➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Peter Obi & Anor. v. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023
by Branham Chima.
- Mr. Peter Gregory Obi
- Labour Party
- Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
- Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu
- Senator Shettima Kashim
- All Progressives Congress (APC)
Presidential Electoral Petition Tribunal – CA/PEPC/03/2023
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Wednesday, the 6th day Of September, 2023
➥ THIS CASE IS AUTHORITY FOR:
⦿ OBJECTIONS SHOULD BE DETERMINED BEFORE MAIN CASE
In line with the trite position of law as restated by the Supreme Court in FIRST BANK v T.S.A. INDUSTRIES LTD (2010) LPELR-1283(SC) at page 13, paras. B E, I shall first consider and determine the Respondents’ objections to the competence of the Petition and the Petitioners’ Replies, or the listed paragraphs thereof, before determining the main Petition. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ PURPOSE OF PLEADINGS IN CIVIL CASES
I have carefully considered the submissions of the parties and the judicial authorities cited. It is trite that adversarial civil litigation is basically fought on pleadings. It is the foundation of the parties’ respective cases. The general principle of law is that such pleadings must sufficiently and comprehensively set out material facts, so as to ascertain with certainty and clarity the matters or issues in dispute between the parties. This is because the purpose of pleadings is to give adequate notice to the adversary of the case he is to meet and to afford him the opportunity to properly respond to such case. Its aim is to bring to the knowledge of the opposite side and the court, all the essential facts. It is therefore a safeguard against the element of surprise. See: SODIPO V LEMMINKAINEN OY & ANOR (1985) LPELR-3088(SC) at page 56, para. F, per Oputa, JSC; ODOM & ORS v PDP & ORS (2015) LPELR-24351(SC); ALHASSAN & ANOR v ISHAKU & ORS (2016) LPELR-40083(SC); and PDP v INEC & 3 ORS (supra). — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS OF PLEADINGS IN ELECTION PETITION
The requirements of pleadings in election petitions are primarily provided in Paragraph 4 of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022. Specifically, Paragraph 4(1)(d) mandates that “an election petition shall state clearly the facts of the election petition and the ground or grounds on which the petition is based and the reliefs sought by the Petitioner.” Subparagraph (2) of the same paragraph further provides that “the election petition shall be divided into paragraphs each of which shall be confined to a distinct issue or major facts of the election petition, and every paragraph shall be numbered consecutively.” In addition to the provision of Paragraph 4 of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, Paragraph 54 of the same Schedule to the Act has made applicable to Election Petitions the Rules of Civil Procedure in the Federal High Court of 2019, subject to such modifications as would bring same in conformity with the provisions of the Act. By Order 13 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019, every party to an election petition shall ensure that averments in their pleadings “contain in a summary form the material facts on which the party pleading relies for his claim or defence, as the case may be, but not the evidence by which they are to be proved, and shall, when necessary, be divided into paragraphs, and numbered consecutively.” By subparagraph (4) of that Rule, such facts contained in the pleading must “be alleged positively, precisely and distinctly, and as briefly as is consistent with a clear statement.” The aforementioned provisions contained in the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022, as well as the Federal High Court Rules, 2019 state the mandatory requirements of pleadings in election petitions. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ NOT EVERY GROUND OF NONCOMPLIANCE WILL AMOUNT TO CORRUPT PRACTICE
It is also pertinent to observe that in paragraph 79 of the Petition where the Petitioners alleged corrupt practices, they merely stated that they are repeating their pleadings in support of the grounds of non compliance to be in support of their allegations of corrupt practices. It should be noted however, that not every ground of non-compliance will amount to corrupt practice. In fact, the standard of proof of non compliance differs from that of corrupt practice. While the standard of proof of non-compliance is on the balance of probabilities, that of corrupt practice is beyond reasonable doubt. See: PDP v INEC (supra) at page 31, paras. A – B, per Rhodes-Vivour, JSC; MOHAMMED v WAMAKKO (2017) LPELR-42667(SC) at page 10, paras. D-F, per Nweze, JSC; and BOARD OF CUSTOMS & EXCISE v ALHAJI IBRAHIM BARAU (1982) LPELR-786(SC) at pages 41-43, paras. F-E, per Idigbe, JSC. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ DOCUMENTS REFERRED TO IN PLEADING MUST BE SERVED ALONGSIDE THE PLEADING TO BE DEEMED INCORPORATED
With regard to the Petitioners’ contention that they have incorporated into the Petition by reference the Spread Sheets and Forensic Analysis Report containing details of the polling units where they alleged that irregularities and malpractices occurred, it is trite that for a document to be properly incorporated as part of pleadings by reference, the document must not only be referred to in the pleadings, but it must also be included as part of the pleadings to be served on the adverse party, so as to enable the adverse party to properly respond to same in his defence. Indeed, in all the cases of EFCC v REINL (supra); EKPEMUPOLO v EDEREMODA (supra); MARINE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATES INC. v N.M.A (2012) 18 NWLR (supra); and DINGYADI ✔ WAMAKKO (supra), which were relied upon by the Petitioners, the documents which were incorporated as part of pleadings by reference were served along with the pleadings on the adverse party … It is also noteworthy that the Spreadsheets and Forensic Reports which the Petitioners claim to be incorporating into the Petition by reference are actually documents prepared by the Petitioners’ witnesses. In other words, the Spreadsheets and Forensic Reports are not documents which are outside the control of the Petitioners and which they have to obtain by subpoena. Being the Petitioners’ own documents, they ought to have served those documents along with the Petition on the Respondents, so as to enable the Respondents to counter same by engaging their own experts to appropriately respond to same, if they so desire. That indeed is the essence of pleadings, so as to avoid taking the other party by surprise. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ CONFLICTING FACTS CAN BE PLEADED WHERE ALTERNATIVE RELIEFS ARE SOUGHT
As rightly submitted by the Petitioners, the reliefs in this Petition, which I have reproduced at the beginning of this judgment, are undoubtedly sought in the alternative. The settled law is that reliefs can be sought in the alternative and where so sought by a party, he is at liberty to plead conflicting facts in line with the alternative reliefs he has sought. In ADIGHIJE V NWAOGU & ORS (2010) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1209) 419 at 545, paras. E G; (2010) LPELR-4941(CA) at pages 14 – 16, paras. E G, this Court, per Ogunwumiju, JCA (as he then was, now JSC), held that: “…in civil litigation and indeed in election matters, a party can make two seemingly contradictory pleadings leading to two different heads of claim. That is why a petitioner can claim that the election be annulled for reason of substantial non-compliance and in the same breath claim that he won the election by a majority of lawful notes. A petitioner may plead the same set of facts to ground alternative reliefs. Those pleadings are not ipso facto held to be self-contradictory. The Court can only grant one relief as the party must decide which relief is best supported by the evidence on record.” See also: METAL CONSTRUCTION (W.A.) LTD v ABODERIN (1998) LPELR 1868(SC) at pages 26, paras. C E. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ COURT SHOULD NOT DETERMINE ISSUES MEANT FOR THE SUBSTANTIVE CASE AT THE PRELIMINARY STAGE
It is the settled position of the law that a court should not comment on or decide at preliminary stage matters or issues which are supposed to be decided in the substantive case. See: NWANKWO & ORS v YAR’ADUA & ORS (2010) LPELR-2109(SC), at page 71, paras. B-F, per Commassie, JSC; and OCHOLI ENOJO JAMES, SAN v INEC & ORS (2015) LPELR-24494(SC) at page 92, para. G, per Okoro, JSC. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ WHAT IS A NEW ISSUE INTRODUCED IN STATEMENT OF DEFENCE
Indeed, in succinctly explaining the new issue which should attract a reply, the Supreme Court had held in EGESIMBA v ONUZURIKI (2002) 15 NWLR (Pt. 791) 466 at 518, thus: “A new issue to attract a reply must in law be really new in the sense of being brand and fresh. The issue must be really new to the statement of claim, in that it was not existing therein and was therefore brought into existence or introduced for the first time in the statement of defence by the defendant. The new issue, both in its content and materiality, must be further and additional to the statement of claim. Thus, the mere fact that a defendant states his own side of the case does not necessarily make it new, particularly when the plaintiff has told a contrary story in his statement of claim. In such a situation, the case stated by the defendant amounts to joining issues with the plaintiff and that does not bear the name of a new issue in law. A new issue arises where the plaintiff did not avert to or touch the content of the defendant’s averments in anticipation, and the defendant’s averment was introduced to the pleadings for the first time and therefore unique and novel to his pleadings.” — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ WITNESS DEPOSITION MUST BE FILED WHETHER WITNESS IS SUBPOENAED OR NOT IN AN ELECTION PETITION
