Effect of Failure of the Presiding Officer to Sign an Election Result

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CASE TITLE: ALAMU & ANOR v. RIJAU & ORS (2021) LPELR-55639(CA)

JUDGMENT DATE: 18TH OCTOBER, 2021

PRACTICE AREA: ELECTION PETITION

LEAD JUDGMENT: JOSEPH EYO EKANEM, J.C.A.

 SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:

 INTRODUCTION

This appeal borders on Election Petition.

FACTS

This is an appeal against the judgment of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Minna, Niger State.

On the 6/2/2021, the 3rd respondent (the Independent National Electoral Commission) organised and conducted a bye-election into the office of member of House of Representatives for Magama/Rijau Federal Constituency of Niger State. Three parties sponsored candidates for the election. The 1st appellant was sponsored by the 2nd appellant while the 1st respondent was sponsored by the 2nd respondent. The ADC sponsored the third candidate for the election. At the end of the election, the 3rd respondent declared and returned the 1st respondent as the winner of the election having scored a total of 22,965 votes while the 1st appellant was the runner-up with a total of 22,507 votes. Aggrieved by the result of the election, the appellants (as petitioners) filed a petition against the return at the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal sitting in Minna, Niger State (the Tribunal) on 26/6/2021 on the ground that “the 1st Respondent (as will be revealed from the valid ballot papers duly cast and other electoral materials) was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.”

The appellants therefore sought certain reliefs from the Tribunal. In response to the petition, the 1st respondent filed a reply to the petition in which he incorporated a notice of preliminary objection to the competence of the petition and particulars of appellants’ votes that he objected to. The 2nd respondent filed a reply to the petition. The 3rd respondent also filed a reply to the Petition in which it raised a preliminary objection to the competence of the petition. The 1st and 3rd respondents argued their preliminary objections during the pre-hearing session that was duly conducted upon the close of pleadings. Ruling thereon was deferred by the Tribunal to the stage of final judgment.

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At the hearing of the petition, the appellants called eight witnesses and tendered several exhibits to prove its case. The 1st respondent called two witnesses; the 2nd respondent did not call any witness while the 3rd respondent called one witness.

After taking oral addresses and on 20/8/2021, the Tribunal first resolved the preliminary objections of the 1st and 3rd respondents striking out some paragraphs of the petition for being general and nebulous. Some paragraphs of the petition were equally struck out for not being facts while some were struck out for being complaints against non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) which is not a ground of the Petition. The Tribunal considered the remaining paragraphs as grossly inadequate to sustain the petition. The petition of the Petitioners was therefore struck out for being incompetent. Nevertheless, the Tribunal proceeded to consider the merit of the petition. It found no merit in it and accordingly dismissed the same.

Not satisfied with the decision of the Tribunal, the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Respondents also Cross-appealed against the judgment of the Tribunal.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

The main appeal was considered on the following issues for determination:

  1. Whether the Tribunal was right to have dismissed the petition filed by the Appellants?
  2. Whether the Tribunal rightly deducted 774 votes from the votes of the Appellant?
  3. Whether from the evidence led in respect of polling unit 002 Mapapu/Tudun Wada and polling unit 003 Mejeme polling unit in Auna Registration Area, it was not the 1st Appellant who secured majority of lawful votes cast at the election?
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The Cross-Appellant formulated the following issues for the determination of the cross-appeal:

  1. Whether the Tribunal was right when it failed to determine all the issues submitted to it by the cross appellant.
  2. Whether the Tribunal was right when it held that the Grounds upon which the Petition was predicated were valid and in accordance with Section 138 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
  3. Whether the Trial Tribunal was right when it failed to strike out reliefs 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Petition for being incompetent and contradictory with relief 1 of the Petition.

 DECISION/HELD

On the whole, the main appeal was held to be lacking in merit and was dismissed. The cross-appeal was also dismissed for being academic. The judgment of the Tribunal was therefore affirmed.

RATIOS:

  • ELECTION PETITION- GROUNDS FOR CHALLENGING AN ELECTION: Grounds on which an election can be challenged in an Election Petition Tribunal
  • ELECTION PETITION- BURDEN OF PROOF/STANDARD OF PROOF: Burden/standard of proof required to establish allegation of non-compliance, corrupt practices and that a candidate did not score the majority of lawful votes in an election
  • ELECTION PETITION- ELECTION RESULT: Effect of failure of the presiding officer to sign an election result
  • APPEAL- CROSS-APPEAL: Instance(s) where a cross-appeal will be held to be academic

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