Nwoye Tony Okechukwu Vs Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) & Ors (2014)
LAWGLOBAL HUB Lead Judgment Report
OLU ARIWOOLA, JSC
This is an appeal by the appellant who was the petitioner in the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which sat at Awka, Anambra State and the appellant in the ensuing appeal to the Court of Appeal in appeal No.CA/E/EPT/08/2014: Between Nwoye Tony Okechukwu Vs. Independent National Electoral Commission ((NEC) & Ors against the decision of the Court of Appeal as contained in the Judgment delivered on 26 July, 2014, CORAM ;- HON. JUSTICE MOHAMMAD LAWALGARBA, JCA, HON. JUSTICE EJEMBI EKO, JCA, HON. JUSTICE TIJJANI ABUBAKAR, JCA, AND HON. JUSTICE MOHAMMED MUSTAPHA, JCA, wherein their Lordships in the appeal PAGE| 4 arising from an election petition challenging the declaration made at the Governorship Election of Anambra State held in November, 2013, dismissed the appeal. The appellant, being dissatisfied with the decision given, had initiated an appeal with the Notice of Appeal filed on 7th August, 2014 complaining of sixteen (16) grounds of Error in Law. The gist of the matter that culminated into the instant appeal goes thus: The 1st respondent herein had given notice of election for the office of the Governor of Anambra State scheduled to hold on 16th November, 2013. The said election was duly conducted as scheduled, save in Obasi Ward in Idemili North Local Government Area where the election was later conducted on 17th November, 2013. However, in 216 out of 4,608 Polling Units in Anambra State, the election was postponed and was later conducted as supplementary election on 30th November, 2013 when the final result was declared. The appellant was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the said election while the 25th respondent was sponsored by the 26th respondent – All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). There were other candidates who were sponsored by their respective political parties at the said election. At the final conclusion of the whole election, the 25th respondent was found to have won he was duly elected and was returned by the 1st respondent. Dissatisfied with the declaration, the appellant filed an election petition at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting at Awka, on 20th December, 2013 on the following grounds that:- (a) The 25th Respondent, Chief Willy Maduabuchi Obiano was at the time of the election not qualified to contest the election; (b) The election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act; and (c) The 25th and 26th respondents were not elected by majority of lawful votes of the election. Based on the foregoing grounds, the appellant sought the following reliefs from the Tribunal:- (a) To disqualify the 25th respondent; (b) Nullify the election; and (c) To order that the election be conducted on a date to be set down by the 1st respondent in accordance with the Electoral Act. Upon settlement of pleadings, pre-trial proceedings were conducted by the tribunal, during which, based on the objections raised by respondents to the petition, several paragraphs PAGE| 5 were struck out of the petition. But following successful interlocutory appeal by the appellant, those paragraphs of the petition that were struck out were restored and the tribunal proceeded to hearing of the petition. The appellant testified for himself as PW12 and called other eleven (11) witnesses. 1st – 24th respondents did not call any witness but merely tendered documents in evidence. The 25th respondent testified as DW3 and called two (2) other witnesses while the 26th respondent also did not call any witness, but relied on the evidence elicited under cross examination as well as the favourable documents already tendered in the case. At the end of the trial, the Tribunal dismissed the appellant’s case and affirmed the declaration made by the 1st respondent that the 25th respondent won the said election. The court below dismissed the appeal to it by the appellant and affirmed the decision of the Tribunal. That has led to the instant appeal. When the appeal came” up for hearing on 16th of September, 2014, Mr. Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, learned Senior Counsel for the appellant referred to the following processes he had filed: – (i) Appellant’s brief of argument filed on 21/08/2014; (ii) Appellant’s Reply brief of argument to the 1st- 24 respondents’ brief of argument; (iii) Appellant’s Reply brief of argument to the 25th respondents’ brief of argument. (iv) Appellant’s Reply brief of argument to the 26th respondent’s brief of argument. (v) The Motion on Notice by which the appellant challenged the competence of the 26th respondent’s brief of argument. (vi) Appellant’s Reply on points of Law to the 26th respondent’s answer to the appellant’s Preliminary Objection. Learned Senior Counsel adopted all processes and relied on same to urge the court to allow the appeal and grant the reliefs sought including nullifying the elections. In adumbration, learned Senior Counsel took three of the issues listed for determination. On Issue No.4 which deals with whether or not Voters Register was displayed by 1st respondent on 16th Novemberr2013-1earnersenlor counsel submitted that no Voters Register was displayed by 1st respondent in compliance with Section 9(5) of the Electoral Act which requirement is mandatory. PAGE| 6 On the creation of extra 1,900 Polling Points or Units during the election, he submitted that the 1st respondent created the said 1900 extra Polling Units without enabling the stakeholders know and appoint agents to the said polling units which adversely affected the result of the election against the appellant. On the issue of multiple registration, learned senior counsel submitted that the 25th respondent had multiple registration contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act which was enough to disqualify him from standing election as he did. He finally urged the court to resolve all the issues in favour of the appellant but against the 25th respondent and then allow the appeal. Mr. Liman learned Senior Counsel who led other counsel for the lst-24th respondents referred to the brief of argument they had filed on 25/8/2014 in response to the appellant’s brief of argument served on them. He adopted and relied on the said brief to urge the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit. In adumbration, learned Senior Counsel submitted that arising from the concurrent findings of facts of the two lower courts, the appellant has not shown any perversity in the findings to warrant the interference of this court. He urged the court to affirm the concurrent finding of facts of the two lower courts. On Issue No.3 as distilled by them, where the appellant sought to rely on the documents that had been tendered in yet another petition and dumped same on the tribunal, he submitted that the two courts below were right to have held that the said documents had no probative value not having been linked to any portion of the appellant’s case. He urged the court to dismiss the appeal. Dr. Ikpeazu, learned Senior Counsel led other counsel for the 25th respondent. He referred to the Motion on Notice he had filed on 22/8/2014 where he sought an order of court to strike out Grounds 12, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Grounds of Appeal and Issues 2,3,4,5 and 12 distilled therefrom and the arguments canvassed thereon, He referred to the brief of argument filed for the 25th respondent on 22/6/2014 firstly to the relevant arguments for the preliminary objection and urged the court to strike out those grounds of appeal. On the merit of the appeal he adopted and relied on the residue of the brief of argument of 25th respondent to urge the court to dismiss the appeal in its entirety. In adumbration on the issue of display of Register of Voters, learned Senior Counsel submitted that the complaint of the appellant was not that there was no display of voters Register PAGE| 7 but that the one which was displayed was not the authentic one. Yet he contended that the appellant did not produce or tender any Register before the Tribunal. Learned Senior Counsel contended further that the 25th respondent gave evidence that the Voters Register was displayed and that it was when he saw that his name was not on the displayed Register that he applied for transfer of his Registration from Lagos to Anambra. He urged the court to hold that the concurrent findings of the two courts below on the Register of Voters was not shown to be perverse. On the alleged creation of extra 1900 Polling Units or Points, learned Senior Counsel referred to pages 28-29 of the brief of argument of the 25th respondent for the pleadings of the 1st respondent – INEC and that of the 25th respondent to show that the said extra Polling points were within the Polling Units but not outside. On the allegation of multiple registration by the 25th respondent, learned Senior Counsel submitted that the 25th respondent did not violate any provisions of the Electoral Act and did not give any false information on the Form. He finally urged the court to dismiss the appeal. Mr. P.I.N. Ikwueto, learned Senior Counsel with other counsel on their list for the 26th respondent referred to the 26th respondent’s brief of argument filed on 26/8/2014. He adopted and relied on same to urge the court to dismiss the appeal. He referred to the submissions of counsel to the lst-25th respondents and adopted same as his own. Learned Senior Counsel referred to the List of additional authorities he had filed, in particular, the cases listed as Nos. 6, 7 and 8 to support his submissions that their brief of argument was not filed late. He urged the court to