From the foregoing judicial decisions, it is clear that in election petition litigation, whether the witnesses which a party intends to call are ordinary or expert witnesses and whether they are willing or subpoenaed witnesses, their witness depositions must be filed along with petition before such witnesses will be competent to testify before the tribunal or court. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ WITNESS SUBPOENAED BY THE COURT AND WITNESS SUBPOENAED BY A PARTY
The Petitioners have tried to argue that the said witnesses are witnesses of this Court. With respect, this argument is misconceived, because the subpoenas in respect of those witnesses were issued upon the request of the Petitioners. The applications for the issuance of the subpoenas were duly filed at the Registry of this Court by the Petitioners’ Counsel and the requisite fees, including filing fees and service fees as assessed were duly paid by them, before this Court approved and issued the subpoenas. Therefore, those witnesses are the Petitioners’ witnesses and not witnesses of this Court. Indeed, the procedure for calling of witnesses by the Court is by summons as stipulated in Paragraph 42(1) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022. By the provisions of that Paragraph, “the tribunal or court may summon a person as a witness who appears to the tribunal or court to have been concerned in the election.” It is clear from the to provision of that paragraph that it is a person summoned by the Court suo motu in exercise of its powers under Paragraph 42(1) that is a witness of the Court and not person subpoenaed at the request of a party to the case. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ REPORTS BY INTERESTED PERSONS ARE INADMISSIBLE
It is therefore evident from the above that PW4, PW7 and PW8 are persons interested in the outcome of this proceedings. The reports produced by PW4 and PW8 qualify as statements made by persons interested in anticipation or during the pendency of this Petition. As for PW7 she is admittedly an interested party having been a member of and even contested election under the umbrella of the 2nd Petitioner. Her interest is further underscored by the fact that she admitted under cross examination that she was attending court throughout the proceedings prior to her evidence. By virtue of Section 83(3) of the Evidence Act, 2011, the reports tendered by those witnesses which form part of their evidence are inadmissible. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ PUBLIC DOCUMENT CERTIFIED IS ADMISSIBLE THROUGH A PARTY WHO IS NOT TO THE CASE
By virtue of the provisions of Section 102(b) of the Evidence Act, 2011, public documents include public records kept in Nigeria of private documents. See: ONWUZURUIKE v EDOZIEM & ORS (2016) LPELR 26056(SC) at pages 10 – 11, paras. F-B, where the Supreme Court, per Onnoghen, JSC held that a private document sent to the Police formed part of the record of the Police and is consequently a public document within the provisions of Section 109 of the old Evidence Act, now Section 102 of the extant Evidence Act, 2011. It is also trite that a public document duly so certified, is admissible in evidence notwithstanding that it is not tendered by the maker. Indeed, a certified true copy of a public document can be tendered by person who is not a party to the case. See: MARANRO v ADEBISI (2007) LPELR-4663(CA); DAGGASH v BULAMA (2004) 14 NWLR (Pt. 892) 144 at 187; and MUSTAPHA SHETTIMA & ORS v ALHAJI BUKAR CUSTOMS (2021) LPELR-56150(CA). Exhibits RA1 and RA2, being in the public record of the 1st Respondent are public documents and are therefore admissible in evidence, having been certified by the 1st Respondent under Section 104 of the Evidence Act, 2011. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ WHERE AN ISSUE OR FACT HAS BEEN DETERMINED IN A FINAL MANNER, IT CONSTITUTES ESTOPPEL PER JUDGEMENT
The law is settled that where an issue of fact affecting the status of a person or a thing has been determined in a final manner as a substantive part of a judgment of a court having jurisdiction to determine that status, such determination will constitute estoppel by judgment to any subsequent proceedings between any parties whatsoever. See: MADAM ABUSATU AGBOGUNLERI v JOHN DEPO & ORS (2008) LPELR-243(SC) at page 20, paras. D-G, per Muhammad, JSC; MR. AKINFELA FRANK COLE v MR. ADIM JIBUNOH & ORS (2016) LPELR-40662(SC) at pages 37 – 38, para. D, per Kekere-Ekun, JSC; and APC PDP & ORS (2015) LPELR 24587(SC) at page 106, paras. A – E, per Galadima, JSC. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 137(1)(D) OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION
The Petitioners have centered their contention on the provisions of Section 137(1)(d) of the 1999 Constitution which reads as follows: “137(1) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if – (d) he is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria of a sentence of imprisonment or fine for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud by whatever name called or for any other offence imposed on him by any court tribunal or substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him by such a court or tribunal.” A careful examination of the above provision shows that the operative words of that paragraph of the Section are “sentence”, “imprisonment or fine” and “for any offence.” … It is discernible from the above that the “fine” referred to in paragraph (d) of Section 137(1) quoted above is one which emanates from a sentence for a criminal offence involving dishonesty or fraud. The words “for imprisonment or fine” also pre-supposes that the “fine” envisaged under the section is one which is imposed as an alternative to imprisonment. In other words, the provision of Section 137(1)(d) relates to sentence of death, or sentence of imprisonment or fine imposed as a result of a criminal trial and conviction. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ SPECIAL PROVISION OVERRIDES GENERAL PROVISION; ANALYSING SECTION 137(1) (D) & (E)
As regards to whether paragraph (e) of Section 137(1) should be read together with paragraph (d) of that subsection, the settled rule of interpretation of the Constitution or statute is that where the court is faced with two or more differing provisions over the same subject matter, the judicial attitude is to treat the special provision as overriding the general provision, on the principle that by enacting a separate provision for a part of the general class intends that the said part shall not be treated the same with the general class. See: IWUCHUKWU & ANOR v A.G. ANAMBRA STATE & ANOR (2015) LPELR-24487(CA) at pages 62 64, paras. E – A, perAgim, JCA; MARTIN SCHROEDER & CO. v MAJOR & CO. NIG. LTD (1989) LPELR-1843(SC) at page 13, paras. E – A, per Wali, JSC; and F.M.B.N. v OLLOH (2002) 4 S.C. (Pt. 11) 177. Since in both paragraphs (d) and (e) of Section 137(1) “a sentence for the offence involving dishonesty” is mentioned but in paragraph (e) a limitation of ten years has been introduced, then it means in respect of sentence for offence of dishonesty, the two paragraphs must be read together, such that for conviction and sentence for an offence involving dishonesty, it must be within a period of less than ten years before the date of the election in order for such a conviction and sentence to be used for disqualifying a Presidential candidate from contesting the election. It is also a cardinal principle of interpretation of the Constitution that relevant provisions must be read together and not disjointly. See STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY & ORS (2015) ABEGUNDE v THE ONDO LPELR-24588(SC) at pages 28 – 29, paras. D – B, per Muhammad, JSC. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ 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.
⦿ THE COURT HAS A DUTY TO ACT ON UNCHALLENGED AND UNCONTROVERTED EVIDENCE
It is settled that the Court has a duty to act on unchallenged and uncontroverted evidence. See: BRONWEN ENERGY TRADING CO.LTD v OAN OVERSEAS AGENCY (NIG) LTD (2022) LPELR-57307(SC) at page 31, paras. B-C; and OGUNYADE v OSHUNKEYE & ANOR (2007) LPELR-2355(SC) at pages 22 – 23, paras. B F. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ PARTY WHO ALLEGES NONCOMPLIANCE HAS THE LEGAL BURDEN
It is trite that a Petitioner who alleges non-compliance with Electoral Act has the legal burden to establish such non-compliance and show how the non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election. See: LADOJA v AJIMOBI (2016) LPELR-40658(SC) at page 29, paras. A E; and SHINKAFI V YARI (2016) LPELR-26050(SC) at pages 19 – 20, para. C. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ ONLY A PRACTICE WHICH IS CONTRARY TO THE ELECTORAL ACT CAN BE A GROUND TO QUESTION AN ELECTION
As I stated earlier, the electronic transmission of results of an election is not expressly stated anywhere in the Electoral Act, but was only introduced by the 1st Respondent in its Regulations and Guidelines, 2022 and in the INEC Manual for Election Officials, 2023. By Section 134(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 only an act or omission which is contrary to the Electoral Act, 2022 can be a ground for questioning an election. Thus, complaints relating to non-compliance with provisions of the Regulations and Guidelines or the Manual of Election Officials are not legally cognizable complaints for questioning an election. In interpreting Section 138(2) of the Electoral Act, 2010, which is similar to Section 134(2) of the extant Electoral Act, 2022, the Supreme Court held in NYESOM V PETERSIDE (supra), at page 66 67, paras. F-C, as follows: “The above provisions appear to be quite clear and unambiguous. While the Electoral Commission is duly conferred with powers to issue regulations, guidelines or manuals for the smooth conduct of elections, by Section 138(2) of the Act, so long as an act or omission regarding such regulations or guidelines is not contrary to the provisions of the Act itself, it shall not of itself be a ground for questioning the election.” See also: JEGEDE v INEC (2021) LPELR-55481(SC) at 25 – 26 at paras. A – D. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ 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.
