently applied by the Supreme Court in ATUMA V. APC & ORS (2023) LPELR-60352 (SC) where JAURO, JSC held at PP 40-41 as follows: “By virtue of Section 168(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011, presumption of regularity inures in favour of judicial or official acts, including those carried out by INEC. The exact words of the subsection are thus: “When any judicial or official act is shown to have been done in a manner substantially regular, it is presumed that formal requisites for its validity were complied with.” See P.D.P. V.I.N.E.C. (2022) 18 NWLR (PT. 1863) 653, UDOM V. UMANA (NO. 1)(2016) 12 NWLR (PT. 1526) 179. Fortunately for the Appellant and 1st Respondent, it is only a presumption, which implies that it is rebuttable. Any person who questions the validity of an act in favour of which there is a presumption of regularity, has a duty to rebut the presumption with cogent and credible evidence. A flimsy or half-hearted rebuttal will not suffice.”

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

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