Written by Rita Odafe
What is a Petition?
Simply put, a petition is a formal written request to an authority or organised body (such as the police, an institution or the courts).
A petition can also be a written request or call for change signed by many people to support a shared cause of concern.
Who can present a petition?
Anyone can present a petition to the police, an institution or the courts.
A petition is usually presented by an aggrieved individual, organisation or group of persons, aimed at seeking redress to forestall a relief, a right or a privilege.
This redress can also take the form of one of the following-
- To apply to a commission or an institution to review, alter or rescind an earlier decision.
- To request action on a specific matter.
- To seek approval to fight a course and a perfect instance of a petition is an Election Petition.
These are filed by election candidates who contested elections and political parties whose candidates contested elections.
An election Petition is brought before an Electoral Tribunal or the Court of Appeal.
Discontent/aggrieved electoral contestants who contested at the Federal House of Representatives, the Senate or the State House of Assembly level file their petition to the National and State House of Assembly Election Tribunals.
This Tribunal consists of the Chairman, who is a judge of a high court within Nigeria and two other members appointed from the following ranks-
- Judges of the High Court.
- Kadis of the Shar’iah Court of appeal.
- Judges of the customary court of appeal.
- Members of the judiciary not below the rank of Chief Magistrate.
- (So, if around the period of electoral tribunals, you approach the court premises either as a litigant or a legal practitioner and find a handful of judges absent, they are most likely serving as electoral tribunal judges outside their jurisdiction.)
Aggrieved contestants, who contested at the presidential and governorship election level, filed their Election Petition at the Court of Appeal.
Appeals emerging from here are filed and heard at the Supreme Court.
The Independent National Electoral Commission is also included as a Respondent to an election petition.
Grounds for Election Petitions
As inscribed in the Electoral Act, an election petition can be initiated on the grounds where:
- The individual who contested an election was not at the time of the election qualified to contest the election.
- The election held was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act.
- The Respondent was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast in the election.
The time frame for filing election petitions
An election Petition must be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the results of the election.
Possible Outcomes of an Election Petition
The election Tribunal or the Court of Appeal may either-
- Uphold the election being petitioned against.
- Nullify the election and order for a re-run election.
- Reject the election decision and order the removal of the initial winner while installing the Petitioner as the winner.