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Election Petitions: Need for litigants, judges to avoid technicalities



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By Ehichioya Ezomon

In Nigeria, losers hardly accept their defeat, and virtually every election contest ends at the election petitions tribunal.
To regain their alleged “stolen mandate,” petitioners attempt to exploit loopholes in the laws via technicalities, and not through the so-called rigged processes.
That’s why as fireworks are yet to begin at the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) against the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as winner of the February 25, 2023, Presidential Election – parties to the dispute are already preping for appeals to the Supreme Court.
The apex court is the last busstop in Nigeria for election matters; and the May 9 judgment on appeals from the 2022 governorship poll in Osun may serve as a template for the petitions at the PEPC.
That ruling has buoyed, and also dampened the petitioners and respondents’ optimism to get reprieve at the Supreme Court.
The court had weighed in on the centrality of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) in the transmission of election results. 
The five-member panel held that by the Electoral Act 2022, “Instant or on-the-spot transmission of the number of accredited voters in the BVAS to the backend server of INEC is not backed by law.”
Besides, the court affirmed that to prove over-voting in an election, you’ve to present the polling unit BVAS for physical evidence.
The judgment on the Osun poll has reinforced the “pre-eminence” of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter – from which no further appeal lies to question its decision.
Be it a “substantial justice” or a “miscarriage of justice,” parties that submit to arbitration of the Court must accept its final opinion.
This is exemplified by former Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, hours after the Supreme Court ruling stamped his loss of the July 2022 governorship in Osun. In a personal statement, Oyetola said:
“We strongly believe we presented a good case before the Supreme Court but the court thought otherwise and has given its verdict. While the outcome is against our wish and that of our party members and supporters, we are all bound to accept it as law-abiding citizens… To our members and supporters across the state, I urge you all to accept the verdict of the court and move on.”
The late Justice Chukwudifu Oputa stressed the “unquestioned decision” of the Supreme Court when he declared: “We are final not because we are infallible, rather we are infallible because we are final.”
The Oputa declaration rings ominously at the PEPC, especially in regard to some of the cases the Supreme Court has delivered since the return of democracy in 1999.
To critics, the court is viewed as overplaying its judicial activism, and at the same time relying heavily on strict interpretation of the law. Four examples will suffice:
In 2007, the Supreme Court declared Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as governor-elect of Rivers State even though he didn’t campaign for the position, nor vote at the poll.
The court held that votes belong to the party, and not the candidate. And that Amaechi, having won the PDP primaries, should inherit the votes scored by Celestine Omehia, who replaced him at the poll, and be returned as governor-elect.
In 2019, the Supreme Court invalidated APC’s primaries in Zamfara, and dismissed the party’s governor-elect, deputy governor-elect, and assembly members-elect, and yielded their seats to the defeated PDP candidates.
In Bayelsa in 2021, the Court, on alleged certificate forgery against the APC deputy governor-elect, sacked the governor-elect on the eve of his inauguration, and crowned the defeated PDP candidate as governor-elect.
In 2023, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who lost his presidential bid – and didn’t participate in the APC senatorial primaries for Yobe North in 2022 – clinched the ticket via a ruling of the Supreme Court.
The court held that Bashir Machina, winner of the primaries, ought to proceed with a “writ of summons,” and not an “originating summons,” as his fraud allegation against the APC needed to be corroborated by sworn witnesses.
Still, the Supreme Court has had cause to warn against over-reliance on technicalities to shut out litigants from being heard on the merit of their cases.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), in a piece on “The evils of technical justice” (SaharaReporters of February 2, 2021), referenced the case of Boniface Ebere Okezie & 3 Ors. v. Central Bank of Nigeria & 5 Ors. (2020) 15 NWLR (Pt.1747) 181 – that trasversed the judicial road for 11 years (2009-2020).
The Plaintiffs filed an originating summons, setting out their claims in “declarations, injunctive reliefs and damages,” without questions for determination. The defendants objected to the writ as meritless, and the court lacking the jurisdiction to hear the case.
Both the High Court and Appeal Court sustained the preliminary objection by the defendants, but the Supreme Court reversed their decisions, and “took out time to define the role of the judiciary, in very clear terms,” thus:
“The paramount duty of courts is to do substantial justice and not cling to technicalities that will defeat the ends of justice. It is more in the interest of justice that parties are afforded reasonable opportunity for their rights to be investigated and determined on merit rather than that parties be shut out prematurely from being heard on the grounds of non-substantial compliance with rules of court.
“It is immaterial that there are technicalities arising from statutory provisions, or technicalities inherent in rules of court. So long as the law or rule has been substantially complied with and the object of the provisions of the statute or rule is not defeated, and failure to comply fully has not occasioned a miscarriage of justice, the proceedings will not be nullified.”
But in the earlier cited cases, the Supreme Court side-tracked substance, and relied on technicalities to deny the poll winners, and allow the losers to reap “where they did not sow.”
Hence, the anxiety in the APC and President-elect Tinubu’s camp, as the petitions at the PEPC have the coloration of cases decided by the Supreme Court in recent times.
As allegations of election fraud are difficult to prove “beyond all reasonable doubts,” petitioners at the PEPC have placed heavy weather on technicalities, rather than the substance of the votes cast at the February 25 poll.
Thus, the petitioners make light of the charge of rigging, and zero in on “soft targets” to disqualify the President-elect, or cancel or annull the poll. The petitioners’ claims:
1) That Tinubu’s forged birth, education and job records, swears on oath, and commits perjury.
2) Convicted for narcotics and money laundering, he forfeited $460,000 to the U.S. government.
3) He’s dual citizenship: Nigeria and Guinea, in breach of provisions of the 1999 Constitution. 
4) Shettima was nominated for two elective positions in the 2023 poll cycle, in violation of provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
5) INEC violated the Act, and its own regulations and guidelines by failing to transmit the presidential results via the BVAS onto the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) portal.
On March 1, INEC declared that Tinubu of the APC won the poll with 8,794,726 votes, while Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of Labour Party scored 6,984,520 votes and 6,101,533 votes, as first and second runners-up.
Five of 17 defeated candidates and their parties had filed petitions at the PEPC, to upturn the INEC declaration, but two petitions had been withdrawn, and dismissed.
Atiku and Obi claim to win the election, pray the court to return them elected, or cancel (or annull) the poll, and conduct a fresh one between Tinubu and Atiku, as top scorers; or between Atiku and Obi if Tinubu’s disqualified, as Obi canvasses. 
Atiku and Obi argue that the allegations against Tinubu, and rigging of the poll by the APC have unqualified Tinubu for President, and the votes cast for him are wasted, and his declaration as President-elect null and void.
Yet, many in the opposition have expressed worries that the pre-hearings at the PEPC are coming midway into the 180 days allotted for disposal of petitions.
But to uphold the dictum of justice delayed is justice denied, the PEPC has advised counsel to, “avoid unnecessary technicalities.”
Chairman of the five-member panel, Justice Haruna Tsammani, said: “Election is time bound, let us not waste unnecessary time, let us cooperate with each other so that everyone will leave here satisfied.”
“We are determined to look at all the matters brought before us. Let us look at what is good for our country and avoid time-wasting applications.”
The tribunal’s advice is timely in that election is sui generis (of its own kind, in a class by itself, or unique) from ordinary legal issues. 
Lawyers take undue advantage of the unusualness of poll matters to file “frivolous applications” – based on technicalities – in attempts to sway or slow down proceedings.
For now, the PEPC, and Supreme Court are under the spotlight, to deliver substantial justice, and not “technical justice” that erodes the substance of matters before them!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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Tinubu’s Cabinet Of Controversy




