Key things to know about Election Petitions in Nigeria

Election Petitions in Nigeria

Under Nigerian law, the governing law for how elections can be challenged are contained in the Electoral Act 2022. Under the Electoral Act, the people who can file an election petition are the election candidates who contested in the elections, the political parties whose candidates contested in the election, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (who must always be included as a respondent to an election petition).


Types of Election Petition Tribunals

As set out in the 1999 Constitution, there are two types of election tribunal for each State of the federation which are vested with original jurisdiction over the trial of election petitions.

The first is the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunals that have original and exclusive jurisdiction to deal with the petition from the Federal House of Reps elections, Senate elections, and state Houses of Assembly.

The second type is the of the election petition tribunal is the Governorship election tribunal which is vested with exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and determine petitions for Governorship elections.

These tribunals are composed of three (3) members made up of the chairman who shall be a Judge Of High Court and two other members appointed from the ranks, of Judges Of The High Court, Kadis of Shari’ah court of Appeal, Judges of the customary court of Appeal or other members of the judiciary not below the rank of the Chief Magistrate.

The Court of Appeal is vested with the powers to hear appeals from election tribunals in respect of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petitions. Its decision is final in that regard.

However, petitions arising from the Governorship elections enjoy two Appeals: first at the Court of Appeal and finally at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

With respect to election petitions challenging the results of a Presidential election, there is no tribunal. These petitions are heard in the first instance at the Court of Appeal, and then appeals go to the Supreme Court.


What grounds can be used to challenge an election?

After an election, the contestants and political parties can challenge the results, alleging one of the following things:

  • a person whose election is questioned was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election ;
  • the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or noncompliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act
  • the respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election


What are the potential outcomes of an election petition

Broadly speaking there are 3 potential outcomes of an election petition. The first outcome is that the tribunal/court upholds the election, the second outcome is the election is nullified and a new election is ordered, and the final one is that the election decision is rejected and the person who won the election is removed and the petitioner (the person who filed the petition) is installed as the winner of the election


What Next?

So now that you have a general understanding of the election petition process in Nigeria, what do we expect you to do with it? Nothing particularly, as you as an individual who has not contested in an election cannot bring a petition – only the candidates and the political parties can bring a petition. So once again, all this information is just us doing our job – educating you about the law in Nigeria.




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