dismiss the appellant’s application by which he sought an order of court to strike out the brief of argument of the 26th respondent. He finally urged the court to dismiss the appeal. In the appellant’s brief of argument filed on 21/08/2014 the appellant distilled sixteenJ16) issues for determination from the sixteen (16) Grounds of Appeal he had filed with the Notice of Appeal. It follows that the appellant has formulated one issue each from each of the sixteen grounds. I shall come back to this anon. There is no doubt, from the appellant’s brief of argument, no argument was proferred on Issue No.13. This was clearly conceded by the appellant in his Reply to the brief of argument of the lst-24th respondents where he urged the court to strike out Issue 13 and the corresponding ground 13 from where it was said to have been distilled. Without any further ado, Issue No.13 of the appellant’s Issues for determination not having had any argument proferred on it by the PAGE| 8 appellant is incompetent and is accordingly struck out. Before I proceed further to consider the issues for determination, I like to quickly deal with the preliminary objections raised by the lst-24th respondents against some of the Grounds of Appeal filed by the appellant and then the appellant’s preliminary objection to the 26th respondent’s brief of argument. As earlier stated the 1st – 24th respondents have attacked Grounds 2,3,4,5 and 12 of the grounds of appeal. By their application filed on 22/8/2014, the lst-24th respondents had sought an order of this court striking out the said Grounds 2,3,4,5, and 12 of the Grounds of Appeal as contained in the appellant’s Notice and Grounds of Appeal as well as issues 2,3,4,5 and 12 distilled therefrom and the arguments canvassed on the said issues in the appellant’s brief of argument. The grounds upon which the said application is brought are as follows:- (i) Ground 2 is argumentative, vague and prolix; (ii) Ground 3 does not arise from the decision of the Court of Appeal; (iii) Grounds 4 and 5 are academic, the appellant not having appealed against the ratio decidendi. (iv) Ground 12 does not arise from decision of the Court of Appeal. (v) Grounds 2,3,4,5 and 12 of the Grounds of Appeal and the corresponding issues distilled therefrom as well as the arguments canvassed on the said issues in the appellants brief of argument are liable to be struck out. I have carefully perused the above grounds of appeal in the Notice of Appeal filed by the appellant and the arguments of both counsel to the lst-24th respondents on one side and the appellant on the other side. What is a ground of appeal? As a legal terminology, a ground of appeal has been described as the error of law or facts which are alleged by an appellant as the defect in the judgment appealed against upon which reliance has been placed to set it aside. In other words, a ground of appeal is said to be the reason(s) why the decision is considered wrong by the aggrieved party. See; Olaleye Vs. The State (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt.170) 708 at 718; Azatse Vs Zegcor (1994) 5 NWLR (Pt.342) 76 at 83; Idika Vs. Erisi (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt.78) 503 at 578 Chief A. Akpan Vs. Effiong Bob & Ors (2010) 10 SCM 1, (2010) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1223) 421. It has therefore been held that grounds of appeal are not formulated in nubibas. They must be in firma terra namely; arise from the judgment. A ground of appeal must be precise and PAGE| 9 certain but must not be vague or argumentative. A ground of appeal may be vague where it is couched in a manner which does not provide any explicit standard for its being understood, or when what is stated is so uncertain that it is not susceptible of being understood. It may also be considered vague when the complaint in the ground is not defined in relation to the subject or it is particularised or the particulars are clearly irrelevant. See; Central Bank of Nigeria & Anor Vs. Aite Okojie & Ors (2002) 5 SCM 165; Atueye Vs Ashamu (1987) NSCC (Vol.18) (Pt. 1) 117. In the same vein, a ground of appeal to be competent must disclose reasonable complaint against a ratio decidendi in the decision sought to appeal as opposed to an obita dictum. In other words, a ground of appeal must be directed at the decision of the court below. See; Egbe Vs. Alhaji (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt.128) 546; A.G. Oyo State Vas Fair Lakes HotPl (1988), 5 NWLR (Pt.92) 1, Prof. Olufeagba & Ors Vs. Prof. Abdur-Raheed & Ors (2009) 11-12 (Pt.1) SCM 125 at 147; (2009) 18 NWLR (Pt.1173) 384. In the result, I. hold that ground 2 is argumentative and vague. Grounds 3 and 12 as they are couched do not arise from the decision of the Court of Appeal while grounds 4 and 5 not having been directed at the ratio decidendi of the decision of the court below are merely academic and are hereby incompetent. As no competent issue can be formulated from an incompetent ground being incompetent the above grounds cannot produce competent issues, in the circumstance, issues 2,3,4,5 and 12 distilled from the incompetent grounds, are equally incompetent and so is the argument canvassed thereon. Accordingly, both grounds 2,3,4,5 and 12 and the issues formulated therefrom are hereby struck out and the argument thereon are discountenanced. Now to the objection to the 26th respondent’s brief of argument for being incompetent having been alleged to have been filed out of time. By the Motion on Notice filed on 22/8/2014, the appellant had sought an order of this court striking out 26th respondent’s brief of argument having been filed out of time on the grounds that the said brief of argument is incompetent. The facts relied upon in support of the application are contained in the affidavit of Ikechukwu Obianyor, a counsel in the Chambers of the Senior Counsel for the appellant, as follows: “4. That the 26th respondent’s brief of argument was filed on the 26th day of August, 2014. 5. That the appellant filed and served the appellant’s brief of argument on the PAGE| 10 21st day of August, 2014. 6. That under the Practice Directions, Election Appeals to Supreme Court, the respondent ought to have filed respondent’s brief within 5 days of service of the appellant’s brief. 7. That respondent’s brief so filed is outside the time limited by the Practice Direction.” In response to the application by the appellant for an order striking out 26th respondent’s brief of argument having been filed out of time, learned Senior Counsel averred that the appellant’s brief of argument was served on them late too at the close of work on the 21st day of August, 2014 and contended that the counting of 5 days required by the Practice Directions must start on the day following, that is, the 22nd August 2014. He relied on Section 15(2) (a) of the Interpretation Act as to when time should start to run. He cited cases Nos.6, 7 and 8 on his Additional List of Authorities. These are Oni Vs. Fayemi (2008) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1089) 400 at 450-451; Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nig. Ltd. Vs. Amodi & Ors (2011) 14 NWLR (Pt.1266) 157 at 195-196 paragraph B.E.; Unilag Vs. Aigoro (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt.1) 143. He also relied on Abubakar Vs Yar’Adua (2008) 4 NWLR (Pt.1078) 465 at 511-512; Akpan Vs. Bob (2010) 17 NWLR (Pt.1223) 421 at 478; Ekpenetu Vs Ofegobi (2012) 15 NWLR (Pt.7323) 276 at 307-308. Learned Counsel urged the court to discountenance the appellant/applicant’s application and overrule the preliminary objection. On the merit of the appeal, he urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lacking in merit. In his reply brief of argument, filed on 29/8/2014, the appellant relied on paragraph 6 of the Practice Directions Election Appeals to the Supreme Court which requires the respondent to file in court his own brief of argument within 5 days of the service of the appellant’s brief. Learned Senior Counsel to the appellant contended that the Practice Directions which has the force of law excludes the application of the Interpretation Act to the effect that where time to do anything is stated to be less than 6 days, then Public Holiday which includes Sunday shall not be included in the counting. He relied on Section 15(4) and (5) of the Interpretation Act and the unreported case of Audu Vs. Wada delivered on 10/9/2012 in Appeal NO.SC332/2012. Learned Senior Counsel also relied on Action Congress Vs. Rear Adm. Murtala Nyako & Ors unreported decision of this court in appeal No. SC.409/2012 delivered on 5th November, 2012, on the strict nature of the provision of the Practice Directions to the effect that it does not PAGE| 11 even allow the exercise of discretion of this court to extend time. He submitted that the respondent who was served with the appellant’s brief of argument on 21/8/2014 ought to have filed his brief on or before Monday the 25th August, 2014 since the requirement of the Practice Directions is that respondent’s brief shall be filed within 5 days of the service of the appellant’s brief. Learned Senior Counsel submitted that in the circumstance, not having filed within 5 days of service of the appellant’s brief, the respondent’s brief must be struck out. He urged the court to strike out the 26th respondent’s brief of argument for being incompetent. There is no controversy and the 26th respondent admitted and conceded that they were served with the appellant’s brief of argument on the 21st day of August, 2014. On the filing of processes in the Supreme Court on Election Appeals to the Supreme Court, paragraph 6 of the Practice Directions provides thus: “6. The Respondent shall file in the court his own Brief of Argument