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PROVING CORRUPT PRACTICES IN AN ELECTION

Dictum

Furthermore, where the ground for challenging the return of a candidate in an election is by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, the petitioner must prove: (a) that the corrupt practice or non-compliance took place; and (b) that the corrupt practice or non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election. See Yahaya v. Dankwambo ; Awolowo v. Shagari (1979) All NLR 120, (2001) FWLR (Pt. 73) 53; Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 258) 1604, (2005) 2 NWLR (Pt. 910) 241 and sections 138(1)(b) and 139(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.

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

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ELECTION ARE SUI GENERIS

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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WHERE CIVIL AND CRIMINAL INGREDIENTS ARE INTERTWINED IN AN ELECTION PETITION

I take the line of thought of the respondents in that it is not enough to allege, non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the Petitioner now Appellant ought to establish by concrete evidence not only the non-compliance but that it was substantial to vitiate the election. Nothing other than that would suffice. Also the petitioner cannot run away from his responsibility on the burden of proof and on-whom it lies. In the present circumstances, the allegations are civil in character as well as criminal and so intertwined or interwoven as to make severance of one genre from the other which is impossible. Therefore the standard of proof must be of the higher standard which is beyond reasonable doubt. It is when the petitioner has discharged the onus on this that the burden can shift to the respondents to see how far he can go to impugn such a rock solid evidence put forward by the appellant. That is the prescription of law in practice and there is no running away from it See Awofowo v Shaman (1979) 1 ALL NLR 120 at 126: Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941).

— M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Akeredolu v. Mimiko (2013) – SC. 352/2013

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NOT EVERY GROUND OF NONCOMPLIANCE WILL AMOUNT TO CORRUPT PRACTICE

It is also pertinent to observe that in paragraph 79 of the Petition where the Petitioners alleged corrupt practices, they merely stated that they are repeating their pleadings in support of the grounds of non compliance to be in support of their allegations of corrupt practices. It should be noted however, that not every ground of non-compliance will amount to corrupt practice. In fact, the standard of proof of non compliance differs from that of corrupt practice. While the standard of proof of non-compliance is on the balance of probabilities, that of corrupt practice is beyond reasonable doubt. See: PDP v INEC (supra) at page 31, paras. A – B, per Rhodes-Vivour, JSC; MOHAMMED v WAMAKKO (2017) LPELR-42667(SC) at page 10, paras. D-F, per Nweze, JSC; and BOARD OF CUSTOMS & EXCISE v ALHAJI IBRAHIM BARAU (1982) LPELR-786(SC) at pages 41-43, paras. F-E, per Idigbe, JSC.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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A PETITIONER IN AN ELECTION PETITION HAS A HEAVY BURDEN

In Ihute v Independent National Electoral Commission (1999) 4 NWLR (Part 599) 360, it was held that in an election petition, when a petitioner makes an allegation of non-compliance with the electoral law as the basis or foundation of his case, he has a heavy burden to show the tribunal by cogent and compelling evidence that the non-compliance is of such a nature as to affect the result of the election. The court followed the decision in Kudu v Aliyu, (supra). The decision was followed in the case of Haruna v Modibbo (2004) 16 NWLR (Part 900) 487. The court added in Haruna that the petitioner must satisfy the tribunal that he is a victim of the alleged malpractices. The court also relied on Nabature v Mahuta (1992) 0 NWLR (Part 263) 585 and Awolowo v Shagari, (supra).

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RIGHT OF APPEAL AGAINST INTERLOCUTORY DECISION IN AN ELECTION TRIBUNAL

In the case of Maduako V Onyejiocha (2009) 5 NWLR (pt. 1134) 259 at 280 the Court of Appeal Per Eko JCA held as follows:- “By way of emphasis, I wish to add that the decision of the Supreme Court in Alhaji Atiku Abubakar & Ors V. Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua & Ors SC 288/2007 of 25th January, 2008 (reported in (2008) 4 NWLR (pt. 1078) 465 Per Niki Tobi JSC, leave no doubt in me that an aggrieved party has right of appeal against an interlocutory decision of an election tribunal. That right is a constitutional right by dint of Section 246 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, which is in Pari materia with Section 233 (2) (3) of the Constitution under which Atiku V. Yar’Adua case was decided”.

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IT IS A POLITICAL PARTY OR ITS CANDIDATE WHO CAN CHALLENGE AN ELECTION

In the case of ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS V PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY 2019 LPELR-49499 CA, in the interpretation of the provision of S137(1) of the Electoral Act 2010, which provision is in pari material with the extant provisions of S133 (1) (a) and (b) the Electoral Act 2022, the Court of Appeal, Per Ali Abubakar Babandi Gummel JCA, took the stance that: ‘….it is clear from this provision, that either the political party, or its candidate for the election, or both of them jointly can present an election petition….this provision recognizes that a political party, can in its name, present an election petition challenging the election for the benefit of the candidate and itself….’ Ditto, in the lead judgment delivered by per Emmanuel Akomaye Agim JCA, the court reiterated and expounded as follows; ‘….therefore such a petition is a representative action by the political party on behalf of its candidate for the election and its members, the political party’s candidate for the election is an unnamed party for his benefit and that of the political party. An unnamed party in a representative action is a party to the action…….”

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