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By Zainab Suleiman Okino

In all ramifications, it appears the euphoria and excitement that greeted President Bola Tinubu’s assumption of office are gradually ebbing away. Quite expectedly, having started with the tough decisions of fuel subsidy removal and floating of the forex, the President now needs to do more and urgently too.

Both policies have since worsened the woes of the Naira and Nigerians. From accusation of being surrounded by “Lagos boys”, (his cabinet as Lagos State Governor between 1999 to 2003), to policy somersaults to somehow nepotistic appointments (and vengeful dismissal of some CEOs), questions are being asked about Tinubu’s pro-people and pan-Nigerian credentials.

He started with politically correct appointments. The geographical spread of his service chiefs was received positively. His swift policy statements, though criticized, were timely, compared with the sordid silence of his predecessor.

The misnomer became apparent during ministerial nominations flip-flopping into high-wire politics that led to a ministerial nominee in person of former Governor Nasir El-Rufai being dropped at the last minute over a so-called security report after screening. We also witnessed how a nominee from Kano State, Maryam Shetty was refused screening by the senators after she was already seated at the National Assembly lobby, which showed clearly a scene from the playbook of Ganduje’s dirty politics under Tinubu’s government.

Two former governors were appointed to man the Ministry of Defence; former Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State, was downgraded to serve as a junior minister under his colleague, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, former governor of Jigawa state. Looks so incongruous. Some MDAs were “reorganized”, and we expected a more compact arrangement. But what did we get? Some ministries were boosted and some downgraded. To which end, except to favour some ministers and appoint others to less juicy or relegated ministries, just to satisfy constitutional provision. Tokenism? Maybe.

