Constitutional direction on rerun election in Nigeria
By Nureini Jimoh, SAN
Section 134 (2) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prescribes that a candidate will only be deemed duly elected where he secures the highest number of the total votes cast in the entire federation, and at the same time secures at least twenty-five percent of the votes cast in two-thirds of all the States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. Both requirements are conjunctive. They must be jointly satisfied.
For the purpose of computation, the Federation is assumed to have 36 States and the FCT is an independent territory.
The candidate must then secure 25% of the votes in no less than 24 States. The candidate will then be required to also secure 25% of the votes in the FCT. In other words, the constitution made it clear that the Federal Capital Territory will be treated as an independent territory.
This is to avoid the controversy in the notorious case of Awolowo v. Shagari (1979) LPELR-653(SC). That is if FCT is counted as a State and lead to fractionalizing the States in Nigeria. In essence, 2/3rd of 37 will require the candidate to score at least 25% of the votes in no less than 24.7 of the States.
The resultant effect is that even when a candidate secures the highest number of votes cast amongst other candidates, he will still not be eligible to be declared winner if he fails to secure at least 25 percent of the votes in two-thirds of the States (24 States) of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
The constitutional requirements for a rerun where none of the candidates satisfies both conditions? This is anticipated by section 134 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It provides that where any of the candidates fail to attain the highest number of the total votes cast and twenty-five percent (25%) of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, no candidate shall be deemed elected as the president.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is then compelled to conduct another election within 7 days of the announcement of the result of the election. It is pertinent to note that it is not a contest between the candidate with the highest number of votes and the runner-up in terms of simple quantum of votes.
The contest is between the candidates who are leading by votes and spread, (but fail to satisfy the constitutional requirement).
Assuming the number of accredited voters in the least populated state is 2,000,000
The votes cast in that state is 1,000,000. On that preposition, the minimum number of votes required to satisfy the constitutional “spread” requirement is 500 of the votes cast, (representing 25% of the votes cast in that state).
Assume further, that Party A scores 30 million votes in 10 States and scores no other votes in any other States of the Federation or scores less than the constitutional requirement.
On the other hand, Party B scores 8 million votes across 15 States of the federation (again falling short of the constitutional requirements in other states).
Finally, Party C scores 6 million votes spread across just 20 States. None of the parties has satisfied the constitutional requirement. Party A which has a majority of the votes does not have the minimum spread.
The constitution prescribes the category of those eligible to engage in the rerun election as the candidates having the majority of votes in the highest number of States in the federation.
Simply put, preference is accorded to candidates having the greatest number of votes spread across the maximum number of States in the country. In the scenario given above, the contest will be between Parties B and C.
The number of States being the ultimate deciding factor. However, where amongst the contestants for the runner-up position, they all have their votes spread across an equal number of States, the qualifying candidate to engage in the rerun process will be the candidate with the highest number of votes cast in the election.
The twist to this runner-up scenario is that priority is given to the candidate who has a greater spread in terms of the number of States where he has secured the highest number of votes. The intent of the drafters of the Constitution is to ensure that a president is acceptable across the country.
The fact that the number of votes cast for such a party is from a limited number of states (far less than 24 states) becomes irrelevant. In our example above, that will be party A.
In effect, Party A, having secured a comfortable right to participate in the rerun, there is then a need to ascertain which of the other contenders ought to engage party A. The qualifying criteria to ascertain this opponent is prescribed by the constitution. It is the party with the highest number of votes in the maximum number of states.
So, relying on the analogy above, party C who has in totality a quantum of votes less than that of parties A & B, may yet be the party that will engage A in the rerun. This is because speaking loosely, party C has a wider spread of votes than Party B. This interpretation, unduly favouring party A (only on account of his having the overall highest number of votes cast) is unlikely to win any applause.
This is because any interpretation that guarantees any party the right to a re-run, on account of having scored the maximum number of votes, appears to undermine the clear objective of the constitution. The discernible objective is that each candidate ought to demonstrate acceptability across the country, by securing votes accordingly.
Upon the conduct of the first rerun election, the candidate that secures the highest number of votes cast and secures twenty-five percent (25%) of votes cast at the election in at least two-thirds of the States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, shall be deemed duly elected as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That said, where the two candidates for the rerun still fail to secure twenty-five percent (25%) of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the States in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, section 134(5) of the Constitution further provides that another or a second rerun election shall be conducted between both candidates within seven days of the announcement of the result of the election held.
However, this second rerun election will then be decided by the highest number of votes cast. Accordingly, the criteria for success at the second rerun, unlike the first rerun, is a simple majority of the votes cast in favour of any of the candidates.
Finally, The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, said where the threshold is not met by any candidate, the constitution stated that second election should be conducted for two of the candidates with highest and majority votes in line with the provisions of the constitution. He emphasized that:
“Section 134 subsection 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is the fundamental law of the land, makes it mandatory that before anyone is deemed to have been elected as a president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that candidate must secure the highest number of votes cast at the election.
“He must also secure a quarter of the votes cast in two-thirds of all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. That is mandatory.
“Now, if no candidate secures this highest number of votes and the mandatory threshold, the Constitution says we must have a second election within a period of 21 days.
“Now, not all candidates are going to participate in this second election. Eighteen candidates will be on the ballot for the first election, ” he said.
Okoye also explained that: “If no candidate emerges on the first ballot, only two candidates are going to be on the second ballot or only two candidates are going to contest the second election.
“Who are those candidates that will be on the ballot for the second election?
“The Constitution has made it very clear that two candidates will be on the ballot are; one amongst the candidates who scored the highest number of votes at the election, the one that scored the highest number of votes at the election.
“The second candidate that will be on the ballot will be one amongst the remaining candidates who have the majority of votes in the highest number of states. The Constitution did not say that the person who came second will be the person who will be on the ballot. That’s not what Constitution says.”
I tend to agree with Mr Festus Okoye save to the period of 21 days stated by him. Section 134 (5) of the Constitution specifies seven days and not 21days.
I must acknowledged Eghobamien, SAN, managing partner, Perchstone & Graeys; Odia, senior associate, Perchstone & Graeys and; Ruth Adodo in the course of this write up.
Nureini Jimoh, SAN, FCArb, Ficmc is the Principal Partner of Nureini Jimoh SAN Chambers based in Kano.
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