⦿ GUIDING PRINCIPLES TO THE INTERPRETATION OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION
In FRN V NGANJIWA, which was cited by the Petitioners as SC/794/2019, but which is reported as FRN v NGANJIWA (2022) LPELR-58066(SC), the Supreme Court has succinctly reviewed decided cases on interpretation of the Constitution and outlined these guiding principles: (a) In interpreting the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, mere technical rules of interpretation of statutes should be avoided, so as not to defeat the principles of government enshrined therein. Hence a broader interpretation should be preferred, unless there is something in the text or in the rest of the Constitution to indicate that a narrower interpretation will best carry out the objects and purpose of the Constitution. (b) All Sections of the Constitution are to be construed together and not in isolation. (c) Where the words are clear and unambiguous, a literal interpretation will be applied, thus according the words their plain and grammatical meaning. (d) Where there is ambiguity in any Section, a holistic interpretation would be resorted to in order to arrive at the intention of its framers. (e) Since the draftsperson is not known to be extravagant with words or provisions, every section should be construed in such a manner as not to render other sections redundant or superfluous. (f) If the words are ambiguous, the law maker’s intention must be sought, first, in the Constitution itself, then in other legislation and contemporary circumstances and by resort to the mischief rule. ) The proper approach to the construction of the Constitution should be one of liberalism and it is improper to construe any of the provisions of the Constitution as to defeat the obvious ends which the Constitution was designed to achieve. See also on this: NAFIU RABIU v STATE (1980) 8 11 S.C. 130 at 148; A.G. BENDEL STATE v A.G. FEDERATION & ORS (1981) N.S.C.C. 314 at 372 – 373; BUHARI v OBASANJO (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1 at 281; SAVANNAH BANK LTD v AJILO (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 97) 305 at 326; and A.G., ABIA STATE v A.G. FEDERATION (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 275) 414 at 450, which were also referred to by the Apex. — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
⦿ PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH THE CONSTITUTION WAS MADE ARE TO GUIDE ITS INTERPRETATION
Thus, in the interpretation of the Constitution, the principles upon which the Constitution was established rather than the direct operation or literal meaning of the words used, measure the purpose and scope of its provisions. See: GLOBAL EXCELLENCE COMMUNICATIONS LTD v DONALD DUKE (2007) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1059) 22 at 41 – 41 (SC); (2007) LPELR-1323 (SC) at pages 18 19; A.G. OF BENDEL STATE v A.G. FEDERATION (1982) 3 NCLR 1;SARAKI v FRN (2016) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1500) 531; SKYE BANK PLC v IWU (2017) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1590) 124; SHELIM v GOBANG (2009) All FWLR (Pt. 496) 1866 at 1878 (SC). — H.S. Tsammani, JCA.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Haruna Simon Tsammani, JCA
⦿ FOR THE PETITIONERS
Dr. Livy Uzoukwu for the Petitioners.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
A.B. Mahmoud, SAN for the 1st Respondent;
Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN for the 2nd & 3rd Respondents;
Prince L.O. Fagbemi, SAN for the 4th Respondent.
➥ CASE FACT/HISTORY
On the 25th of February, 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the 1st Respondent herein, conducted the Presidential and National Assembly Elections in Nigeria. The 1st Petitioner, who was sponsored by the 2nd Petitioner as its Presidential candidate, as well as the 2nd and 3rd Respondents, who were sponsored by the 4th Respondent as its Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates, contested the Presidential election, along with other candidates. At the end of the election, the 1st Respondent returned the 2nd Respondent as the duly elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with 8,794,726 votes. The 1st Petitioner came third with 6,101,533 votes, behind Abubakar Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who came second with 6,984,520 votes.
Dissatisfied with the result of the election, the Petitioners filed this Petition on the 20th of March, 2023 challenging the outcome of the election on the following three grounds, which are stated in paragraph 20 of the Petition: (i) The 2nd Respondent was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election. The election of the 2nd Respondent was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022. (iii) The 2nd Respondent was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION(S)
[PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS: SUCCEEDED, IN PART]
I. WHETHER THE PARAGRAPHS WHICH FAILED TO STATE THE SPECIFIC POLLING UNITS, COLLATION CENTRES, OR THE SPECIFIC PLACES WHERE THE IRREGULARITIES AND MALPRACTICES ARE ALLEGED TO HAVE OCCURRED, OUGHT TO BE STRUCK OUT?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. Paragraphs 9, 60, 61, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 76, 77, 78, 83 and 99, are not specific and thus struck out.
[‘A look at the averments in the Petitioners’ petition shows that the Petitioners have only alleged various irregularities and malpractices but failed to specify the particular polling units or specific places where the alleged irregularities and malpractices have occurred. For instance, in paragraph 9 of the Petition where the Petitioner averred that “in appropriate cases these Agents raised complaints about anomalies where they occurred and reported such complaints to designated officers of the 2nd Petitioner and the 1st Respondent”, the Petitioners failed to specify the anomalies, the places where the anomalies occurred, the agents who complained, and the designated officers of the 2nd Petitioner and the 1st Respondent to whom the complaints were made. In paragraphs 60 and 61 of the Petition where the Petitioners alleged that the 1st Respondent “suppressed the actual scores obtained by the Petitioners by deliberately uploading blurred Form EC8As on the IReV in 18,088 (eighteen thousand and eighty eight) polling units, the Petitioners did not specify the polling units but only stated that they will rely on a Spread Sheet containing the polling unit codes and details of the 18,088 polling units, as well as the authentic results in the said polling units. In paragraphs 66 and 67 where the Petitioners alleged that the 1st Respondent embarked on “massive misrepresentation and manipulation by uploading fictitious results in polling units where there were no elections”, they did not specify the polling units where they alleged there were no elections, the incorrect results that were uploaded and which are the correct results. Again, in paragraphs 68 71 where the Petitioners alleged that the scores obtained by them were “unlawfully reduced and added by the 1st Respondent to the scores of the 2nd Respondent”, they failed to state their scores that were reduced and added to that of the 2nd Respondent by the 1st Respondent and the figures that shows that the Petitioners won the election. In paragraphs 72, 73, 76 78 where the Petitioners alleged over voting, they merely stated that they will “rely on the Forensic Reports of the election materials showing that the votes cast in the polling units in Ekiti State, Oyo State, Ondo State, Taraba State, Osun State, Kano State, Yobe State and Niger State exceeded the number of voters accredited on the BVAS in those States. The Petitioners failed to specify the polling units in those States where the over-voting occurred, the number of votes affected, – margin of lead which they claim and the voters who ought to legitimately vote in those polling units. And in paragraph 73, the Petitioners only stated that they will “show that in the computation and declaration of results of the election, based on the uploaded results, the votes recorded for the 2nd Respondent did not comply with the legitimate process of computation of the result and disfavoured the Petitioners…” in Rivers, Lagos, Taraba, Benue, Adamawa, Imo, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna and Plateau and other States of the Federation. The Petitioners neither specified the uploaded results nor the votes illegally recorded for the 2nd Respondents and how they were disfavoured. In paragraph 83 of the Petition where the Petitioners claimed that the 1st Petitioner scored the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election, they did not state the majority of the lawful votes they claimed to have scored, especially as elections and the determination of who won election is about figures. In paragraph 99 of the Petition where the Petitioners said they will rely on Form EC8As to establish that substantial votes were unlawfully credited to the 2nd Respondent, they failed to state the figures of the unlawful votes credited to the 2nd Respondent. In the Petition, the Petitioners merely made generic allegations of various irregularities and malpractices against the Respondents without specifying the polling units, collation centres or specific places where the alleged irregularities and malpractices occurred. Rather, the Petitioners only stated that they will rely on Spread Sheets, Inspection Reports and Forensic/Expert Analysis, which they said they have incorporated in the Petition. But none of the Spread Sheets, Inspection Report and Forensic/Experts Analysis was attached and served along with the Petition on the Respondents. Rather, they were only listed as items 35 and 36 in the list of documents to be relied upon by the Petitioners. It is only in paragraphs 62 and 64 of the Petition where the Petitioners alleged that the 1st Respondent suppressed the lawful votes of the Petitioners and inflated the votes of the 2nd and 4th Respondents in Rivers and Benue States, that the Petitioners gave figures of the votes suppressed for the Petitioners and those inflated for the 2nd and 4th Respondents and also stated what they claim to be the actual figures scored by them and by the 2nd and 4th Respondents. But all other paragraphs of the Petition where irregularities and malpractices were alleged are bereft of the material details of the polling units or places where they were alleged to have taken place, or the figures of votes alleged to have been suppressed, deflated or inflated.’