The result was a boosted aviation sector renamed Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development under the supervision of an equally controversial figure, Festus Keyamo, while the Ministry of Transportation was debased and can safely be called ministry of railway, after the removal of everything maritime like NIMASA, NPA, Shippers’ Council etc now under the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.

Indeed, inconsistency in pronouncements came too early in this administration. Tinubu made history when he reshuffled a cabinet that was yet to be inaugurated. Engineer Abubakar Momoh was redeployed from Ministry of Youth to Ministry of Niger Delta that the president hitherto ignored.

Imagine the embarrassment that followed the declaration by the UAE government, that they are yet to resolve and reverse their visa ban on Nigerians, after the President’s spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale went to town to announce same. Propaganda should have limits. Why the hurry? To impress who? The disinformation has since taken the shine off the president’s diplomatic engagement with his UAE counterpart. So, after the UAE denunciation, where exactly are we now?

Tinubu does not seem bothered about over-bloated personnel costs or reducing the cost of governance. For the first time, Nigeria now has almost 50 ministers under its low per capital income of 5,200 PPP dollars in 2021 compared to USA’s 25 ministers and per capita income of 70,480 PPP dollars as at 2021.

Consequently, Nigerians have resigned to fate that they may never have pro-people government in their lifetime, since most of the policy initiatives of the new government favour only the rich, the haves, high-end businesses and high class of people and interests. It is obvious that the president must have made many commitments to friends and associates, who in his own estimation must be fixed, regardless of an ailing economy like ours.

Still smarting from all these came the issue of lopsided appointments, which we thought we had seen the last of after Buhari. The protests over Tinubu’s skewed appointments started from “home”, when a group from the Southwest accused him of appointing only people from Lagos contrary to the notion that Yorubas had an edge in his government.

Last weekend, evidence of such slanted appointments went viral. Critics reeled out at least 20 consequential appointments from the Southwest including MDAs like Justice, Finance, Customs, Police, FIRS, Immigration, NIMC, CBN, Power, Digital Economy, COAS, Maritime, Interior and Communications in the president’s kitchen cabinet. Muslim groups like MURIC have also cried out complaining that Christians hold key economic positions. The cry of marginalization has always been part of governance and politics in our clime, and Tinubu is not in a hurry to end it.

In addition to his hard-to-swallow economic direction, Tinubu’s choice of appointees is somehow causing concerns among the elite too. Without a semblance of inclusion and symbolism, the people feel let down by a president they thought was going to be pan-Nigerian, gradually becoming provincial, in deeds, even though appointments only enrich the beneficiaries while the conditions of ordinary people remain unchanged.

I believe competence and capacity should be uppermost in considering people for appointments, but I also know that all regions or ethnic groups harbour such competent people among them. Going forward, the president should be more circumspect, and look elsewhere instead of his “household” in a delicate balancing act that Nigeria needs, and which will surely give him (Tinubu) more support and goodwill. No matter how inconsequential he thinks these issues are, they have already got tongues wagging. As a minority myself, I can’t help but notice this potentially damaging and divisive subject in our polity.

Already an internal revolt is brewing in APC over Tinubu’s style of leadership and appointments. In what a group called “yorubanization of the current APC government”, the “APC members in Coalition for a United Nigeria (CUN)”, said “86% of the critical appointments made so far have been people from your (Tinubu) geopolitical zone, the Southwest.

Moreso, to our greater bewilderment is the fact that 90% of these people are your “Lagos boys”, imploring the president to “drastically balance this prejudice by giving attention to other regions outside the Southwest”. If members of the party are disappointed in their government, what do you expect from the rest of the country?

Okino, is the chairperson of Blueprint Editorial Board, a fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE), her syndicated column appears on News Point Nigeria newspaper on Thursdays. She can be reached via:

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Essentials of institutional effectiveness, transparency and accountability as panacea for good governance




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Why would I think I can PROFFER A CURE FOR the ailing systems in the governance of our great nation? At least a good man can try, I have for over period of time now perused the thought —consistently- of the possibility of good governance, at least good governance, not great or excellent governance- even though that is easily achievable using the same principles for good governance- but at least we would do well to appreciate good governance in our good homeland of Nigeria, before I go on ranting about my thoughts, my people let me be quick to return to the subject of our discuss; “the essentials of institutional effectiveness, transparency and accountability as a panacea for good governance”.

Let take a deep breadth as we explore this topic, the irony of the truth is that The Panacea for good government is good governance, there is no hard and fast route about it, here we have a few of its components in institutional effectiveness, transparency and accountability, Good governance is like the proverbial good deed you give it and it comes right back at you, what is governance? Governance is simply the manner or style of government practiced in a particular location; in this case (our case) it is democratic government, which is a government of the people for the people by the people so good governance would be a complete cycle of the being a government elected by the people and then the delivery of the goods of its governance for the people (who duly elected the ones in governance), which would have to take us back to an even more important question for good governance to be anticipated, are the people in government democratically elected?

