Common knowledge of jurisprudence suggests that one of the hallmarks of a just and properly-functioning legal system is the certainty and predictability of laws. In other words, the settled position of the law, applied to certain similar or related facts, must necessarily be seen to be consistent and in tandem with previously decided cases. This is the origin of the famed concept of stare decisis et non quietamovere- to stand by things decided, and not to disturb settled points.
Curiously, recent decisions of the courts, and particularly the Court of Appeal, in election petitions have revealed an alarming lack of consistency (even in the face of similar facts and applicable legal principles), a barefaced contempt of the binding decisions of the Supreme Court on settled issues and law and a general breakdown of all known and acceptable benchmarks of certainty and predictability.
Nowhere has this inconsistency been as overt as the case of election petitions concerning, Benue, Taraba, and Rivers State- where the Court of Appeal has demonstrated an unnerving disdain for established legal principles which have been affirmed in an inexhaustible number of decisions of the Supreme Court.
Some of these contradictions and outright departure from the law are highlighted as follows: The decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal on : (a) the status of the Voters’ Register in proving allegations of over-voting vis-à-vis the Card Reader Machine; and (b)The effect of dumping documents on a Tribunal. On Friday 15th January, the Supreme Court ruled that selection of candidates for election is the exclusive preserve of a political party. This same matter however was the reason the Elections Petition Tribunal In Taraba state nullified the election of Darius Ishaku as state governor which was upturned by the Appeal court.
On 11th December, 2015, the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division in POLYCARP DANLADI G. v. NASIR AHMED EL-RUFAI CA/K/EPT/GOV/15/2015 at pages 35- stated thus: “Against the backdrop of the foregoing salient provisions of paragraph 25 of the Guidelines For Election Officers, 2015, it is obvious, contrary to the postulation of the Appellant, that the voting Register still remains to be a veritable and indispensable documentary evidence of (i) the total number of registered voters; and (ii) the total number of accredited voters. Thus, it behoves the presiding officer to compare the number of votes verified by the Card Reader with the number (of number of votes verified by the Card Reader with the number (of accredited voters) checked in the register of voters. And that it is only after making such a comparison between the Card Reader and the Voters Register, that the presiding officer should proceed to-“enter the figures (of the votes cast) into the appropriate Forms EC8A/EC8A (VP) Series.”
In the instant case, the Appellants futile attempt to highlight the distinction in incidence of over voting vis-à-vis the 2007, 2011 and 2015 Election Guidelines (Manuals) issued by the 3rd Respondent, without the Voters Register, is to say the least misconceived.”, the court ruled.
Surprisingly, against the grain of the direct decision of the Supreme Court in MAHMUD ALIYU SHINKAFI & 1 OR v. ADULAZEEZ ABUBAKAR YARI & 2 ORS; SC.907/2015 delivered on 8th January 2016, pages 29-33, EL-RUFAI’s case, and a host of other cases, the same Court of Appeal (Abuja Division) in WIKE EZENWO NYESOM & 1 OR v. HON. (DR.) DAKUKU ADOL PETERSIDE & 3 ORS (supra) at page 68 completely discountenanced the failure of the Petitioners to tender and demonstrate, through the Voters’ Register, how the votes ascribed to the winner of the election were false, and instead proceeded to rely completely on Card Reader Reports (which were merely dumped on the Tribunal) by holding that: “I am of the view that the documents identified under this issue and tagged documentary hearsay are admissible and could be tendered from the Bar they being public documents.
In view of the forgoing, some issues need answers from our learned judges and they include: Is Rivers State the “guinea pig” for an experiment in changing well-settled doctrines and principles of law on how malpractices and irregularities are to be proved?, has the position of the law settled by the Supreme Court in CHIME v. EZEA (supra) and UCHA v. ELECHI (supra) respectively, on the need to prove allegations of malpractices and irregularities on a “polling unit by polling unit basis” now been amended to require only proof at the Local Government or State level?; NOTE: The Petitioners called only THREE registered Voters in proof of their Petition in a Constituency of 4442 polling units.
Furthermore, will the Supreme Court shut its eyes to the surreptitious attempt by the Court of Appeal to carve out a new (and markedly distinct) body of laws for election petitions, despite the myriad of pronouncements by the Supreme Court of those issues?; and, what manner of election petition jurisprudence is being developed, in view of the prevalent confusion in law presently? Perhaps the soon expected ruling of the Supreme Court on this matter will put these issues to rest.


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