within 5 days of the service of appellant’s Brief.” It is clear on the records that the 26th respondent who was served with the appellant’s brief of argument on the 21st day of August, 2014 caused to be filed its own respondent’s brief of argument on 26th day of August, 2014. There is no doubt, 5 days within which the respondent was required to file his own brief of argument shall start to run from the 21st day of August, 2014 when the appellant’s brief was served on the respondent. In which case 5 days will lapse on the 25th day of August, 2014 within which time the respondent’s brief ought to have been filed. Any filing done any day after the 25th day of August, 2014 cannot be said to have been filed within 5 days of the service of the appellant’s brief on 21st August, 2014. Ordinarily, but for the sui generis nature of election matters, according to the common construction of the English language:- “Within any number of days after an Act is to be understood exclusive of the day of the Act.” See; Williams Vs. Burgess (1840) 10 UQB 10 at 11. In Morton Vs. Hamsnn (1962) VR 364 at 365, the court held that the Modern rule in relation to a period of time fixed by statute “within” which an act is to be done after a specified event is that the day of the event is to be excluded, the next day is that first day of the stipulated period and the time expires on the last day of the period, counting from and of course including the first day. However, being aware of the sui generis nature of election and election related matters PAGE| 12 in which time is of essence, and the stand of this court on the interpretation of the Practice Directions vis-a-vis the Interpretation Act, I hold no hesitation in concluding that the provisions of Interpretation Act on computation of time shall not apply to the requirement of time by the Practice Directions. Time shall run, in the peculiarity of our Electoral Act, Practice Directions and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), from the day of the act and the day shall not be excluded. In other words, as I stated earlier, the 5 days required by paragraph 6 shall commence from the 21st August, 2014 when the appellant’s brief of argument was served on the respondent. Although one may wonder why the 26th respondent had waited till the last controversial day before filing its. Reply brief of argument when the Practice Directions requires it to be filed within five (5) days of the service of the appellant’s brief of argument. My Lords, even where we say, that Election and election related matters being sui generis in nature, the Interpretation Act may not apply strictly in the computation of time in the filing of processes, I believe that we should allow our said Practice Directions to have human face, as same is made by man to guide man’s activities in the hearing of Election Appeal in the Supreme Court. It should therefore not be turned to Master of Man that ties up his hands from doing the required substantial justice in the matter. On this stand also, I derive support from the admonition by this Court in Abubakar & Ors Vs. Yar’Adua & Ors (2008) 2 SCM 1 at 31-32 (2008) 4 NWLR (Pt.1078) 465 at 511-512, per Niki Tobi, JSC (Emeritus) as follows:- “The greatest barometre, as far as the Public is concerned is whether at the end of the litigation process, justice has been done to the parties. Therefore, if in the course of doing justice some harm is done to some procedural rule which hurts the rule, such as paragraph 7 of the Practice Directions, the court should be happy that it took that line of action in pursuance of justice. This court cannot myopically or blindly follow the Practice Directions and fall into mirage and get physically and mentally absorbed or lost. Let that day not come…… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… And what is more, election petition are sui generis and should be treated in that domain or realm. If courts of law are bound to do substantial justice in ordinary civil matters, how much less in an election petition.” PAGE| 13 However, there is little or practically nothing this court can do in the peculiar circumstance of the instant Practice Directions made pursuant to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, (as amended) on the computation of time to file processes in the prosecution of Election appeals in this court. In the result, not having been filed within 5 days of the service of the appellant’s brief of argument, the 26th respondent’s brief of argument which was filed on 26th August, 2014 was filed outside the required 5 days and therefore out of time in the circumstance it is incompetent and liable to be struck out. Accordingly, it is struck out and shall not be countenanced. Now to the main appeal. Having had issues 2,3,4,5,12 and 13 struck out for being incompetent, for various reasons, the appellant is left with Issues, 1,6,7,8,9,10,11,14,15 and 16 for determination of the appeal. As I stated earlier, the respondents upon service on them with the appellant’s brief of argument, they filed their respective respondent brief in response to the appellant’s brief of argument. From the sixteen Grounds of Appeal filed by the appellant, the 1st -24th respondents distilled six (6) Issues while the 25th respondent formulated seven (7) issues for determination of the appeal. As clearly shown above, the appellant claimed to have distilled an Issue each from the sixteen (16) Grounds of Appeal he filed with the Notice of Appeal. This no doubt is proliferation of issues: This court on several occasions has stated that an issue for determination in an appeal must not only arise from and relate to the grounds of appeal filed, and no more, but also they must be such a proposition of law or of fact or of both law and fact, so cogent, weighty and compelling that a decision on it in favour of a party to the appeal will entitle him to the judgment of the court. See; Chukwu ObiekwPe & Anor (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt.99) 566 at 580; Standard consolidated Dredging & Construction Co. Vs Katoncrest Nigeria Ltd. (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt.44) 791 at 799; Okoye Vs. N.C.F. Co. Ltd. (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt.199) 501. It has also been held that the object of the formulation of issues is to consider a number of associated and related grounds of appeal within the issues to which they are related in the determination of the appeal. This approach facilitates determination of the appeal before the court and renders the appeal more ineligible and comprehensible. See; Raphael Agu Vs. Christian Ozurumba Ikewibi (1991) 3 NWLR (Pt.180) 385; (1991) 4 SCNJ 56; (1991) 4 SC 1. PAGE| 14 This court has always frowned at and viewed with disfavour the proliferation of issues for determination said to be distilled from the grounds of appeal. The guiding principles on the formulation of issue for determination is that a number of grounds could where appropriate be formulated into a single issue running through them. It is patently undesirable to split the issue in a ground of appeal. See; Dokun Aiayi Labiyi & Ors Vs Moberuagba Anretiola & Ors (1992) NWLR (Pt. 258) 139; (1992) 10 SCNJ 1. One wonders what counsel sought to achieve or gain by formulating sixteen (16) issues from sixteen (16) Grounds of Appeal he filed with his Notice of Appeal. The essence of the formulation of Issues is to reduce the grounds of appeal into terse, compact formulations which take cognisance and consideration of the same issues running through more than one ground of appeal. See; John Bankole & Ors Vs. Mojidi Pelu & Ors (1991) 8 NWLR (Pt.211) 523; (1991) 11 SCNJ 108; (1991) 11-12 SC 116. Generally, and I am aware that not having filed a cross appeal or filed a respondent’s notice, the respondent is not permitted to formulate any Issue outside the ones distilled by the appellant from the Grounds of Appeal in the Notice of Appeal. The respondent is however entitled to couch Issues that he considers appropriate from the grounds of appeal filed by the appellant for the determination of the appeal. However, a court itself is entitled to reframe or even reformulate issues for determination of an appeal for the purpose of narrowing down the issues in controversy in the interest of clarity and brevity, as long as the reformulated issues are anchored on the grounds of appeal as filed in the Notice of Appeal.. See; Unity Bank Plc & Anor Vs. Bouari (2008) 2 SCM 193 at 210 Musa Sha fJnr) & Anor Vs. Da Ray Kwan & 4 Ors. What is more, an appellate court is generally not under a regimental duty to take all the Issues canvassed by the parties in the appeal. In the circumstance, upon careful perusal of all the issues formulated by both parties from the Grounds of Appeal filed by the appellant for determination of this appeal, I am convinced that the following Issues from the grounds of appeal succinctly cover the Issue in controversy and I shall therefore use it to determine this appeal. Issues for Determination Issue 1 Whether the Court of Appeal correctly resolved that the 25th respondent was not PAGE| 15 involved in double/multiple registration as a Voter and thereby was qualified to contest the Governorship Election within the contemplation of S.182(l) of the 1999 Constitution (Grounds 1,8,16) Issue 2 Whether the Court of Appeal correctly resolved that the election was not conducted with an invalid Voters Register. (Ground 14) Issue 3 Whether the Court of Appeal acted on the correct principles and rightly resolved that the appellant failed to prove that the various allegations of non compliance substantially affected the conduct and outcome of the Anambra State Governorship Election. (Grounds 6,9,10,11,15) Issue 1 – Whether the Court