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VOTERS REGISTER CANNOT BE REPLACED BY CARD READER TO PROVE OVERVOTING

Dictum

This court in a number of recent decisions has commended the introduction of the card reader in the 2015 elections by INEC. The court has noted however, that its function is solely to authenticate the owner of a voter’s card and to prevent multi-voting by a voter and cannot replace the voters register or statement of results in appropriate forms. See Shinkafi v. Yari ; Okereke v. Umahi (unreported) SC.1004/ 2015 delivered on 5/2/2016 at pages 31 – 34.

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

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INEC RESULTS VIEWING PORTAL IS NOT A COLLATION SYSTEM

From the above functions of the BVAS, it is clear to me that, apart from using the BVAS to scan the physical copy of the polling unit result and upload same to the Result Viewing Portal (iReV), there is nothing in the Regulations to show that the BVAS was meant to be used to electronically transmit or transfer the results of the Polling Unit direct to the collation system. It should be noted that INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) is not a collation system. The Supreme Court in OYETOLA V INEC (2023) LPELR-60392(SC) has explained the difference between the Collation System and the IReV. In that case, Agim, JSC held as follows: “As their names depict, the Collation System and the INEC Result Viewing Portal are part of the election process and play particular roles in that process. The Collation System is made of the centres where results are collated at various stages of the election. So the polling units results transmitted to the collation system provides the relevant collation officer the means to verify a polling unit result as the need arises for the purpose of collation. The results transmitted to the Result Viewing Portal is to give the public at large the opportunity to view the polling unit results on the election day.”

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

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REGISTER OF VOTERS IS REQUIRED TO PROVE NO ACCREDITATION OF VOTERS

It is clear from the provisions of S.47(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 and Regulations 14(a) and (b), 18(a) and (b), 19(b) and (e) that the Register of voters for each polling unit is relevant evidence to prove the alleged non accreditations of voters in the 744 polling units on the election day. It is worth stating that in the event of a conflict between the record of accredited voters in the BVAS machine and ticked names in the Register of voters due to human errors in the ticking of the names in the Register of voters, the BVAS Record shall prevail.

— E.A. Agim, JSC. Oyetola v INEC & Ors. (2022) – SC/CV/508/2023

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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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STATING ADDRESS FOR SERVICE IN AN ELECTION PETITION

Paragraph 4 (4) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022 provides as follows: “Paragraph 4 (4); “at the foot of the election petition, there shall also be stated an address of the petitioner for service at which address documents intended for the petitioner may be left and its occupier. We have carefully gone through the petition filed by the Petitioner and we hold that the Petitioner complied with the provision of paragraph 4(4) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act 2022. This is because the Petitioner copiously stated at the foot of the election petition, his address for service, at which address documents or all Court processes relating to this petition may be served on the Petitioner and the Petitioner equally indicated who the occupier of that address is.

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

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PURPORT OF A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION

A free and fair election is one in which all eligible voters who are willing to vote are given every opportunity to cast their votes which must be counted and declared for the candidate of their choice. See the case of JIMOH VS ADEKUNLE (1991) 1 LRECN 123. The essence of democratic elections, it has been held, is that they be free, fair and that in that atmosphere of freedom, fairness and impartiality, citizens will exercise their freedom of choice of who their representatives shall be by casting their votes in favour of those candidates who, in their deliberate judgment, they consider to possess the qualities which mark them out as preferable candidates to those others who are contesting with them. See the case of OJUKWU VS ONWUDIWE & ORS (1984) 1 S 15 AT 91. The above essential tenets of democratic elections are fundamentally negatived by election rigging.

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

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ALL ELECTION PETITIONS LIE AS OF RIGHT TO THE COURT OF APPEAL

In the case of Awuse v. Odili (2003) 18 NWLR (pt. 851) 116 at 119, Ejiwunmi JSC supported the lead judgment of I.L. Kutugi JSC quoted the provision of Section 246 (1) (b) (ii) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and said of the Section as follows: “An appeal to the Court of Appeal shall lie as of right from the decision of the Governorship Election Tribunal on any question as to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of Governor”. “Though the word “any” when used as an adjective is defined in Longman Dictionary of the English Language thus: “One or some indiscriminately, whichever is chosen”. It would appear that the word “any” qualifying “question” was deliberately used by the law makers to indicate that an appeal to the Court of Appeal was not limited only to hearing appeals only to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of Governor —– It follows therefore that the provisions of Section 246 (1) allows appeals to lie to Court of Appeal in respect of interlocutory decision of the Governorship Election Tribunals and the other tribunals named in that section of the Constitution”.

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