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RESULT ANNOUNCED BY INEC IS PRESUMED TO BE CORRECT

Dictum

The law is trite that the results declared by INEC enjoy a presumption of regularity. In other words, they are prima facie correct. The onus is on the petitioner to prove the contrary. See Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1; Awolowo v. Shagari (1979 ) 6 – 9 SC 51; Akinfosile v. Ijose (1960) SCNLR 447, (1960) WNLR 160.

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

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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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ALLEGATIONS OF CRIME IN ELECTION PETITION MUST BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

Now, notwithstanding the fact that election petitions are a specie of civil proceedings, where in any such election petition, allegations, which are criminal in nature are made in the pleadings, they must be proved beyond reasonable doubt Abubakar v. Yar ‘Adua (2008) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1120) 1, 143; 144; Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1; Omoboriowo v. Ajasin (1984) 1 SCNLR 108; Kakih v. PDP (2014) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1430) 374, 422 – 423; B-C; Nwobodo v. Onoh (1984) 1 SCNLR 27-28; Emmanuel v. Umanah and Ors (2016) LPELR – 40037 (SC) 93 et seq. reported as Udom v. Emmanuel (2016) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1526) 179.

— Nweze, JSC. Anyanwu v. PDP (2020) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1710) 134

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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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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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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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WITHDRAWAL TAKES EFFECT FROM THE DELIVERING OF A WRITTEN NOTICE OF WITHDRAWAL

I agree with the views of Learned SAN for the 3rd respondent and Learned Counsel for the 4th respondent. It is glaring from the provision of S.31 of the Electoral Act 2022 that the withdrawal takes effect from when the nominated candidate submitted the notice of his or her withdrawal to the political party that nominated him or her. S. 31 prescribe how the withdrawal is done by the nominated candidate. It states thusly”by notice in writing signed by him and delivered personally by him to the political party that nominated him or her”. S. 31 prescribes what the political party should do upon receipt of its nominated candidate’s withdrawal. It states that it may convey the withdrawal to INEC not later than 90 days to the election. It is glaring from the express wordings of S.31 of the Electoral Act 2022 that the legislative intention is that the withdrawal should take effect upon the nominated candidate personally delivering a written notice of his withdrawal to the political party and not when the political party conveys it to INEC.

— E.A. Agim, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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