of Appeal correctly resolved that the 25th respondent was not involved in double/multiple registration as a Voter and thereby was qualified to contest the Governorship Election within the contemplation of Section 182 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. (Grounds 1,8,and 16). On this issue, learned Senior Counsel for the appellant referred to Exhibit PP015 – that is, INEC CVR application Form and submitted that it is clear and unambiguous and does not admit of any extraneous aid for its interpretation. Learned Senior Counsel contended that the question which was submitted to the court below was to determine whether or not the interpretation given to the provision of Exhibit PP015 was proper. He contended further that the said INEC Form had posed a question to the applicant as to whether he had registered before and to which applicant answered emphatically that he had not been previously registered. He contended that the Tribunal had in interpreting the clause – “not registered before” read into the clause the phrase “in Anambra State” The court below however affirmed that the Tribunal was not wrong or at fault. Learned Senior Counsel contended that the court below appeared to understand and conceive the INEC CVR application Form as a part of application for transfer of voter’s card or registration from Lagos State to Anambra State. He submitted that it was wrong and that the CVR PAGE| 16 application is a request to be registered as a voter but not a request to be transferred as a voter. He referred to Sections 10 and 13 of the Electoral Act respectively. He submitted that the CVR application Form is a request for a brand new registration and therefore by filling the CVR Form, the 25th respondent requested to be registered as a Voter in Anambra State. Learned Senior Counsel submitted that the 25th respondent requested for fresh registration on the 21/8/2013 and was registered on same day before he applied or requested that his previous registration in Lagos be transferred to Anambra State. He contended that the application to transfer voter’s registration dated 19/8/2013 has a ting of falsehood about itself. Learned Senior Counsel submitted that if the court below had not misconceived the provisions of the Electoral Act by regarding the application for fresh registration as the same as a request for transfer of voter’s card/registration and if the court had been conscious of the fact that the issue of fresh registration had been done and completed before the request for transfer was made, it would not have come to the conclusion that the answer elected from the question posed in Exhibit PP015 was made in the context of request for transfer of voter’s card/registration. Learned Senior Counsel submitted that in reaching its decision that the 25 respondent was not engaged in multiple registrations, the lower court failed to accord proper weight or draw correct inference from Exhibits PP015 and PP017. He contended that Exhibit PP015 clearly showed that the 25th respondent submitted himself for fresh registration. And that the consequence of Exhibit PP015 is the issuance of new voter’s card with VIN ending 1121 and the entering of the name of the 25th respondent in both the Manual Electronic Register of Voters which was certified by INEC and tendered by 25th respondent as Exhibit W011 in Exhibit PP017. He submitted that if the lower court had accorded Exhibits PP015 and PP017 their due weight, its decision would have been in favour of the appellant. Furthermore, learned Senior Counsel submitted that the court below erred in their finding that the admission against interest by the 25th respondent in Exhibit PP017 was equivocal and very much in dispute. He contended that Exhibit PP017 was tendered to prove the fact of multiple registration and lying on oath by the 25th respondent. He submitted that the 25tn respondent’s deposition in Exhibit PP017 is unequivocal and undisputed and constitutes a clear admission against his interest contrary to the holding of the court below. He urged the court to resolve the issue in favour of the appellant. PAGE| 17 In arguing Issue 1, learned Senior Counsel in their brief of argument for the lst-24th respondents referred to the formal application of the 25th respondent to INEC for transfer of his Voter’s registration in Lagos State to the Voter’s registration in Otuocha in Anambra State and quoted the decision of the court below on the issue to submit that the court adopted the proper and correct interpretation which the statement of the 25th respondent in INEC CVR application Form could rationally and irresistibly produce. He submitted further that the said holding of the court below found fortification in the Letter from INEC which was admitted in evidence and which in unmistakable words clearly stated that the commission issued only one voter’s card to the 25th respondent. He contended that, that was in addition to the uncontradicted evidence of the 25th respondent when he stated categorically that he never went to Otuocha to register outside the application for transfer of his earlier registration from Lagos to Anambra. Learned Senior Counsel contended that the 25th respondent never registered more than once as a voter for the purpose of the Anambra State Governorship Election held on 16th, 17th and 30th November, 2013. The Tribunal was therefore right in placing reliance on the INEC Letter and the 25th respondent’s testimony. He urged the court to hold that the appellant failed to establish the allegation of multiple registrations of the 25th respondent by either calling a witness to state that he saw the 25th respondent registering or that he was not qualified to contest the election. On the allegation that the 25th respondent had given false information, it was contended that pursuant to Section 31(5) of the Electoral Act which governs the alleged false information, the matter ought to have been taken to the High court to be properly dealt with. There was no order or judgment of a High Court to show that the matter had been investigated and tried. He submitted that the issue cannot be raised for the first time at the Tribunal. On the allegation of double or multiple registrations, learned Senior Counsel contended that it was a criminal allegation which attracts punishment of fine or imprisonment or both after conviction. He submitted that by virtue of Section 135 of the Evidence Act the commission of crime alleged against the 25th respondent required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Learned Senior Counsel submitted that having failed to establish by credible evidence that the 25th respondent was disqualified to contest the Governorship Election held in Anambra State on the ground of double or multiple registrations and or giving false information, the said allegation remain unsubstantiated, barren and futile. He urged the court to resolve the issue PAGE| 18 against the appellant. In his brief of argument, learned Senior Counsel for the 25th respondent in addressing issue 1 on the way the court below resolved the allegation of multiple or double registrations as it affected the qualification of the 25th respondent to contest the Governorship Election, referred copiously to the witness statement of 25th respondent and his testimony before the tribunal in relation to Exhibit PP015 which was INEC’s CVR application Form. He contended that the document was viewed by the trial tribunal and the court below with regard to the circumstance of the case and the deposition of the 25th respondent whose action formed the subject matter of the controversy. Learned Senior Counsel referred to the averments of the appellant which form the basis for the allegation of non qualification of the 25th respondent, and gave a summary of the appellant’s case that the 25th respondent was not qualified to contest the Anambra State Governorship Election. He contended that the appellant was only saying that the 25th respondent failed to inform INEC that he had registration other than the one which he forwarded with his nomination Form. He referred to the contention of the appellant that he has not alleged the commission of an offence yet quoted Sections of the Electoral Act which criminalise possession of more than one Voter’s card. He contended that the implication of giving false information in Form CVR is that the 25th respondent committed an Electoral offence. He referred to Section 24 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act, 2010 and Section 135 (1) and (2) of the Evidence Act, 2011. He contended further that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the commission of the offence alleged and establish both the act done and the requisite guilty mind by the accused person. Both elements of mens rea and actus reus must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Learned Senior Counsel contended that in an election petition, as indeed in civil case, the burden of proof is on the Petitioner to establish the averments in the petition. He must do so on the strength of his own case, which must be first scrutinized. He submitted that it is only where the case is credible and has made out grounds sufficient and worthy of refutal, that the case of the respondent will be looked into and weighed. He submitted further that at the end of consideration of the case of the appellant on the issue of the alleged non qualification or disqualification of the 25th respondent, the tribunal on record found that no credible evidence has been led to warrant even a consideration of the case of the respondents. It was conceded and accepted by the appellant that the 1st -24th respondents did not call a witness, but it does not imply that they did not call evidence. It was contended that