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Home » Nigerian Cases » Court of Appeal » Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) & Ors V. Mr. L.g.a. Korsi (1999) LLJR-CA

Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) & Ors V. Mr. L.g.a. Korsi (1999) LLJR-CA

Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) & Ors V. Mr. L.g.a. Korsi (1999)

LawGlobal-Hub Lead Judgment Report

AKPIROROH, J.C.A.

In this appeal each set of appellants (1st, 2nd & 3rd) respondents and the (4th respondent) appealed against the judgment of the Election Tribunal sitting at Port Harcourt on petition No. LGCET/PH4/98 delivered on 12/2/99.

The petitioner/respondent, Mr. L.G.A. Korsi contested election for the Chairmanship of Khana Local Government Council under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with the 4th respondent/appellant, Mr. Nwara Lebari under the platform of the All Peoples Party (APP), Nwidobie under the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Owen under the platform of Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ).

At the conclusion of the election the scores were as follows:-

4th Respondent/Appellant………… 49,222

Petitioner/Respondent…………….. 31,433

Nwidobie……………………………… 5,729

Owen…………………………………. 1,609

Accordingly, the 4th respondent/appellant of the All Peoples Party was declared as duly elected by the 1st respondent/appellant.

The petitioner/respondent dissatisfied with the results filed a Petition at the Election Tribunal No.1 of Rivers State. At the hearing, the petitioner/respondent called nine witnesses while the respondents/appellants called seven witnesses.

The tribunal after hearing the evidence and submissions of learned counsel and in its judgment delivered on 19/12/99 upheld the petitioner/respondent’s second prayer and cancelled the election of the 4th respondent/appellant and ordered a bye-election to the office of the Chairmanship of Khana Local Government Council.

Dissatisfied with the decision of the trial tribunal the 1st, 2nd & 3rd respondents/appellants and the 4th respondent/appellant filed these appeals against the said judgment.

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents/appellants filed four grounds of appeal (see pages 134-138 of the records while the 4th respondent/appellant filed eight grounds of appeal (see: pages 139-144 of the brief of argument) of the 4th respondent/appellant. Based on the grounds of appeal filed, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents/appellants formulated four issues for determination. They are:-

“1. Whether having regard to the state of pleadings and the evidence adduced at trial, the Local Government Council Election Tribunal was right to hold that figures were altered in Exhibits D, J, K and C

  1. Whether the Election Tribunal was right to hold that the figures entered in Exh. C do not agree with the figures contained in Exhibits D, J, and K.
  2. Whether the tribunal was right in relying on section 149(d) of the Evidence Act to hold that the failure on the part of the appellants to call the 3rd respondent as a witness left the doubts surrounding Exhibits D, J, K uncleared.
  3. Whether the Local Government Council Election Tribunal was right to hold that the tribunal cannot rely on Exhibits D, J, K and C to resolve the disagreement between the petitioner and the 4th respondent.”
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The 4th respondent/appellant formulated five issues for determination. They are:-

“1. Whether the honourable tribunal was right in holding that the issue that fell for determination at the trial was the ascertainment of the authenticity of the documents containing the figures/votes cast at the elections.

  1. If the answer to the 1st issue is in the affirmative, whether the honourable tribunal was right in ‘annulling’ the election on the basis of its findings that Exhs. D, J, K & C are suspicious and could not be relied upon.
  2. Whether the alleged discrepancies affected the authenticity of the results declared in Exh. ‘C’ in favour of the appellant.
  3. Whether the honourable tribunal was right in holding that it had unfettered powers under section 15(3) (b) (sic) of Schedule 5 to Decree No. 36 of 1998 to examine each and every document to enable it dispense with substantial justice.
  4. Whether the honourable tribunal was right in holding that the failure to call a witness affected the appellant’s cast:

The petitioner/respondent filed five issues for determination. They are:-

“1 Whether the lower tribunal relied on facts not pleaded in deciding the petition.

  1. Whether the lower tribunal abandoned its adjudicatory role and made out a case for the petitioner.
  2. Whether the lower tribunal’s reliance on section 149(d) is well founded.
  3. Whether the lower tribunal’s reliance on paragraph 15(3) (b) of Schedule 4 to Decree No.36 of 1998 was prejudicial to the respondents.
  4. Whether the judgment of the lower tribunal is perverse and unsupported by the evidence.”

Mrs. Okirie. Chief State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Rivers State for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents/appellants referred to and adopted the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents’/appellants’ brief filed on 16/3/99.

Mr. George, learned counsel for the 4th respondent/appellant also referred to and adopted the brief of argument filed on behalf of the 4th respondent/appellant on 10/3/99.

Mr. Aguma, learned counsel for the petitioner/respondent also referred to and adopted the brief of argument filed on his behalf on 15/3/99.

