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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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GROUND TO PROVE OVER VOTING

The law is well settled that in order to prove over-voting, the petitioner must do the following: (i) tender the voters register; (ii) tender the statement of results in appropriate forms which would show the number of registered accredited voters and number of actual votes; (iii) relate each of the documents to the specific area of his case in respect of which the documents are tendered; and (iv) show that the figure representing the over-voting if removed would result in victory for the petitioner. See Haruna v. Modibbo (2004) All FWLR (Pt. 238) 740, (2004 ) 16 NWLR (Pt. 900) 487;Kalgo v. Kalgo (1999) 6 NWLR (Pt. 608 ) 639; Audu v. INEC (No. 2) (2010) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1212) 456; Shinkafi v. Yari (unreported) SC.907/2015 delivered on 8/1/2016; Yahaya v. Dankwambo (unreported) SC.979/2015 delivered on 25/1/2016.

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

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NON-COMPLIANCE MUST BE PROVED POLLING-UNIT BY POLLING-UNIT

Where a petitioner complains of non-compliance with the provisions of the Act, he has an onerous task, for he must prove it polling unit by polling unit, ward by ward and the standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities. He must show figures that the adverse party was credited with as a result of the non-compliance e.g. Forms EC8A, election materials not signed/stamped by presiding officers. It is only then that the respondents are to lead evidence in rebuttal. See Ucha v. Elechi (2012) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1317) 330 at 359 – G. It is also the law that where the commission of a crime by a party to a proceeding is directly in issue in any proceeding, civil or criminal, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. See section 135 of the Evidence Act, 2011. The burden of proof is on the person who asserts it. See section 135(2) of the Evidence Act, 2011 . See also: Abubakar v. Yar’Adua (2008) 19 NWLR (Pt. 1120) 1 at 143 – 144 B; Buhari v. Obasanjo ; Omoboriowo v. Ajasin (1984) l SCNLR 108; Kakih v. PDP (2014) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1430) 374 at 422 – 423 B- C.

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

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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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HOW TO PROVE FALSIFICATION OF AN ELECTION RESULT

In order to establish falsification of election result, the Petitioner must produce in evidence two sets of results; one genuine and the other false. See: KAKIH v PDP & ORS (2014) LPELR-23277(SC) at pages 51-52, paras. C-C; and NWOBODO v ONOH (1984) LPELR-2120(SC). Indeed, in ADEWALE v OLAIFA (2012) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1330) 478 at 516, this Court held that: “To prove falsification of results of an election, two sets of results one genuine and the other false must be put in evidence by the party making the accusation. After putting in evidence the two sets of results, a witness or witnesses conversant with the entries made in the result sheets must be called by the party making the accusation of falsification or forgery of results of the election to prove from the electoral documents containing the results of the election how the results of the election were falsified or made up.”

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

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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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WHO ARE NECESSARY RESPONDENTS IN AN ELECTION PETITION

Generally, necessary respondents in an election petition are the persons whose election or return is complained of, and the Electoral body that conducted the election. See Section 133(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act, 2022. Those are what are termed statutory respondents. It should be remembered the Election Petitions are sui generis, and its procedure strictly regulated by statute. Thus, where a person does not fall within the category of statutory respondents, they are not necessary parties in an election petition. See Agbareh v. Mimra (2008) All FWLR (pt.409) 559; APC v. PDP (2015) LPELR – 24587 (SC) and Buhari v. Yusuf (2003) 4 NWLR (pt.841) 446 at 498. Thus, in Waziri v. Gaidam (2016) 11 NWLR (pt. 1523) 230 at 265 paragraphs F-G; the Supreme Court held that: “From the above, I have no difficulty in going along with the submissions of the respective counsel for the respondent that Section 137(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act, 2010 has no room for the joinder of the 5th Respondent who neither won the election nor performed any role as electoral officer or agent of the third Respondent in the election petition challenging the result of such an election and even no relief was claimed against the said 5th respondent and indeed, he had nothing to gain or lose in the petition aforesaid.”

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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