the allegation PAGE| 19 of non qualification was made against the 25th respondent. He testified in line with his pleadings in his witness statement which the tribunal accepted as truthful and the court below affirmed the findings of fact in favour of the 25th respondent. He urged the court to resolve the issue in favour of the 25th respondent against the appellant. As stated above, the first issue is whether the court of Appeal correctly resolved that the 25th respondent was not involved in double or multiple registrations as a voter and thereby was qualified to contest the Governorship Election within the contemplation of Section 182 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. As can be seen clearly, the key player who is directly concerned and affected is the 25th respondent and the primary document is the INEC CVR Application Form which was admitted as Exhibit PP015. It was contended by the appellant that by signing Exhibit PP015, the 25th respondent was engaged in multiple registrations as the Voter’s card with VIN ending….1121 was issued to him as well as the Voter’s card with VIN ending—0332. Similarly, it was the submission of the appellant that by answering the question as contained in Exhibit PP015 which sought to ascertain whether or not he had been registered before, the 25th respondent gave a false information to the 1st respondent. However, it is clear on the record that in the evidence of the 25th respondent as DW1 before the tribunal, he had stated that upon discovery that his name was not on the Voter’s Register which was displayed in his Unit, he made enquiry from the 1st respondent’s office in his Otuocha Constituency, the procedure for transferring his registration as a voter when he was previously resident in Lagos. On the advice of the Electoral Officer at Otuocha, the 25th respondent submitted an application for the transfer of his registration as a voter from Lagos State to Anambra State on 19/8/2013. He was later made to complete the relevant portion of an INEC Form CVR while the other portion was completed by the official of 1st respondent, in particular, the VIN written on the Form. On page 1286 Vol.3 of the record, the learned Justices of Court below had considered the issue and resolved it as follows:- “The complaint here is whether the Tribunal was right in holding that “not registered previously” as contemplated by INEC CVR Application could only mean “not previously registered” in Anambra State. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. PAGE| 20 The background for the question eliciting from the 25 respondent the answer whether he was previously registered as a voter is in relation to his application to transfer his Voter’s Registration from Lagos State to Anambra State. The 25th respondent had formally applied to INEC official to transfer his Voter’s Register for Otuocha in Anambra State. He attached thereto his Voter’s Card issued in Lagos State to the application for Transfer…… The question posed in Exhibit PP015, that is, INEC CVR Application Form, was posed and answered in the circumstances of the application to transfer 25th respondent’s Voter’s Card Registration from Lagos State to Anambra State. The intention of the 25th respondent is clearly manifest from his application seeking the transfer of his Voter’s Card/Registration as a Voter from Lagos State to Anambra State. The conduct of the 25th respondent, together with Exhibit PP015-INEC CVR Application Form would provide nexus between the question and the answer thereto …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. every answer to a question is and must be in the context and circumstances of the question and the answer thereto.” There is no doubt that the above findings was arrived at after having considered the findings of the trial tribunal on this issue. The Tribunal had earlier found as follows:- “The 25th respondent’s statement that “he was never previously registered” would in our view not likely to be referable to his registration at Lagos State which he formally applied to transfer to Anambra State. Indeed, the paragraph on the declaration, could not rationally be referring to registration at Lagos State but the Statement by the 25t respondent could only be directed at the destination of transfer. In other words, not registered previously could only mean not previously registered at Anambra State where the transfer of his registration is to be made as applied by him.” It is noteworthy that the case of the appellant that the 25th respondent was not qualified to stand the Governorship Election in Anambra State is as follows:- “The 25th respondent registered more than once for which he was issued more PAGE| 21 than one voter card in that – (a) He was registered in Lagos with Voter Identification Number VIN 90F5B12801296209172; (b) On 19/8/2013, the 25th respondent applied for transfer of his registration from Lagos to Otuocha, Anambra State and when effected was issued with Voter Identification Number 90F5B15E7ED 378200332 which he furnished to INEC while submitting his nomination form; (c) On 21/8/2013 the 25th respondent was again registered in Otuocha, Anambra State and issued with VIN 90F5B12B88377091121091121 after he stated that he was not previously registered; (d) The 25th respondent suppressed the multiple registration from INEC.” By the above pleading, the appellant conceded and clearly admitted at page 5 of Volume 1 of the record of appeal that the 25th respondent on 19/8/2013 applied for transfer from Lagos State and he was registered as a Voter in Anambra State vide transfer from Lagos State and was registered as a Voter at Otuocha, Anambra State, on 3/9/2013 and was issued with Voter’s card with VIN 90F5B15E7E7D378200332. Therefore by the above, the appellant conceded that the registration of the 25th respondent was first in Lagos in Kosafe Local Government Area of Lagos State. There is also evidence on record by the 1st respondent – via its letter Ref. No. INEC/AN/1/15 attached to Exhibit RR026 where INEC authoritatively stated that the 25th respondent was issued with only one Voter’s card upon his application for transfer of his registration as Voter from Lagos State to Otuocha, Anambra State. The said Voter’s card is the one issued on 3rd September, 2013 with VIN ending …332. This piece of evidence contained in a letter which emanated from the 1st respondent was attacked by the appellant for having been written by a person interested and therefore not to be countenanced by the court. This was on admissibility of documentary evidence pursuant to Section 91 of the Evidence Act. Subsection 3 states thus: “Nothing in this section shall render admissible as evidence any statement made by a person interested at a time when proceedings were pending or anticipated involving a dispute as to any fact, which the statement might tend to establish” See; Anyaebosi Vs. R. T. Briscoe (Nig) Ltd. (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt.50) 84; Apena Vs Aiyetobi (1989) PAGE| 22 1 NWLR (Pt.95) 85; Tijani Vs. Akinwumi (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt.125) 237. In the instant case, the document was made by official of the 1st respondent performing his official duty without any alleged personal interest in the matter. In C.P.C. & Anor Vs. Ombugadu & Qrs (2013) 18 NWLR (Pt.1385) 66 at 124 this court per Ngwuta, JSC, when a similar submission was made on an occasion when a document made by INEC official was said to have been made when proceedings were pending, stated thus:- “The interest of the 2nd respondent (INEC) as the maker of Exhibit CA1 is purely official or as servant or employee having no personal interest in the litigation ……………………………………………………………………………………… In making Exhibit CA1, the 2 respondent was performing an official assignment without direct personal interest in the result of litigation and cannot therefore be considered as a person interested in the suit.” (Brackets supplied) In the light of the above, i am of the firm view that the appellant failed to establish the allegation of multiple or double registrations against the 25th respondent to have rendered him unqualified to contest election as he did. In other words, the court below was right and correct in affirming the decision of the tribunal on the interpretation given to the answer provided for a question posed in Exhibit PP015 supplied by the 1st respondent. In the circumstance, this issue is resolved against the appellant as it was not established by the appellant that the 25th respondent was involved in double registrations as a voter and was disqualified to contest the election as he did in November, 2013. Issue 2 is whether the court below correctly resolved that the election was not conducted with an invalid Voters register. On this issue, the appellant contended that the lower court was wrong in agreeing with the Tribunal as truth the respondent’s pleadings that voters’ register was displayed for 5 days. He contended further that there was no evidence or admissible evidence on record to support this. He submitted that the court failed to draw proper inference from the pleadings and undisputed evidence on record in reaching such a decision. The appellant referred to the pleadings of the 1st -25th respondents and that the appellant stated specifically in his own petition that instead of displaying any copy of the authentic register of Voters, INEC invited the Political parties to collect the corrected copies of the Register of Voters. It was further contended that the appellant pleaded that he and his political party did not have the opportunity to raise any complaint against the discrepancies in the Register of Voters. PAGE| 23 The appellant contended that INEC only pleaded that he displayed the