I have read from the cold print, the evidence tendered before the trial tribunal and having examined the exhibits tendered and listened to the submissions of learned counsel on the issues formulated for determination, I am of the view that the only vital and life issue that calls for my determination is whether or not the declaration of the 4th respondent/appellant based on Exhibits C, D, J & K as the winner of the election conducted by the 1st respondent in Khana Local Government Council is the true result of the said election.

Before dealing with the issue formulated above, I would like to dispose of the submissions of learned counsel for the respondents/appellants that the trial tribunal was wrong in raising issues not pleaded by the parties. With respect to counsel, those submissions are misplaced because under section 15(3) (b) of Schedule 5 to Decree No. 36 of 1998, the tribunal is empowered to inquire into the issues not raised in the pleadings provided such issues are necessary for the purpose of proper determination of the petition. See Tounaegha v. Wilson (1993) 1 NWLR Pt. 267 page 23 at 30; Kaliya v. Babara (1993) 3 NWLR Pt. 280 page 149 at 162.

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In this case the exhibits relied on were before the tribunal.

As the declaration of the 4th respondent/appellant as the winner of the Chairmanship of Khana Local Government Council was based on Exhibits C, D, J, and K tendered before the trial tribunal, it was therefore right when it exercised its powers under section 15(3) (b) of Schedule 5 to Decree No. 36 of 1998 to scrutinize them in order to arrive at a just decision of the petition.

At page 103 of the records RW7 said:-

“I did not make Exhibits D, J, and K. Exhibit K was given to me by my agent. Exhibits D, J, and K none bears INEC stamp. It is true that Exhibits D, J, and K bear the same serial number … My total results are not given in Exhibits D, J, and K.

I agree with Exhibits D, J, and K. I disagree with the result in Exhibit D because the score in words is different from the score in figures.”

A look at Exhibit D shows clearly that the handwriting, signature and the entries on Exhibits J-K are different from those in Exhibit D, even though they were produced on a single process.

A closer look at column 19 of Exhibit D show the scores of PDP as “980” in figures and “nine thousand and eighty” in words.

The trial tribunal having scrutinised Exhibits D, J, and K on which the declaration of the 4th respondent was based said at page 130:-

“On a closer examination of Exhs D, J and K, the tribunal observed that someone made a concerted effort to falsify the contents of Exh. D. The signature of the Local Government Area Returning Officer in Ex. D is different from his signature in Exhs J and K.

The signature of the party agents in Exh. D is different from the signature of the party agents in Exhs. J and K. In column 9 under AD the figure 000 is amended in Exhs.J and K – there is no such amendment in Exh. D. To crown it all, the figure 980 in column 19 under PDP is written nine thousand eighty in words in Exh D, and nine hundred and eighty in Exhs, J and K. Exs D and K are carbonised copies of Exhs. J the three exhibits are produced by a single process by Engineer Solomon Ordu the Local Government Area Returning Officer for Khana Local Government Council. The falsification of figures, and the variation in signature plus the fact that figures entered in Exh C do not agree with the figure contained in Exhs. D, J and K have rendered Exhs. C, D, J and K suspicious in the eyes of the tribunal.”

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At page 131 the trial tribunal continued:-

“This tribunal is of the view that irregular signatures and the alteration of figures in Exhibits D, J, K and C have rendered these exhibits evil sources out of which no good can flow.”

The question therefore arises, whether there was evidence to support the conclusion reached by the trial tribunal.

From the recorded evidence, there is ample evidence to support the findings of fact arrived at the tribunal. It is well settled in a long line of decided cases that once a trial court or tribunal properly evaluates evidence adduced and makes a finding which is reasonably supported by the evidence, an appellate court is precluded from interfering with such findings,Ezike v. Ezeugwu (1992) 4 NWLR Pt. 236 page 462 at 476; Ayua v. Adasu (1992) 3 NWLR Pt. 231 page 598 at 609. The point is that on the face of the evidence adduced before the trial tribunal particularly Exhibits D, J, K and C on which the election of the 4th respondent was based, election into the office of the Chairmanship of Khana Local Government Council remains inchoate and as such the election of 4th respondent/appellant cannot stand. I am therefore of the clear and firm view that the justice of this case demands that both parties to the election should go back to seek the mandate of the electorate in the said Khana Local Government Council to decide between the 4th respondent/appellant and the petitioner/respondent who is to be the Chairman.

It is for this reason that the trial tribunal cancelled the election. I affirm the decision of the trial tribunal cancelling the election and ordering a bye-election for the office of Chairman of Khana Local Government Council.

From the foregoing the appeals of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th respondents/appellants fail and they are hereby dismissed with costs assessed at N2,000.00 against the 1st, 2nd, 3rd respondents/appellants and N2,000.00 against the 4th respondent/appellant in favour of the petitioner/respondent.


Other Citations: (1999)LCN/0556(CA)

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