‘It is in the light of all the foregoing, that I find and hold that the motions of the Respondents listed above succeed. In consequence, paragraphs 9, 60, 61, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 76, 77, 78, 83 and 99 of the Petition which have failed to state the specific polling units, collation centres, or the specific places where the irregularities and malpractices are alleged to have occurred, or the figures of votes which are being claimed, are grossly vague, imprecise, nebulous and bereft of material particulars, and have thus failed to meet the requirements of Paragraph 4(1)(d) of the Electoral Act, 2022. In accordance with Paragraph 4(7) of the said Schedule, the said paragraphs are consequently hereby struck out.’]
II. WHETHER THE 1ST PETITIONER LACKS THE LOCUS STANDI TO INSTITUTE THIS PETITION FOR PETITIONERS NAME NOT BEING IN THE REGISTER OF THE 2ND PETITIONER SUBMITTED 30 DAYS BEFORE PRIMARIES?
RULING: IN PETITIONER’S FAVOUR.
A. THE ISSUE OF MEMBERSHIP IS AN INTERNAL AFFAIR OF A PARTY
[‘The courts have consistently held in a plethora of cases that the issue of membership of a political party is an internal affair of the political party. It is not justiciable and the courts have no jurisdiction to entertain same. See: ENANG v ASUQUO & ORS (2023) LPELR-60042(SC) at pages 29 35, paras. D-A; SANI v GALADIMA & ORS (2023) LPELR-60183(SC) at pages 32 33, paras. D A; and TUMBIDO v INEC & ORS (2023) LPELR 60004(SC) at pages 31 – 35, paras. D – C, as well as all the cases cited above by the Petitioners. The provision of Section 77(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which only mandates every political party to submit the register of its members 30 days before its party primaries cannot be invoked by the Respondents for the purpose of challenging the 1st Petitioner’s membership of the 2nd Petitioner. It is only the 2nd Petitioner that has the sole prerogative of determining who are its members, and having sponsored the 1st Petitioner as its candidate for the Presidential election, the 1st Petitioner has satisfied the requirement of being a member of the 2nd Petitioner as provided for in Section 131(c) of the 1999 Constitution. It is not within the rights of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents and the 4th Respondent to question the 1st Petitioner’s membership of the 2nd Petitioner. This ground of the objection is hereby overruled.’]
III. WHETHER THE PETITIONERS REPLY CONTAIN NEW FACTS/ISSUES WHICH OUGHT TO BE EXPUNGED?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. NEW FACTS HAVE BEEN INTRODUCED BY THE PETITIONER WHICH WILL PREJUDICE THE RESPONDENT
[‘A careful examination of the Petitioners’ Petition, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, as well as the 4th Respondent’s respective Replies, and the Replies which the Petitioners filed in response thereof, reveals that apart from rehashing what they have already averred in their petition and denying what the Respondents have stated in their respective Replies, the Petitioners also introduced new facts in their Replies to the Respondents’ Replies which were not contained in their Petition. This is in clear contravention of Paragraph 16(1)(a) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022. The law, as encapsulated in Paragraph 16(1)(a) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act quoted above, forbids new additions or amendments by a Petitioner which are not contained in their Petition because such new additions or amendments will prejudice the Respondents and breach the Respondents’ fundamental right to fair hearing guaranteed by Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, since the Respondents will have no opportunity to respond to those new additions or amendments. See also: PDP v ANOR v INEC & ORS (2019) LPELR-48101(CA) at pages 41-43, para C, per Adah, JCA; and MAKU & ANOR v AL-MAKURA & ORS (2015) LPELR-41814(CA) at pages 99 103, paras. D-C, per Agube, JCA.’
‘The said paragraph 21 of the Petitioners’ Reply to the 2nd and 3rd Respondents’ Reply is hereby struck out. Similarly, the Petitioners have introduced new facts in paragraphs 16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 27 of their Reply, some of which contain serious allegations to the 4th Respondent has no opportunity to respond. Being in contravention of Paragraph 16(1) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022, the said paragraphs are hereby struck out.’]
IV. WHETHER THE STATEMENTS ON OATH NOT FRONT LOADED WITH PETITION BUT FILED DURING TRIAL ARE INCOMPETENT?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. STATEMENTS ON OATH CANNOT BE FILED OUT OF TIME
[‘The firm position of the Supreme Court as stated in OKE V MIMIKO (supra), and followed by this Court in OGBA v VINCENT (supra), is that by the combined provisions of Section 285(5) of the 1999 Constitution, Section 132(7) of the Electoral Act, 2022 and Paragraphs 4(5) and (6) and 14(2) of the 1st Schedule to the Act, every written statement on oath of the witnesses which a party intends to call must be filed along with the petition within the time limited by Section 285(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Section 132(7) of the Electoral Act, 2022. Once the time limited for filing of a petition has elapsed, the contents of the Petition cannot be added to or amended in any manner or under any guise. Any written statement on oath of a witness filed outside that 21 days limitation will amount to a surreptitious amendment of the Petition and a breach of Paragraph 14 of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022. This is irrespective of whether the witnesses to be called are ordinary or expert witnesses and whether they are willing or subpoenaed witnesses. Since then, this has been the consistent position of the law followed by this Court.’
‘It is pertinent to observe that the above ten witnesses subpoenaed by the Petitioners were all witnesses who were available to the Petitioners at the time of filing the Petition. They are neither subpoenaed as adversaries nor subpoenaed as official witnesses. It is therefore beyond controversy that the witness statements on oath of those witnesses filed after the time limited for presentation of the Petition had elapsed, are incompetent and the said witnesses had no vires to testify in this Petition. Their testimonies as embodied in their respective witness statements on oath, being incompetent, are accordingly struck out.’]
I. Whether having regard to the provisions of Sections 137 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Section 35 of the Electoral Act, 2022 and the evidence before the Court, the 2nd and 3rd Respondents were qualified to contest the Presidential Election of 25th February, 2023?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. THE PETITIONER DOES NOT HAVE THE LOCUS STANDI TO CHALLENGE ‘DOUBLE NOMINATION’
[‘It is pertinent to observe that upon our careful perusal of Exhibits X2 and RA23, which are the certified true copies of the Supreme Court unanimous judgment in PDP v INEC & 3 ORS (supra), it is clear to us that the Apex Court had not only determined that the Petitioners in that case had no locus standi to question the nomination of the 3rd Respondent herein, the Court proceeded to determine with finality that there was no double nomination on the part of the 3rd Respondent. On the contention relating to the locus standi of the Petitioners to complain about the double nomination of the 3rd Respondent, the Apex Court, per His Lordship Jauro, JSC delivering the lead judgment in PDP v INEC & 3 ORS (supra), held at pages 30-31, paras. C-D, as follows: “The position of the law has always been that no political party can challenge the nomination of a candidate of another political party. The position did not change in section 285(14) (c) of the Constitution. No matter how pained or disgruntled a political party is with the way and manner another political party is conducting or has conducted its affairs concerning its nomination of candidates for any position, it must keep mum and remain an onlooker for he lacks locus standi to challenge such nomination in court. A political party equally lacks the locus standi to challenge the actions of INEC in relation to another political party. Section 285(14)(c) only allows a political party to challenge the decisions and activities of INEC disqualifying its own candidate from participating in an election, or to complain that the provisions of the Electoral Act or any other law have not been complied with in respect of the nomination of the party’s own candidates, time table for an election, registration of voters and other activities of INEC in respect of preparation for an election. A political party is only vested with locus to file a pre election matter when the aforesaid situations affect it or its own candidates. When the actions of INEC relate to the activities of a political party, no court has the jurisdiction to entertain a suit brought by another political party in that regard.”’
The above legal position as determined by the Apex Court in PDP v INEC (supra), clearly shows that the Petitioners in this case who belong to a different political party from the 2nd and 3rd and the 4th Respondents have no locus to complain about the nomination of the 3rd Respondent. Hence, they cannot use same to challenge the qualification of the 2nd and 3rd Respondents to contest the Presidential election.]