Register of Voters but never gave evidence to support that pleadings. But that he, the appellant, pleaded and gave evidence at the tribunal that INEC only issued what is purported to be the corrected or authentic Register of Voters on 14/11/2013 which was only two days to the election. Learned Senior Counsel submitted that even in the supposedly corrected Register of Voters, the name of the appellant who was a candidate for the election was excluded among many other errors. He submitted that the election was conducted with an invalid Register of Voters. He cited Oke Vs. Mimiko (No.2) (2014) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1388) 332 at 389. He urged the court to resolve the issue in favour of the appellant. On this issue, the lst-24th respondents referred to page 1000 of the record for the testimony of one Nkoro, a witness for the appellant and the findings of the court below on this point. Reference was also made to the pleadings of the appellant where the appellant’s complaint was on the authenticity of the Voter’s Register that was displayed but not that no register at all was displayed. Learned Senior counsel to the lst-24th respondents contended that issues were joined with the appellant on paragraph B2 of the petition in paragraph 12 (A)-(G) of their reply to the petition. He contended that the appellant did not deem it fit to reply to issues raised in the reply which were manifestly new, fundamental and very cogent. He submitted that the averments not having been denied were deemed admitted by the appellant. He urged the court to resolve the issue against the appellant. On this issue, learned Senior counsel for the 25th respondent contended that it is rather inconceivable how the appellant still insists that the Register of Voters was not displayed by the 1st respondent, when in the evidence under cross examination by the counsel to 25 respondent, the Co-ordinator for appellant’s Political Party, Barrister Nkoro, as a witness categorically admitted that the register of voters was displayed. He referred to page 1000 lines 12-15 of the records. Learned Senior Counsel contended that the court below had held categorically that the issue of display of Register of Voters was not an issue upon which the Tribunal rendered its judgment. He referred to Exhibit P04 which only goes to prove that the 1st respondent invited political parties to collect corrected copies of the Register of Voters. He urged the court to resolve PAGE| 24 the Issue against the appellant and to hold that the election was conducted with a valid Voters Register which was adequately displayed in compliance with the Electoral Act. On this issue of Register of Voters, the Court below had found as follows:- “Only the PW12, the appellant testified that the Voters Register was not displayed. The evidence of PWs 1-11 were substantially as to the fact that they each had voters card and that on election day they presented themselves for accreditation but could not find their names on the Voters Register used for the election and they could not vote. Issues were joined as to whether the Voters Register was displayed. Appellant who alleged non display of the Voters Register did not cross examine respondent’s witnesses on the respondents’ pleadings that the Voters Register was displayed for 5 days. The appellant did not prove the assertion that the Voters Register was not displayed. All, the appellant did, as the Petitioner, was merely to repeat his assertion in his deposition on oath. The law is trite, he who asserts must prove. The respondents emphatically deny the assertion and averred that the register was displayed for 5 days. The evidence of the 25th respondent on this was not discredited. It was believable and it was believed.” It should be noted that ordinarily, the display of register of Voters was supposed to take place at each Polling Units where registration was conducted or took place. The witnesses for the appellant were categorical and adidem in that manner that they never went back to the Polling Units where they registered since the election of 2011. If they did not, it follows that they could not have reasonably and rightly testified to the fact that the Register of Voters was not displayed at the Polling Units by INEC as required by the Electoral Act. On this alone, their testimony did not and could not have been expected to prove non display of Voters Register at Polling units. Furthermore, the allegation by the appellant that political parties were given what he called “corrected Version” of the Register of Voters few days before the election cannot in all sincerity mean that the register was not displayed at the appropriate time and place before the election. It is noteworthy that there was no evidence that there was a Revision and updating of the Register in the manner envisaged by Law. On the contrary, the only allegation was that INEC made some corrections on the e-copy of the register which was subsequently given to the Political Parties. Learned Senior Counsel for the 25th respondent had submitted and I cannot agree more, that indeed, theuse of the term “corrected” Voters Register by the appellant can only PAGE| 25 imply that an original register existed, which was displayed and was issued to the political parties. It is not in dispute that the appellant prosecuted his case before the Tribunal through the evidence of twelve (12) witnesses including himself. On the testimony of the witnesses, the court below had found as follows on pages 1310-1312 of the records: “At page 1070 lines 17-24 of the Record the Tribunal found that the Petitioner called 12 witnesses to testify on the alleged irregularities in the conduct of the Anambra State Governorship Election and that the evidence of these 12 witnesses was limited to only the 12 units they visited out of 4,608 Polling Units in Anambra State……. the petitioner had not shown how the irregularities in the 12 Polling units substantially affected the result of the election…… the appellant’s 12 witnesses did not prove electoral malpractices in 4,608 Polling Units except possibly, no more than the 12 polling units they were present at.” As earlier stated on whether or not Register of Voters was not displayed, the testimony, if at all it was available, cannot be admitted as evidence that there was no display of the Register in all the 4,608 Polling Units. At least not being a magician who can do “abraka dabra” “the more you look, the less you see” and claim to be in more than one place at the same time – as done by late magician of International recognition – Professor Peller – a Polling agent or even the appellant himself can only testify on what transpired that he saw in his own Polling Unit. Being a human being, he can only be physically present at only one Polling Unit at a given time. See; Chief Oke & Anor Vs. Dr. Mimiko & Ors (No.2) (2014) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1388) 332 at 376. As a result, the evidence of the appellant alone as restricted as it is to his poling unit and even that of his 12 witnesses is grossly insufficient to establish that the 1st respondent did not display Voters Register in Anambra State as to render the Voters Register used to conduct the election in question invalid. In the circumstance, I hold that the court below was correct in holding that the appellant failed woefully to establish the allegation of irregularities in the register of voters used for the election. It was therefore correct in resolving that the election was not conducted with an invalid Voters Register. Accordingly, the issue is resolved against the appellant. The third issue is whether the court below acted on the correct principles and rightly resolved that the appellant failed to prove that the various allegations of non compliance substantially affected the conduct and outcome of the Anambra State Governorship Election. PAGE| 26 It is pertinent to note that the second ground of the appellant’s petition at the Tribunal is a follows:- (ii) The election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act.” By the above ground, the appellant challenged the validity of the election by alleging corrupt practices and non compliance with Electoral Act. As clearly shown on the record, the appellant made the allegation of corrupt practices, which are criminal offences, the basis of his petition. For instance, the allegation of multiple registrations or carrying of multiple voters cards against and by the 25th respondent as earlier discussed, corrupt practice is a criminal offence which requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. In Nwobodo Vs. Onoh (1984) All IMLR 1 at 16, this court, per Bello, JSC (as he then was) held as follows: “The scope of Section 137 (1) of the Evidence Act may be summarised: Where in an election petition the petitioner makes an allegation of a crime against a respondent and he makes the commission of the crime as the basis of his petition the sub section imposes strict burden on the petitioner to prove the crime beyond reasonable doubt. If the petitioner fails to discharge the burden his petition fails.” In the instant case, both the trial Tribunal and the court below were unequivocal that the appellant failed woefully to discharge the required burden as petitioner on the allegations bothering on crime. On the testimonies of the twelve (12) witnesses called by the appellant, the court below had stated on pages 1311-1312 of the record thus:- “This is not enough to assail or fault the Tribunal’s finding that the appellant’s 12 witnesses did not prove electoral malpractices in 4,608 polling units, except possibly, no more than the 12 polling units they were present at. The petitioner could not possibly have proved the malpractices in the