This question alone helps us to see that institutional effectiveness is first of all key in attaining good governance, as the question poised above is in reference to institution the Electoral Body, in our case INEC.

So what are the essentials of effectiveness for institutions to live up to expectation?

  1. Key and Competent Personnel: – not just getting the competent people but getting the right people for the right places.
  2. Policy Guided operations according to the institutions’ founding principles.
  3. Ethical interpretation of Law and legal processes
  4. Ethical Operations, Management and of all activities
  5. Optimization of standards with International acceptable modus operandi
    In addition to the above with the afore mentioned virtues of Accountability and transparency, good governance is left from aspirations to affirmative reality; Accountability is the act of being held responsible for your actions this helps to hold good governance players responsible for their actions in tandem with institutions, which is why the first factor is very important, and finally being transparent, being frank, firm and open, saying exactly what one means and meaning what one says, this when institutions and people in them say what they mean and mean what they say, not with hidden motives or agenda.

When all the factors described above are bundled to form a complete system of governance; good governance is sure to thrive.

Finally in addition to all these my personal opinion rests upon the afore discussed as already known factors and processes needed for good governance, especially by the Nigerian institutions and people in governance, as we have notable institutions, what i think is that the Nigerian institutions and people in governance should ‘Take Action’ in doing the right thing!

All Nigerian institutions, people in government have knowledge of all this factors, or at least moral inclination to do the right thing, but what we lack is the actual DOING, and if we as Nigerians, can cultivate the habit of DOING; then all our ideas, ideologies institutional effectiveness, transparency and accountability as well as every other factors that contribute to good governance would then become a conscious cultural norm of the Nigerian people which will necessitate the birth and practice of good governance in our nation.


Peter Ameh

-2019 Presidential Candidate

  • Former National Chairman Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC)
    -National Secretary CUPP
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Tinubu cannot remove a CBN governor without 2/3rd senate majority




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By Frank Tietie

The recently announced removal of the embattled Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emiefele and the Deputy Governors of the Bank by the fiat of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not in compliance with the provisions of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007. Therefore, it is illegal!

Whereas Section 11 of the CBN Act provides for several grounds for the removal of the CBN Governor or Deputy Governors, whenever such removal is based on the decision of the President, as in this reported case of Emiefele and his deputies, it can only have effect where the President has first sought and obtained the approval of a two-thirds Senate majority.

Clearly, there is no evidence that the President indeed sought and obtained the required two-thirds majority of the Nigerian Senate before announcing the formal removal of Governor Emiefele with his deputies and the appointment of a new Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Consequently, the president is in error, and all his recent actions in removal and appointment of a Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria can be set aside by the courts.

According to the Court Appeal in the case of Olotu v. President of Federal Republic of Nigeria & ors, it held that:
It is a trite point of law that when a statute dictates a certain mode of doing something, then that method and no other must be employed in the performance of that act. Put differently, where a legislation lays down a procedure for a thing, there should be no other method of doing it

Nigeria operates a Presidential-Federalist system of government with a high concentration of political and executive powers in the person of the President. Therefore, this infraction of the CBN Act by the President on the removal of the CBN Governor may pass without any censure of the National Assembly or review by the Judiciary. But it is such disregard for plain provisions of the law by the President who is supposed to set the example of legal compliance, that creates the usual incipient negative impact on constitutional democracy which rests on the rule of law.

Therefore whenever an administration starts glossing over express provisions of the law that serve to guarantee order, peace, good governance and economic prosperity of Nigeria, the culture of disregard for court order and widespread violation of human rights begins to cascade down the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government together with all the other strata of government across the states and local governments. This has been the bane of Nigeria’s stable development in all spheres and the recipe for corrupt abuse of political power and violation of human rights. That’s why military junta often truncated national democracies. May that be far from us!

The Nigerian state spends huge financial and human resources to maintain its democratic structures. Therefore, the National Assembly and its leadership must stand up at all times to live up to their responsibilities in upholding the principles of democracy and separation of powers to avoid tyrannical acts of the executive by requiring strict compliance to every law that mandates its approval on such matters the President is required to apply for.

Therefore, when the National Assembly indeed discharges its roles in the political equation of checks and balances with the President and the Judiciary, there will be less of interventions by self styled but well-meaning activists and civil society organisations who are often referred to as busybodies but are determined to seek judicial review of executive actions to ensure the rule of law and a stable Nigerian society.

Frank Tietie,
Lawyer, Social Commentator & Executive Director of Citizens Advocacy for Social & Economic Rights (CASER), writes from Abuja, Nigria

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