B. THERE WAS NO DOUBLE NOMINATION OF THE 3RD RESPONDENT
[‘On the Petitioners’ allegation of double nomination of the 3rd Respondent, the Supreme Court specifically held in PDP v INEC & 3 ORS (supra), that there was no such double nomination. In the concurring judgment of His Lordship Okoro, JSC, particularly at pages 46-47, paras. CD, the Apex Court held as follows: “It is crystal clear that by the two exhibits alluded to above, the 4th Respondent did the needful by resigning his position as Senatorial Candidate for Borno Central Senatorial District since 6th July, 2022 before being nominated by the 3rd Respondent to run alongside him as Vice Presidential Candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC). Section 31 of the Electoral Act, 2022 states clearly as follows: “A candidate may withdraw his candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered personally by the candidate to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the Commission not later than 90 days to the election.” The above provision of the Electoral Act, was duly complied with by the Respondents. It is my well considered opinion that as at the 6th of July, 2022, having withdrawn his nomination and personally served same on the 2nd Respondent of the withdrawal of nomination on 6th of July, 2022, and the subsequent replacement on the 14th of July, 2022, the 4th Respondent was no longer a candidate for the Borno Central Senatorial District Elections and his subsequent nomination as Vice-Presidential candidate of the 2nd Respondent for the Presidential election was not multiple nomination as there was no longer a nomination for the 4th Respondent since his withdrawal on the 6th of July, 2022.”’]
C. THE FORFEITURE AND FINE PLACED WAS CIVIL IN NATURE; AND IS AN ACTION IN REM TARGETING THE PROPERTY
[‘A careful perusal of Exhibit PA5 relied upon by the Petitioners shows that the Case No. 1:93-cv-04483 was in the Civil Docket of the US District Court, Northern District of Illinois and it was a civil forfeiture proceeding against Funds in specified Accounts with First Heritage Bank and Citibank N.A. Exhibit PA5 is actually an action in rem against the funds with First Heritage Bank and Citibank. It is not an action in personam against the 2nd Respondent. In JONATHAN v FRN (2019) 10 held inter alia, that Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud & Other Related Offences Act, 2006 provides for the power to make an order of forfeiture without conviction for an offence; and that an order of forfeiture under the section shall not be based on conviction for an offence under the Act or any other law. The Apex Court further held that there was no need to prove any crime in forfeiture of property under Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud & Other Related Offences Act as civil forfeiture is a unique remedy which rests on the legal fiction that the property, not the owner is the target therefore it does not require conviction or even a criminal charge against the owner as it is not a punishment nor is it for criminal purposes.’]
D. THE PETITIONERS FAILED TO SHOW THAT THE 2ND RESPONDENT WAS CHARGED AND TRIED FOR ANY PARTICULAR OFFENCE
[‘From the legal definitions and judicial authorities above, it is clear that the “sentence of imprisonment or fine for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud” envisaged in Section 137(1)(d) of the Constitution is one imposed upon a criminal trial and conviction. In the instant case, the Petitioners have failed to show evidence that the 2nd Respondent was indicted or charged, arraigned, tried and convicted and was sentenced to any term of imprisonment or fine for any particular offence.’
‘Under cross examination by the 4th Respondent, RW2 had stated that as a practising Attorney in the United States he knows that there cannot be a conviction unless there is an indictment. He also stated the Exhibits RA8 and RA9 gave the 2nd Respondent a clean bill of health as far as criminal conviction is concerned. When cross examined by the Petitioners’ Counsel, RW2 stated that the American Court relied on Section 981 of the American Money Laundering Law which is civil and not Section 982 which is criminal and which the Petitioners stated in their Petition. He further stated that in the US even a minor traffic infraction will be reported, so that if someone has a criminal record the general record will show it. He added that a general search was conducted in respect of the 2nd Respondent. A look at Exhibits RA8 and RA9 tendered by the 2nd and 3rd Respondents shows that upon receipt of Exhibits RA8 written by Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police to the Consular General of the US Embassy in Nigeria inquiring of the criminal record if any of the 2nd Respondent, the US Embassy had replied vide Exhibit RA9 and stated as follows: “In relation to your letter dated February 3, 2003, reference number SR.3000/IGPSEC/ABJ/VOL.24/287, regarding Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a record check of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Crime Information Center (NCIC) was conducted. The results of the checks were negative for any criminal arrest records, wants, or warrants for Bola Ahmed Tinubu (DOB 29 March 1952). For information of your department, NCIC is a centralized information center that maintains the records of every criminal arrest and conviction within the United States and its territories.”’
‘The Petitioners have evidently failed to establish their allegation that the 2nd Respondent is disqualified from contesting the presidential election under Section 137(1)(d) of the 1999 Constitution because he was fined the sum of $460,000.00 by US District Court, Northern District of Illinois. As shown above, the order of forfeiture in Exhibit PA5 on which the Petitioners have relied does not qualify as a sentence of fine for an offence involving dishonesty or fraud within the contemplation of Section 137(1)(d) of the 1999 Constitution. ’]
II. Whether having regard to the evidence adduced by the parties the Petitioners have established that there was substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and that the non-compliance substantially affected the results of the election?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. THE ISSUE OF ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION IS CAUGHT UP BY ISSUE ESTOPPEL AS IT HAS BEEN DECIDED BY A COURT (FEDERAL HIGH) PRIOR
[‘In Exhibit X1, the certified true copy of the judgment of the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022 (supra), which the 1st Respondent is contending should constitute estoppel to ground 2 of this Petition, the sole question presented for determination in the Originating Summons is as follows: “Whether having regards to combined effect of Sections 47(2), 50(2), 60(4), 60(5) and 62(1) (2) and other relevant provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, the Respondent can still insist on manual collation of results in the forthcoming general elections.” Upon determination of the above questions, the Plaintiff (which is the 2nd Petitioner herein) sought for the following reliefs: “1. A DECLARATION that the Respondent has no power to opt for manual method other than the electronic method provided for by the relevant provisions of Electoral Act. 2. AN ORDER of this Honourable Court directing/compelling the Respondent to comply with the Electoral Act, 2022 on electronic transmission of result in the forthcoming general election.” In its judgment in Exhibit X1, the Federal High Court held as follows: “In view of the foregoing, can the act of the Defendant in collating and transferring election results manually in the forthcoming 2023 general elections be said to be contrary to the relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022? The answer can only be in the negative as there is nowhere in the above cited sections where the Commission or any of its agents is mandated to only use an electronic means in collating or transferring of election result. If any, the Commission is only mandated to collate and transfer election results and number of accredited voters in a way or manner deemed by it. In view of the above, I am finding that by the provisions of Sections 50(2) and 60(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022, the correct interpretation of the said statute is that the Defendant (Independent National Electoral Commission) is at liberty to prescribe the manner in which election results could be transmitted and I so hold. Consequently, this matter is hereby dismissed.”’
‘From the averments contained in the Petitioners’ Petition which I have earlier reproduced above, it is clear that the Petitioners’ allegation of non-compliance averred in ground 2 of the Petition is hinged on the contention that INEC “was mandatorily required to electronically transmit or transfer the results of the polling units directly to the collation system of the 1st Respondent” and also “mandatorily required to use the BVAS to upload a scanned copy of the Form EC8A to the 1st Respondent’s Result Viewing Portal (iRev) in real time.” (See paragraph 37 and 45 of the Petition quoted above). First, it is evident that in both this Petition and in Exhibit X1, the parties are the same, in that 2nd Petitioner herein was the sole Plaintiff in Exhibit X1, while the 1st Respondent herein was the sole Defendant in Exhibit X1. Secondly, from the above referred averments in this Petition and the reliefs sought by the 2nd Petitioner in Exhibit X1, it is clear that the issue in both cases is whether the 1st Respondent herein is mandatorily required to electronically transmit or transfer election results from the polling unit direct to the collation system. With the judgment of the Federal High Court in Exhibit X1, the excerpt of which has been reproduced above, it is evident that the Federal High Court had decided the issue against the Petitioners herein, by holding that the 1st Respondent cannot be compelled to electronically transmit election results. There is no evidence before this Court that the 2nd Petitioner against whom the judgment in Exhibit X1 was given has appealed against that decision. It is settled law that unappealed decision of a court remains subsisting and binding upon the parties. See: ABBA v ABBA AJI (2022) LPELR-56592(SC) at page 61, paras. C – D; JEGEDE V INEC & ORS (2021) LPELR-55481(SC) at page 19, paras. C-D; and OLEKSANDR & ORS v LONESTAR DRILLING CO. LTD & ANOR (2015) LPELR-24614(SC) at page 39, paras. A C.’
‘Since the above judicial pronouncements have decided that under the Electoral Act and INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, the 1st Respondent cannot be compelled to electronically transmit election results, the Petitioners are clearly estopped by those decisions from contending in ground 2 of this Petition that the 1st Respondent is mandatorily required to electronically transmit the election results to the collation system.’]