remaining polling units with hearsay evidence.” On the allegation by the appellant of non compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act, it must be noted that there can never by a perfect election anywhere. What the law requires is substantial compliance with the requirements of the Electoral law and Procedure. Hence, Section 139 (1) of the Electoral Act is relevant and apposite. PAGE| 27 It reads thus: S. 139(1)- “An election shall not be liable to be invalidated by reason of non compliance with the provisions of this Act, if it appears to the Election Tribunal or court that the election was conducted substantially in compliance with the principles of this Act and that the non compliance did not affect substantially the result of the election.” See; Buhari & Anor Vs. Obasanio & Ors (2005) 2 NWLR (Pt.910) 241 at 453; (2009) 9 SCM 1 C.P.C. Vs. INEC (2012() 2-3 SC (Reprint) 1 at 38; Chief Oke & Anor Vs Dr. Mimiko & Ors (supra). For instance, on the allegation of the creation by 1 respondent of additional 1900 Polling Units, the appellant contended that he proved that there was election in the 1900 extra Polling units which he alleged substantially affected the outcome of the election. From the record, there is no iota of evidence to support the above averment of the appellant. Indeed, the appellant pleaded in his petition the creation of 1,900 additional Polling Units but this was denied categorically by the lst-24th respondents in their Reply brief of argument on page 139 of the record as follows:- “(a) The 1st -24th respondents did not create additional polling units by whatever name called. A Polling unit is characterised by, among other things, a result sheet duly signed by one Presiding Officer and agents of the Parties who desire to sign.” The 1st -24th respondents to further debunk the averment that additional polling units were created went further in paragraph 11(b) of their reply to state as follows:- “11(b) It has been the practice of the 1st respondent in polling units where there are large number of registered voters to maintain more than one voting point within the same polling station, with the same staff assigned to the polling units, so as to ensure that accreditation and voting are effected within the designated time. The practice is adopted where there are, for instance, 900 voters in the Voter’s Register for a particular Polling unit, is to separate the Voters, alphabetically, into three (3) groups, with voting points established within the PAGE| 28 station in order to facilitate accreditation and voting. It is only one result sheet that will be filled for the polling unit as all voting points within the polling unit do not amount to separate polling units. This system was adopted for the convenience of the general public and during the education of voters exercise, it was duly explained to voters. At the election voters were not at all confused for the reason that the voting points were created, existed within the same polling units.” In the clear face of the above denial and explanation by INEC, issues were joined on the allegation of creation of additional extra 1900 polling units, thereby requiring the appellant to prove same. But he failed woefully so to do. It follows therefore from the above that the appellant failed to establish that INEC created any additional polling units. If at all, it was voting points that may have been created for the convenience of the voters. However, as clearly found by the court below on page 1313 of the record, the appellant had submitted that the issue of creation of additional 1900 polling unit was not submitted to the Tribunal for resolution and further that the holding by the Tribunal that the petitioner had his agents at the 1900 voting points was perverse. The court below readily agreed with the submission of the appellant’s counsel and held that it did not substantially affect the trend of the judgment of the Tribunal. My Lords, as can be seen, we are being asked to disturb the concurrent findings of facts of the two courts below in this appeal. It is already very well settled, that this court will ordinarily not disturb the findings of facts of two courts below unless there is manifest error which leads to some miscarriage of justice, or a violation of some principles of law or procedure. See; Adaku Amadi Vs Edward N. Nwosu (1992) 6 NLR (Pt.241) 273; (1992) 6 SCNJ 59. In other words, it has been the consistent practice of this court not to disturb concurrent findings of facts once they are not perverse and as long as they are based on the evidence before the trial court. See; Oyibo Iriri & Ors Vs. Eserorave Erhurhobara & Anor (1991) 2 NWLR (Pt.173) 252; (1991) 3 SCNJ 1; (1991) 3 SC 1; Obi I. Ezewani Vs. Obi Onuwordi (1986) 4 NWLR (Pt.33) 27; Nigerian Bottling Co. Ltd. Vs. Constance O. Ngomadi (1985) 5 SC 317 at 319 (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt.4) 739; Ogbechie Vs. Onochie (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt.70) 370 at 390. Ogedengbe & Ors Vs. Balogun & Ors (2007) 9 NWLR (Pt.1039) 380; (2007) 8 SCM 170; Michael Ebeinge Vs. The State (2011)3 SCM 46; (2011) 7 NWLR (Pt..) 402, Ugwanyi Vs. FRN (2012) 5 SCM 226. PAGE| 29 There is no doubt that the appellant herein has not given any reason or shown any cause at ail why this court should disturb the concurrent findings of facts in this case. The concurrent findings of facts on the main issue in controversy are supported by credible evidence and there is no error which can be said to have led to miscarriage of justice. This court will therefore not disturb the concurrent findings of facts in this case having been based on solid grounds. See; Bernard Amasike Vs. The Registrar General Corporate Affairs Commission & Anor (2010) 13 NWLR (Pt.1211) 337 (2010) 8 SCM 1. Having resolved the three issues against the appellant but in favour of the respondents, I hereby, without any further ado, come to the following conclusion:- (a) The appellant did not prove the criminal allegations of double/multiple registrations against the 25th respondent let alone to prove beyond reasonable doubt. (b) From the evidence adduced before the trial Tribunal, the 25th respondent was qualified to contest the Anambra state Governorship Election as he did. (c) The appellant’s allegation of corrupt practices or non compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act were not proved in the first place, let alone showing that the non compliance substantially affected the result of the election, pursuant to S.139 (1) of the Electoral Act. (d) The appellant has failed woefully to demonstrate why this court should interfere with the concurrent findings of facts of the two courts below. In the final analysis, for lacking in merit and substance, this appeal is hereby dismissed in its entirety. Accordingly, the judgment of the court below delivered on 26th July, 2014 which affirmed the judgment of the Tribunal is affirmed. In the circumstance, the declaration made by the 1st respondent (INEC) of the 25th respondent (Chief Willy Maduabuchi Obiano) as the winner of the Governorship Election of Anambra State is affirmed. Even though costs ordinarily follow events, in view of the peculiarity of this appeal, I make no order on cost. M. S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JSC: This is an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal Enugu Division. A brief history of the case will further clarify some issues. PAGE| 30 The appellant, Nwoye Tony Okechukwu, was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who contested the Governorship election in Anambra state conducted by the 1- Respondent on the 16th – 17th and 30th November, 2013, in which the 25th Respondent, Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, a candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APCA) the 26n Respondent’ was declared and returned as the winner by the 1st Respondent on the 1st December, 2013 Aggrieved by the conduct and the result of the election, the appellant as a petitioner filed “a petition” before the Anambra State Governorship Election petition Tribunal sifting at Awka on 20th December, 2013 challenging the election and return of Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano on grounds, inter alia, that:- “i) The 25tn Respondent’ Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano was at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election; ii) The election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and iii) the 25th and 26th Respondents were not elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election”. The Appellant thereafter sought the following reliefs thus:- (a). To disqualify the 25th Respondent; (b) Nullify the election; and (c) To order that the election be conducted on a date to be set down by the 1st Respondent in accordance with the Electoral Act”. In the course of the hearing of “the petition”, the Appellant, as petitioner testified and called eleven (11) other witnesses who gave evidence in support of his case, various documents were also tendered and admitted. The 25th Respondent, Chief Wilie, gave evidence on his behalf and called two (2) others who gave evidence in support of his case and called two others who testified on his behalf and ‘tendered a number of documents which were admitted in court. At the end of the hearing and acceptance of the written addresses of the learned senior counsel to the parties, the Trial Tribunal dismissed the petition in the following words:- “this Tribunal having resolved all issues in favour of the 25th and 26th Respondents and held that the Petitioner has not proved any irregularities in the conduct of the election on the 16th, 17th, and 30th November, 2013. we hold that the petition