How the Supreme Court’s decision in Oyetola v. Adeleke will affect instances involving election petitions

The Osun State Governorship tussle was finally brought to an end on 9 May 2023 when the Supreme Court delivered its judgment and declared that Governor Adeleke was duly elected. Continue Reading>>>

The APC governorship candidate had filed a petition against the declaration by INEC of Governor Nurudeen Adeleke as the winner of the Osun State governorship election. One of the grounds for his petition was that there was overvoting in favor of Governor Adekeke and therefore the election was not conducted in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.

The Election Petition Tribunal that heard the petition found in favor of the APC candidate, Gboyega Oyetola, and APC nullified the election and declared Gboyega Oyetola, the winner. Continue Reading>>>

On appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment of the Tribunal holding that the APC candidate was unable to establish that there was overvoting.

The Court of Appeal held that to establish voting the Petitioner cannot rely on the INEC Result Viewing Portal or information on the INEC Server or database.

The Court of Appeal further held that to establish voting the petitioner must tender the report of BVAS, the voters register, and Form EC8A and these are the only admissible evidence that the petitioner requires.

On further appeal to the Supreme Court, the SC agreed with the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court judgment cleared so many grey areas concerning the 2022 Electoral Act which was raised in the case concerning the use of BVAS technology in election management in the country.

The Supreme Court held that when a petitioner raises the issue of overvoting as a ground to seek nullification of an election result it is incumbent on such petitioner to prove by tendering the report of the BVAS alongside the voters register and form EC8A (polling unit result sheet).

Another important area that the judgment impacted is the issue of the mode of transmission of the election results. Is it in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit election results, electronically or otherwise?

The Supreme Court was invited to resolve this issue which had become a knotty one since the 2022 Electoral Act came into force.

A school of thought has vociferously held that the transmission of results from polling units to INEC back server using BVAS technology is mandatory.

The Supreme Court held that no law requires presiding officers to transmit by BVAS the number of accredited voters or accreditation of the polls to the database or backend server of INEC as claimed by the APC and its governorship candidate.

The Honourable Justice Emmanuel Akomaye Agim who read the lead judgment concluded thus:

“Therefore, the case of the appellants that the presiding officers were bound to instantly or on-the-spot transmit the number of accredited voters in the BVAS to the backend server or database of INEC has no support”.

The precedent laid down by the Supreme Court in the Osun State Governorship case will likely impact all the election petition cases pending before the Governorship, National, and State Assemblies, and the Presidential Elections Petition Tribunals presently hearing election petitions.

The Supreme Court is the apex or final court in the judicial hierarchy or ring in the country and all courts lower down the ladder are duty-bound to follow precedents laid down by the Supreme Court where the facts and circumstances of a subsequent case are the same or identical to a previous one.

In other words, if the issue of overvoting or failure of INEC to transmit results from polling units to its Election Result Viewing Portal or INEC server or database is raised in any of the petitions pending before the Governorship, National, and State Assemblies and the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunals, the decision in the Osun State governorship case will be handy.

I also suggest that If INEC is not duty bound to transmit results and accreditation details from the BVAS real time from the polling unit, then something needs to be done by amending the electoral act going forward. Otherwise, there will be no need of the technology in the first place.

 

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