B. THE ACT DOES NOT MANDATE THAT ELECTORAL RESULTS BE TRANSFERRED ELECTRONICALLY
[‘A careful examination of the above Sections relied upon by the Petitioners shows that the Electoral Act had used the words “deliver” in Section 62(1), “transfer” in Section 60(5) and “transmitted directly” in Sections 50(2), 64(4), (5) and (6), of the Electoral Act, 2022, in stating how results of elections should be handled under those provisions. A look at the definitions of those words in the Blacks’ Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition shows that the word “transfer” is defined at page 1497 as “to convey or remove from one place, person, etc., to another;” or to “pass or hand over from one to another”; or to “specifically to change over the possession or control.” The word “transmit” on the other hand is defined by the same Law Dictionary to mean “to send or transfer from one person or place to another or to communicate.” In my view, the Electoral Act, 2022 has used the words “deliver”, “transfer” and “transmitted directly” interchangeably to describe how the results of the election shall be moved from one stage to another until the results are finally collated and declared. In all these, the Electoral Act, 2022 has not specifically provided that the results of the election shall be electronically transmitted.’]
C. THE EVIDENCE OF THE PETITIONERS WITNESSES COULD NOT PROVE NON-COMPLIANCE
[‘Starting with the evidence of PW7, it is evident that she is a person who has an interest to serve in this Petition being a member of the 2nd Petitioner under whose platform she contested election for House of Representatives. Her interest in this Petition is further underscored by her admission that she has been attending Court and watching the proceedings prior to making her statement on oath and testifying as a witness. Her testimony therefore, was essentially a demonstration of her support and loyalty to the 2nd Petitioner. Her claim to being an employee of Amazon Web Services (AWS) is also suspect as she produced no credible evidence to that effect. Exhibit PCJ2 which is the paper she presented as evidence of her employment by AWS is obviously a worthless paper. It has no author, although she insisted that the author is “Employee Resource Center”. The paper was also not signed. Her evidence adds no value to the Petitioners case because she stated that her evidence relates to the health status of AWS in terms of infrastructure and not in terms of security. She had admitted that the “Expert Report” in Exhibit PCJ3A F which she brought to Court are actually documents publicly available on Amazon Website which she downloaded, and her only claim to its ownership is that she was the one who downloaded it and brought it to Court. She even admitted that she could not add or subtract anything from the Reports. Those Reports are obviously not her own. She also admitted that the health status of the 1st Respondent’s Application hosted on the AWS is not before Court. My conclusion on the totality of the evidence of this witness is that it is devoid of any probative value. As for PW8, he has demonstrated that he worked to an answer. Not only did he admit that he read the Petition and Reply of the 1st Respondent in the course of his commissioned work, he also stated that he read the Electoral Act and INEC Regulations and Manual for Election Officials. On the authority of LADOJA v AJIMOBI (supra), the evidence of this witness is also not of any probative value.’
‘Apart from the above, other witnesses of the Petitioners, especially PW4, PW9, PW10, PW12 and PW13 all stated that they voted and everything went well in their respective polling units. In particular, PW4, PW10 and PW13 all stated that their polling unit results were taken to collation centres. Therefore, even the evidence of the Petitioners’ witnesses show that the polling units results were physically taken to the Registration Areas/Ward Collation Centres. The Petitioners have led no evidence to establish the existence of any other collation centre to which the Presidential election results were to be electronically transmitted for collation.’]
III. Whether from the totality of the evidence adduced, the Petitioners have proven that the presidential election held on 25th February, 2023 was invalid by reason of corrupt practices?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. NO PROOF OF CORRUPT PRACTICES COULD BE TENDERED
[‘In this Petition, where the Petitioners have labelled several allegations against the 1st Respondent such as suppression of scores; unlawful reduction and inflation of results; uploading of fictitious results, misrepresentation and manipulation of results where no election took place; and wrong computation of results, it is evident from the above that the Petitioners have not led any credible evidence to substantiate those allegations. Of the 13 witnesses they called, only two are presiding officers who were present at their polling units. Hence the Petitioners have not been able to establish any of those malpractices which they alleged. The evidence of the witnesses which the Petitioners called as experts to try establish that the 1st Respondent is mandatorily required to transmit election results for purposes of collation or to link the delay in the upload of the Presidential Election results to IreV by the 1st Respondent to any of the malpractices which they alleged are devoid of any value. The Petitioners’ allegations have remained mere speculations LADOJA v AJIMOBI (2016) LPELR-40658(SC) at page 75, paras. B-D; and OKEREKE V UMAHI (2016) LPELR-40035(SC) at page 55, paras. B-C.’]
B. THE ALLEGATIONS ON OVER VOTING ARE NOT SPECIFIC BUT NEBULOUS
[‘In the earlier ruling of this Court, the Respondents’ various preliminary objections to the competence of the above averments of the Petitioners’ allegation of over-voting were upheld and the Court had struck out the said paragraphs for being vague, nebulous and imprecise, having failed to disclose the specific polling units in the States where the over-voting is alleged to have occurred, the number of votes affected, the alleged margin of lead, etc. Indeed, in that ruling, I had observed that the Forensic Report containing the details of the polling units and other information which the Petitioners said they have incorporated to the pleadings by reference, were not filed along with the Petition as to be part of the pleadings. See: BELGORE v AHMED (supra); and PDP v INEC & 3 ORS (supra).’]
C. THE PETITIONERS SOLELY RELY ON PW4 FOR PROVING CORRUPT PRACTICES AND OVER VOTING, SAME WHOSE WITNESS STATEMENT ON OATH WERE STRUCK OUT
[‘In proof of their above allegation of over-voting however, the Petitioners solely relied on the evidence of PW4, a subpoenaed expert witness, as well as the Forensic Report made by him which is contained in Exhibits PCD1, PCD2 and PCD3. PW4’s evidence was basically that from his investigation in Exhibits PCD1, PCD2 and PCD3, he discovered that there was over-voting in 4,457 polling units which affected 2,317,129 voters who had collected their PVCs. He stated that this also exceeds the margin of lead of 1,807,206 over the first runner-up. He also stated that from his analysis of Rivers State results, the 1st Respondent announced results which were inconsistent with those uploaded on the iRev portal. PW4 also stated that from the Form EC8As downloaded from the iRev portal, there is evidence of mutilations and alterations in favour of APC and against the Labour Party (LP). He stated that from the results on the iRev portal, LP got 208,564 votes, while APC got 118,999 votes in Rivers State, as against 175,071 votes for LP and 231,591 votes for APC. He concluded that when the unlawful figures are deducted, it will amount to 205,110 votes for LP and 84,108 votes for APC. In the ruling on objections to witnesses and documents made in the earlier part of this judgment, the witness statement on oath of PW4 was one of those struck out for offending Paragraph 4(5)(b) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022, same not having been filed along with the Petition. With the statement of PW4 struck out for being incompetent, Exhibits PCD1, PCD2 and PCD3, the Forensic Report tendered by him were also struck out for being inadmissible. As stated earlier, the oral evidence of PW4 contained in his Witness Statement on Oath and his Report in Exhibits PCD1, PCD2 and PCD3 are the only evidence adduced by the Petitioners to establish their allegation of over-voting. With the witness statement on oath of PW4 having been struck out for being incompetent and the Forensic Report in Exhibits PCD1, PCD2 and PCD3 also struck out for being inadmissible, there was no other evidence to substantiate the Petitioners’ allegation of over voting. The Petitioners have therefore failed to prove their allegation of over-voting. Issue 3 is also resolved against the Petitioners. Based on all the foregoing, it is evident that the Petitioners have failed to establish their allegations of corrupt practices and over-voting.’]
IV. Whether from the evidence adduced the Petitioners have established that the 2nd Respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. CITIZENS IN THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY DO NOT HAVE MORE VOTE WEIGHT
[‘For those who are not used to reading preambles, the Constitution still in its Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Chapter II of the Constitution, which this Court aptly described as the road to construction’ in FRN v DINGYADI (supra), repeats this equality principle. Under its Social Objectives provision of that Chapter in Section 17 thereof, it again proclaims that: “(1) The State Social order is founded on ideals of Freedom, Equality and Justice. (2) In furtherance of the social order – (a) Every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law;” Equality of rights in every citizen as stated in this provision cannot by any means be read to exclude equality of the weight and value of their votes. No, it includes it. Even more so, when the issue here is the right of every such citizen to elect with their votes their President whose policies are supposed to and will affect all of them equally regardless of which part of the country they reside or live. So even stopping here, the futility and hollowness in the argument of the Petitioners that the votes of the voters in the FCT, Abuja have more weight than other voters in the country, to the extent of their votes purportedly have a veto effect on other votes, is rendered bare. That notwithstanding, let us still proceed to consider, for whatever it is worth, their interpretation of Section 134(2)(b) of the same 1999 Constitution, which incidentally centres around the word and’ in that provision.’
