When I read this post yesterday; I was astounded. I have since given up on the Supreme Court and indeed on Nigeria as a whole and if you notice, have long stopped commenting on anything Nigeria, but I just couldn’t resist coming back to add a word or two because as you know, I almost always agree with you 100% because you are a Master of this game of litigation and I have learnt so much from you in the past and regularly call you when I am faced with knotty legal issues to tap from your deep well of knowledge BUT this time,
I totally disagree with you. There are probably a dozen grounds on which I could fault the Supreme Court decision but I will just limit myself to one or two as I am not really in the mood to stress myself over Nigerian wahala because it’s really to no effect. First of all, we both know there are immutable established principles governing Electoral jurisprudence which the Supreme Court has pronounced on time and again but chose to trample on in this case. One of the key ones is that to validate the outcome of an election in a Polling Unit (PU), there must be at least one witness from that PU to testify.
Another immutable principle is that the onus of proof always lies on the Petitioner and until he has discharged it, the Respondent need not prove anything. My understanding is that INEC rejected the results in the 388 PUs because elections did not hold there at all and that Uzodinma printed and wrote fake/fictitious results which he attempted to submit but INEC rejected them.
The results were never certified because they were never in INEC’s custody ab initio. Is the burden of proving that elections held in the first place not on Uzodinma who was Petitioner???? That should be his first task. All 388 results were tendered by one Police Officer who was never at any of the Polling Units or Ward Collation Centers.
Uzodinma did not call even his own Party Agents to testify. The law of course is that neither INEC or any of its officers has the powers to cancel any results which emerge from PUs as only the tribunal can do so, but this was not a case of canceling results of an election; no election held in the first place and there were no results.
To give an example, if there are 1000 registered voters in a PU and total votes cast are 1100 this is obviously over-voting and nullifies that result but once the PU Presiding Officer has entered that result and announced it, the Ward/LGA Collation Officers cannot reject or cancel it and indeed INEC itself cannot as that becomes an issue for the Tribunal to resolve.
In such case, elections actually held, results emerged and were announced but the outcome is being questioned; in the Uzodinma case, the issue is that no elections held; the results sheets were not even genuine ones snatched and written; rather, they were just printed by the man himself as alleged. Is it not Uzodinma’s duty to lead evidence that elections held in those PUs but his results were unlawfully excluded?? Could he have led evidence of lawful forms EC8As from 388 PUs through one Policeman??? Is the Supreme Court saying that if I am running an election tomorrow;
that I can go and print my own result sheets, enter 99% of the available votes for myself in the result sheets I printed; use thugs to cause mayhem in the PUs and ensure voting does not hold, then submit the results I wrote to INEC who must accept and collate them?? Further, that I do not have the onus to prove that the results I am relying on which INEC insists is not from them is the outcome of a Lawful process?? Furthermore that one Policeman is sufficient to prove lawful electoral process and lawful results from 388 PUs???? Do you guys appreciate the PRECEDENCE that has now been laid by the Supreme Court which has uprooted hundreds of their previous decisions???? All Courts and Tribunals in Nigeria are now bound by this tsunami of a ridiculous decision.
Secondly, I do not understand what you mean by “Cross-Petition”; which Section of the Electoral Act or paragraph of the First Schedule provides for it?? Apart from the provision that a Respondent in his Reply can challenge some of the votes being relied on by the Petitioner (Which Ihedioha did by challenging the legality of the results from the 388 PUs), I would like to be educated on what you mean by Cross-Petition. How will it work in practice?? A Cross-Petition would be like a Cross-Appeal and if so all the requirements applicable to a Petition will also apply to it.
Will the Cross-Petition challenge some part of the results of the election or what???? Since a Petition must be filed within 21 days of the announcement of the result (which cannot be extended) and we know that most Petitions are filed on the 19th, 20th and 21st days, particularly, Guber Petitions which cover a wide area and thus require more work and time to settle and given also that parties are served days/weeks later after the 21 days has already expired with need for application for and grant of substituted service in many cases, how exactly does a cross-petition work?? Your post is not helpful at all in my humble view because it deflects attention from what is a horrible travesty of Justice by a hamstrung Supreme Court. The Chicken of Onnoghen’s unlawful ouster is coming home to roost A comment by Nnamdi Ahaaiwe.