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WHAT A PETITIONER WHO CONTESTS THE LEGALITY OF VOTES CAST IN AN ELECTION MUST DO

Dictum

A petitioner who contests the legality or lawfulness of votes cast in an election and the subsequent result must tender in evidence all the necessary documents by way of forms and other documents used at the election. He should not stop there. He must call witnesses to testify to the illegality or unlawfulness of the votes cast and prove that the illegality or unlawfulness substantially affected the result of the election. The documents are amongst those in which the results of the votes are recorded. The witnesses are those who saw it all on the day of the election; not those who picked the evidence from an eye witness. No. They must be eye witnesses too. Both forms and witnesses are vital for contesting the legality or lawfulness of the votes cast and the subsequent result of the election. One cannot be a substitute for the other. It is not enough for the petitioner to tender only the documents. It is incumbent on him to lead evidence in respect of the wrong doings or irregularities both in the conduct of the election and the recording of the votes; wrong doings and irregularities which affected substantially the result of the election.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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RESULT ANNOUNCED BY INEC IS PRESUMED TO BE CORRECT

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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WHERE A PERSON WHO ATTAINED THE HIGHEST VOTE IS DECLARED NULL, THE SECOND HIGHEST WITH VOTES IS TO BE DECLARED THE WINNER

By Section 136 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022, it is provided thus: “Where an Election Tribunal or Court nullifies an election on the grounds that person who obtained the highest votes at the election was not qualified to contest the election, the Election Tribunal or Court shall declare the person who scored the second highest number of valid votes cast at the election who satisfied the requirement of the Constitution and the Act as dully elected.” In law, once an Election Petition succeeds under Section 134 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022, the only consequential order for the Election Tribunal or Court, where the Election Tribunal fails to do so, is an order declaring and returning the candidate with the second highest score of lawful votes as the winner of the said election. Indeed, neither the Election Tribunal nor this Court, has any discretion in this matter nor is it dependent on the reliefs claimed or not claimed by the Petitioner.

— 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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PETITIONER IN AN ELECTION MUST PROVE NONCOMPLIANCE FIRST

In Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (Part 941) 1, when the case came to the Supreme Court on appeal, the court held that where an allegation of non-compliance with the electoral law is made, the onus lies on the petitioner firstly to establish the non-compliance, and secondly, that it did or could have affected the result of the election. It is after the petitioner has established the foregoing that the onus would shift to the respondent whose election is challenged, to establish that the result was not affected.

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WITNESS DEPOSITION NOT FILED BY A WITNESS AS AT THE TIME OF FILING THE PETITION WILL NOT BE COUNTENANCED

Peoples’ Democratic Party v. Chibuzor Okogbuo & Ors (2019) LPELR-48989 (CA) at p.24-25, when it said (per Orji-Abadua, JCA) that: “What is deducible is that Witness Deposition filed by a witness not listed in the Petition cannot be countenanced by the Court or Tribunal after the expiration of the time prescribed for the filing of the Petition. It was stressed by this court therein that to allow a Petitioner to file an additional witness statement at any stage of the Election proceedings would destroy the regulated environment that must exist to ensure that both parties to the petition are expeditiously heard and the Petition determined within 180 days from the date of the Petition. This court observed that such an indulgence would remove the control of the pace of the proceedings from the control of the Constitution, the Electoral Act and the First Schedule to the Electoral Act and leave it at the whim of the parties and open the floodgate for all kinds of abuses of the judicial process.”

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PROVING CORRUPT PRACTICES IN AN ELECTION

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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