‘The point being made here is that, contrary to the position of the Petitioners, by the express provisions of Section 299 above, the provisions of the entire Constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory as if it were one of the States of the Federation. This means that Section 134(2)(b) of the same Constitution, requiring a presidential candidate to poll at least one quarter of the votes cast in two-thirds of the States of the Federation in order to be returned elected, means nothing more than that the Federal Capital Territory shall be taken into account in calculating the said two-third of the States of the Federation. In other words, the FCT is no more than one of the States of the Federation for the purpose of that calculation. Nothing more than that can be implied or inferable from Section 134(2)(b) of the Constitution.’
‘It is also my considered view that if the framers had wanted to make scoring one-quarter of votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, a specific requirement for the return of a Presidential candidate, they would have made that intention plain by using words that clearly separate the scoring of one-quarter of votes in the Federal Capital Territory as a distinct requirement. As expressly stated in Section 299 of the Constitution, for the purposes of fulfilling the requirements of Section 134(2)(b) of the Constitution for the return of a Presidential candidate as duly elected, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is to be treated as one of the States in the calculation of two-third of the States of the Federation. Such that if the candidate polls 25% or one-quarter of the votes in two-thirds of 37 States of the Federation (FCT Abuja inclusive), the Presidential Candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected, even if he fails to secure 25% of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, as the 2nd Respondent did.’]
‘From the foregoing, it is clearly evident that the Petitioners have failed to discharge the burden of proof placed on them by law. They have failed to prove any of the three grounds contained in paragraph 20 of this Petition. They have not been able to lead any cogent, credible and acceptable evidence to rebut the legal presumption of correctness of the results of the Presidential Election held on 25th February, 2023, as declared by the 1st Respondent. Having resolved all four issues in this Petition against the Petitioners, this Petition is clearly unmeritorious.’
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (LEGISLATION)
✓ Section 285(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which limits the time for presentation of election petition, provides as follows: “An election petition shall be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the result of the elections.”
✓ Section 132(7) of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides as follows: “An election petition shall be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the result of the elections.”
✓ Paragraph 4 of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022 stipulates the contents of an election petition which shall be filed. In particular, Paragraph 4(5) of said Schedule mandates as follows: “(5) The election petition shall be accompanied by — (a) a list of the witnesses that the Petitioner intends to call in proof of the petition; (b) written statements on oath of the witnesses; and copies or list of every document to be relied on at the hearing of the petition.” (c) By subparagraph (6) of that paragraph, a petition which fails to comply with the above requirements shall not be accepted for filing by the Secretary.
✓ Paragraph 14(2) of the same 1st Schedule to the Act then provides as follows: “(2) After the expiration of the time limited by – (a) Section 132(7) of this Act for presentation of the election petition, no amendment shall be made – (i) introducing any of the requirements of paragraph 4(1) not contained in the original election petition filed, or (ii) effecting a substantial alteration of the ground for, or the prayer in, the election petition, or (iii) except anything which may be done under subparagraph (2)(a)(ii), effecting a substantial alteration of or addition to, the statements of facts relied on to support the ground for, or sustain the prayer in the election petition; and ) paragraph 12 for filing the reply, no amendment shall be made – (i) alleging that the claim of the seat or office by the petitioner is correct or false, or (ii) except anything which may be done under the provisions of subparagraph (2)(a)(ii), effecting any substantial alteration in or addition to the admissions or the denials contained in the original reply filed, or to the facts set out in the reply.”
✓ Section 134(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution.
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ PLEADINGS MUST BE SUFFICIENTLY SPECIFIC AND COMPREHENSIVE TO ELICIT NECESSARY ANSWER
✓ In BELGORE v AHMED (2013) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1355) 60 at 95 – 96, the complaint against the averments in the petition was that they were unspecific, generic, speculative, vague, unreferable, omnibus and general in terms. In that case the Apex Court specifically held as follows: “Pleadings in an action are the written statements of the parties wherein they set forth the summary of the material facts on which each relied in proof of his claim or his defence as the case may be and by means of which the real matters was (sic) controversy between the parties and to be adjudicated upon are clearly identified. Although only material facts are required to be pleaded and in a summary form, they must nevertheless be sufficiently specific and comprehensive to elicit the necessary answers from the opponent. See Ashiru Noibi v. Fikolati & Ors (1987) 3 SC 105 at 119, (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 52) 629 and Omorhirihi v. Enetevwere (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt. 73) 746. They must contain such details as to eliminate any element of surprise to the opposing party. In this case where the dispute involves the election in as many as 895 polling units, the pleading in the petition which alleged electoral malpractices, non-compliance and/or offences in “some polling units”, “many polling units”, “most polling units” or “several polling units” cannot be said to have met the requirements of pleadings as stipulated in paragraph 4(1)(d) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act and/or Order 13 Rules 4(1), 5 and 6(1) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009.”
✓ Also, in PDP v INEC & 3 ORS (2012) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1300) 538, the Apex Court, was also categorical when it held thus: “On whether the affected paragraphs were rightly struck out, I have read the affected paragraphs and found that they relate to allegations of non-voting in several polling points, disruption of election, non-conclusion of election, thumb-printing of ballot papers, falsification of election results, wide spread disruption, irregularities and malpractices without providing particulars or the polling units where the alleged malpractices took place. The lower court was therefore right when it held as follows: “The paragraphs above in my view are too generic, vague and lacking in any particulars as they are not tied specifically to any particular polling unit or any particular number of people who were alleged to be disenfranchised. The fact that a party can file further particulars or deny in a reply the averment in the pleading must not be general, it must be specific as to facts. It is settled law that a petitioner’s obligation to plead particulars of fraud or falsification without which the allegation is a non-starter.” I have nothing to add to this statement of law as advanced above, and I adopt it as mine.”
⦿ GENERAL TRAVERSE WILL BE THE APPOSITE WHERE PETITIONER/CLAIMANT PLEADINGS WHERE GENERAL IN NATURE ITSELF
per Ogunwumiju, JCA (as he then was, now JSC), held in UDEAGHA & ANOR v OMEGARA & ORS (2010) LPELR-3856(CA), as follows: “The argument of Appellants’ counsel that the Respondents did not adequately traverse the petition is unfounded. The petition itself contained general complaints. There was no effort to pinpoint in the pleadings the various places where corrupt practices, non voting, use of violence, thuggery, rigging in polling units, massive thumb-print of ballot papers, fictitious entry of election results took place. Therefore, there was a general corresponding reply denying the allegations in general terms from the Respondents. If the Petitioners did not plead particulars, how could the respondents traverse non-existent particulars? The averments in the Appellants’ pleadings should have contained details of the allegations and complaints to which the Respondents could reply in detail in their own pleadings. The Appellants expected the Respondents to reply to the various specific allegations contained in the witness statements filed along with the petition. That is not the correct procedure. Those specific allegations should have been in the pleadings. The pleadings must show the facts disputed while the witnesses would give evidence of these facts. In election petitions, it has been held that there is need for particulars where required in order to prevent taking adverse party by surprise. See Buhari v Obasanjo (2005) 7 SCNJ 1. It is not the function of particulars to take the place of necessary averments in pleadings. See Nwobodo v Onoh (1984) 1 SC 201…”
⦿ AMENDMENTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO ELECTION PETITION AFTER FILING PARTICULARLY WHEN THE 21 DAYS PERIOD HAVE ELAPSED; EXTENSION OF TIME ARE PROHIBITED TOO
In OKE & ANOR v MIMIKO & ORS (2013) LPELR 20645(SC), the Apex Court, per Ogunbiyi, JSC held that: ‘By Paragraph 4(1) and (5) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, a composite analysis of an election petition has been spelt out and also a list of materials which must be accompanied. The use of the word “shall” in the subsections is very instructive, mandatory and conclusive. In other words, the provisions do not allow for additions and hence, the procedure adopted by the appellants in seeking for an extension of time is nothing other than surreptitious attempt to amend the petition. This is obvious from the nature and substance of the application especially where one of the grounds seeks to put in facts which were allegedly not available at the time of filing the petition but only came into their possession after the statutory time limit allowed for the presentation of election petition. Expressly, there is no provision in the legislation which provides for extension of time. What is more, vide paragraph 14(2) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, the Appellants by Section 134(1) of the Electoral Act had been totally foreclosed from any amendment which was in fact the hidden agenda promoting the application. The saying is true that even the devil does not know a man’s intention; it can only be inferred from the act exhibiting that which is conceived in the heart and mind. The use of the word “shall” in paragraph 14(2)(a) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act is mandatory and places a complete bar on any form of amendment to a petition filed and does not also allow for an exercise of discretion whatsoever. See UGWU v ARARUME (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1048) 367 at 510 511 and BAMAIYI V A.G FEDERATION (2001) 12 NWLR (Pt. 727) 428 at 497. Further still and on a critical perusal of the application, relief 2 seeks “leave to call additional witness, to wit A.E.O”. It is pertinent to restate that at the close of pleadings parties had submitted the list of witnesses who were to testify together with their depositions. The idea, purpose and intention of the application is suggestive of nothing more but a clear confirmation seeking for an order of an amendment as rightly and ingeniously thought out by the trial tribunal and also affirmed by the lower court. This will certainly violate the provisions of Section 285(5) of the Constitution and Section 134 of the Electoral Act.’