lacks merit and is hereby dismissed”. PAGE| 31 Not being satisfied with the decision of the Trial Election Tribunal the Appellant herein lodged an appeal to the Court of Appeal Enugu Division on a Notice of appeal. The Court of Appeal, lower court, in a unanimous decision dismissed the appeal of the petitioner in the following statements:- “The summary of all I have been labouring to say on all the issues except issue 3, is that there is no merit in this appeal, and it is accordingly dismissed, issue 3 does not have any substantial impact on this appeal”. Aggrieved by the judgment of the lower court the Appellant herein, further appealed to the apex court of the nation on a Notice containing sixteen (16) grounds of appeal from which he, the appellant, formulated equally sixteen (16) issues for the determination of this appeal by the Supreme Court. The Appellants brief of argument was filed. The brief of the 1st – 24th Respondents contain only six (6) issues from the 16 grounds of appeal. Again learned senior counsel to Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano only distilled seven (7) issues for determination in his brief of argument. Learned senior counsel to the 26th Respondent, All Progresseive Grand Alliance (APCA) in his opinion this appeal could be neatly and effectively disposed off on only three (3) issues. As I stated somewhere that the whole appeal throughout has been devoid of proof. The allegation of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) were never proved in all the three courts including the Supreme court. It goes without saying and within the legal common sense that it is always a herculean task for the Appellant to convince this court to disturb the concurrent findings of facts by the two lower courts. That is the more reason why l completely agree with my learned lord Ariwooia, JSC that the appeal before us lacks merit, and it should be dismissed. My lords, the judgment of my lord Ariwooia is quite unimpeachable and is correct. I have nothing more useful to add. I cannot actually improve on it. I also dismiss the appeal and affirm the concurrent judgment of the Court of Appeal and the trial Election Tribunal. The candidate sponsored by Ail Progressive Grand Alliance (APCA) for the election as the Governor of Anambra state (Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano was correctly and effectively returned as the duly elected Governor of Anambra state. I have no order as to costs. PAGE| 32 JOHN INYANG OKORO, JSC: I was obliged a copy of the judgment of my learned brother Ariwoola, JSC, just delivered which I read before now, I agree with the reasoning and the conclusion that this appeal lacks merit in its entirety. My learned brother has admirably and quite efficiently dealt with all the salient issues submitted for the determination of this appeal. I have nothing useful to add. Accordingly, I adopt the lead judgment as mine. I also dismiss the appeal and abide by all consequential orders made therein, that relating to costs, inclusive. BODE RHODES-VIVOUR, JSC: I have had the privilege of reading in draft the judgment delivered by my learned brother, Ariwoola, JSC. I agree with His Lordship’s reasoning and conclusions. The Petitioner contends that the election should be invalidated by reason of non-compliance with provisions of the Act, to wit: The Voters Register was not displayed in accordance with relevant provisions of the Electoral Act. It is the duty of the Petitioner to establish to the satisfaction of the court, not only that in the conduct of the election there was substantial non-compliance but also that such non-compliance affected the result of the election. See Buhari v. Obasanio 2005 2 NWLR Pt.910 p.241 Buhari v. INEC 2008 19 NWLR Pt. 1120 p.246 The Petitioner must prove that: 1. Non-compliance took place, and 2. That the non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election. Elections are hardly ever conducted without some minor irregularities. No matter how well the regulatory authority conducts an election, there are complaints. That explains the inclusion of Section 139 (1) in the Electoral Act. It reads: “139 (1) An election shaft not be liable to be invalidated by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of this Act If it appears to the Election tribunal or court that the election was conducted substantially in accordance with the principles of this Act and that the non-compliance did not affect substantially the result of the election.” Section 139 (1) of the Electoral Act is a special provision designed to save an election PAGE| 33 where there was failure to meet the requirements of the provisions of the Electoral Act. On the other hand, if the infraction or non-compliance goes to the root of the conduct of the election, the election would be nullified. Does the issue of display of the voters Register go to the root of this election? The display of voters register does not take place in one place. The burden is on the Petitioner to show that the voters Register was not displayed in all the Polling Units or most of them. This they failed to do. Furthermore, the Petitioner was unable to show how the alleged non display of the voters register affected the results or that several voters who were registered did not find their names on the register. In the circumstances the issue of display of voters register is very minor. It does not go to the root of the election. The Petitioner/appellant had the duty to establish by evidence that the non-compliance complained of substantially affected the result of the election. Failure to do so was fatal to the case of the appellant. See Akeredolu v. Mimiko 2014 1 NWLR Pt.1388 p.402. I am in full agreement with the findings of the two courts below that the issue of display, non display of voters register did not affect the result of the election. The election was conducted substantially in accordance with the Electoral Act. For this and the more detailed reasoning in the leading judgment, the appeal is dismissed. Parties to bear their costs. NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA, JSC: I read in advance the lead judgment just delivered by my learned brother, Ariwoola, JSC, and I respectfully adopt the reasoning and conclusion in dismissing the appeal. I desire to add a few words of my own. Election petitions are public interest litigations. The result of the petition affects not only the parties thereto but the entire constituency for which the election was held. Learned Counsel should strive to identify and isolate the issue or issues that will settle the dispute one way or the other. Proliferation of issues as in this case wherein the appellant presented 16 issues for the Court to resolve, will only pollute the process in the appeal. The Court frowns at proliferation of issues See Ugo V. Obiekwe (1989) 2 SC (Pt. 1!) 41. Even in cases where learned Counsel thinks he has a hundred grounds of appeal, the principle of formulation of issues in an appeal is that a number of grounds of appeal can where appropriate, be formulated into a single issue running through them. See Labiyi v. Anteriola (1992) 10 SCNJ Part 2. PAGE| 34 Issues are not formulated to coincide with the number of grounds of appeal. A single issue can arise from a combination of grounds of appeal. See Nwudenyi & ors v. Alike (1986) 4 NWLR (Pt. 449) 349. I wish to Say a Word on the preliminary objection raised by the appellant to the 26* Respondent’s brief on the ground that the brief was filed in violation of paragraph 6 of the Practice Direction relating to appeals to the Supreme Court in election matters Paragraph 6 of the Practice Directions directs that: “The Respondent shall file in the Court his own brief of argument within 5 days of service of the appellant’s brief.” The bone of contention between the appellant and the 26* Respondent is the computation of the 5 days period within which the Respondent must file his brief. Appellant urged the Court to compute “me from the date of service of the appellant’s brief on the 26* Respondent, whereas the 26* Respondent argued that his S day period ran from the next day of the service of the process on him. Election petitions are distinct from ordinary civil proceedings. See Obih v. Mbakwe (1984) 1 SCNLR 192 at 200. An election matter is time-bound and any provision relating to time must be strictly applied. It does not permit a resort to Interpretation Act. In any case, a phrase as dear as “within 5 days of service…” does not require any aid in its interpretation. Learned Senior Counsel for the 26th Respondent made heavy weather of the fact that he was served the appellant’s brief after the dose of work on 21/8/2014 and so the five day period should be computed from the next day, 22/8/2014. Implicit in the learned Senior Counsel’s argument is that the 5 days period could have been computed from that date of service, if the appellant’s brief had been effected earlier than after the close of work. In my view, no matter at what time the service was effected in so far as it was effected before midnight of 21/8/2014/22/8/2014, the 5 day period must run from 21/8/2014. Let me illustrate with analogy of the distance from one place to other. If one has to travel from Kogi state to Abuja, his starting Point must fall within the confines of Kogi State. He can start anywhere Within Kogi State, not from anywhere outside that State. In the same vein, the 26th Respondent was, by the’ Practice lection, bound to file his brief within 5 days from the date the appellant’s brief was served on him irrespective of the time of service in view of the above, I also sustain the preliminary objection and Hold that the 26th Respondent tiled his brief outside the time stipulated m the Practice Directions.