In his concurring judgment in the same case, Ngwuta, JSC specifically stated that: ‘The additional or further witness depositions sought to be allowed for a just and fair determination of the petition are fresh facts as found by the tribunal and which finding was endorsed by the lower court. This Court will not interfere with a concurrent finding of fact of the two lower courts when the appellants have failed to show a special circumstance for this Court to do so. Election petitions are time-bound and the Court will not allow a party to resort to any sort of subterfuge to frustrate the intention of the Electoral Act that petitions be disposed of expeditiously.’
⦿ WHO IS AN INTERESTED PARTY IN A LITIGATION
✓ Nigerian Social Insurance Trust v. Klifco Nigeria Ltd (2010)LPELR 22 23 Paras CE as follows: ‘As regards the phrase “a person interested “I agree with the respondent that the phrase has been examined in the case of Evan v. Noble (1949) 1 KB 222 at 225 where a person not interested in the outcome of action has been described as, a person who has no temptation to depart from the truth one side or the other, a person not swayed by personal interest but completely detached, judicial, impartial, independent’. In other words, it contemplates that the person must be detached, independent, and non-partisan and really not interested which way in the context the case goes. Normally, a person who is performing an act in official capacity cannot be a person interested under Section 91(3). I think the phrase a person interested’ ever moreso has been quite definitively put in the case of Holton v. Holton (1946) 2 AER 534 at 535 to mean a person who has pecuniary or other material interest in the result of the proceeding a person whose interest is affected by the result of the proceedings, and, therefore would have no temptation to pervert the truth to serve his personal or private ends. It does not mean an interest in the sense of intellectual observation or an interest purely due to sympathy. It means an interest in the legal sense, which imports something to be gained or lost.’
✓ In C.P.C. v. Ombugadu (2013) ALL FWLR (Pt.706) 406 at 472 473 Para H B when considering and determining who is a person interested under Section 91(3) of the Evidence Act 2011 held thus: “By the provision of Section 91(3), Evidence Act, a person interested is a person who has a pecuniary or other material interest and is affected by the result of the proceedings and therefore would have a temptation to pervert the truth to serve his personal or private ends. It does not mean an interest purely due to sympathy. It means an interest in the legal sense which imports something be gained or lost”.
✓ In fact, in its most recent decision in OYETOLA & ANOR v INEC & ORS (2023) LPELR-60392(SC), the Supreme Court, per Agim, JSC restated this position in the following words: “The other evidence adduced by the Appellant to prove their case is the expert analysis report prepared by PW1, who by his own admission is a member of the 2nd Appellant and had been a Special Assistant to the 1st Appellant and was engaged by the Appellants to establish the invalidity of the disputed results in Form EC8A for the 744 polling units. He testified further that “I made the report as directed by the Petitioners” and that “I am part of those who wrote the Petition”. By his own testimony he established that he was no an independent expert as he had an interest in the subject of his analysis and carried out the analysis from the conclusion that the results were invalid, to justify to support the contemplated election petition. It was an analysis from an answer and not from a question. Such a report is not the product of an independent, impartial, detached and professional analysis. He is clearly a person with the disposition or temptation to depart from the truth… The listing of the expert analysis report in the Petition among the documents to be relied on to prove the petition show it was made in anticipation or contemplation to be filed. The report having been made by PW1 as a person interested in the subject matter of the report when the petition was anticipated to establish that the election result was invalid is not admissible evidence.
⦿ LEGAL PRACTITIONERS ARE TO KEEP ABREAST WITH THE PRONOUNCEMENTS OF THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court had re-emphasized the binding effect of its judgments on the lower courts in the case of ODEDO v PDP & ORS (2015) LPELR-24738(SC), where Kekere-Ekun, JSC stated at page 65, paras. B – E, as follows: “The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. By virtue of Section 235 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 its decisions are final. In other words, a decision of the Apex Court settles the position of the law in respect of a particular issue and becomes a binding precedent for all other courts of record in Nigeria. Legal practitioners have a responsibility to keep abreast of the pronouncements of the Court and advise their clients accordingly. It is wrong to ignore decisions of this Court and seek to perpetuate a position that has already been pronounced upon. This is one of the causes of congestion in our courts and must be discouraged.”
⦿ A TRIAL BY A COURT IS THE ONLY PERMITTED WAY TO PROVE GUILT – EXCLUSIVE TO THE COURT
ACTION CONGRESS v INEC (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1048) 220 at 259 – 260, as follows: “The disqualification in Section 137(1) clearly involves a deprivation of right and a presumption of guilt for embezzlement or fraud in derogation of the safeguards in Section 36(1) and (5) of the Constitution. The trial and conviction by a Court is the only constitutionally permitted way to prove guilt and therefore the only ground for the imposition of criminal punishment or penalty for the criminal offences of embezzlement or fraud. Clearly, imposition of the penalty of disqualification for embezzlement or fraud solely on the basis of an indictment for those offences by an Administrative Panel of Enquiry implies a presumption of guilt, contrary to Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999, whereas, conviction for offences and imposition of penalties and punishments are matters appertaining exclusively to judicial power.” See also on this: AMAECHI v INEC & ORS (2008) LPELR-446(SC) at pages 49-51, paras. E F; OMOWAIYE v A.G. OF EKITI STATE & ANOR (2010) LPELR-4779(CA) at pages 28 – 28, paras. A F, per Nweze, JCA (as he then was); and ABDULKARIM & ORS v SHINKAFI & ORS (2008) LPELR 3555(CA) at pages 24 32, paras. A C.
⦿ PRINCIPLES GUIDING THE INTERPRETATION OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION
In FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA v MUHAMMADU MAIGARI DINGYADI (2018) LPELR-4606 (CA), in the following way at page 33: “One main guiding post is that the principles upon which the Constitution was established rather than the direct operation or literal meaning of the words used measure the purpose and scope of its provisions: See Global Excellence Communications Ltd v. Donald Duke (2007) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1059) 22 @ 41-41 (SC); Attorney General of Bendel State v. Attorney General of the Federation (1982) 3 NCLR 1; Saraki v. F.R.N. (2016) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1500) 531; Skye Bank Plc v. Iwu (2017) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1590) 124. There is always a need for the fulfilment of the object and true intent of the Constitution. Therefore, the Constitution must always be construed in such a way that it protects what it sets out to protect and guide what it is meant to guide Adeleke v. Oyo State House of Assembly (2006) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1006) 608. In interpreting the Constitution of a nation, it is the duty of the Court to ensure the words of the Constitution preserve the intendment of the Constitution Okogie v. A.G. Lagos State (1989) 2 NCLR 337, Abaribe v. Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 466, Marwa v. Nyako (2012) LPELR-7837 (SC). Every Constitution has a life and moving spirit within it and it is this spirit that forms the raison de’ entre of the Constitution without which the Constitution will be a dead piece of document. The life and moving spirit of the Constitution of this country is captured in the Preamble. It has been held that when a Constitutional provision is interpreted, the cardinal rule is to look to the Preamble to the Constitution as guiding star, and the directive principles of State Policy as the book of interpretation’, and that while the Preamble embodies the hopes and aspirations of the people, the Directive Principles set out the proximate grounds in the governance of the country Thakur v. Union of India (2008) 6 SCC 1. In other words, in interpreting the wordings of section 212(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Court should be guided by principles upon which the Constitution was established rather than by the direct operation or literal meaning of the words used in the provision, and where the literal meaning of the words used are not in consonance with the guiding principles, literal interpretation must be jettisoned for another approach that accords with the guiding principles of the Constitution Abaribe v. Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly (supra) (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 466; Global Excellence Communications Ltd v. Donald Duke (2007) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1059) 22. The interpretation that would serve the interest of the Constitution and best carries out its objects and purpose must always be preferred – Kalu v. State (1988) 13 NWLR 531.”
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)