Interpretation of Section 134(2) of the 1999 Constitution

Interpretation of Section 134(2) of the 1999 Constitution

Published on: September 6, 2023 (Updated on: April 28, 2024)

In the recent Election Petition before the Presidential Election Tribunal in Nigeria, there was a crucial question that needed an answer. This question revolved around how to interpret and apply Section 134(2) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. Specifically, it questioned whether a candidate running for the office of President in Nigeria had to secure at least one-quarter of the votes from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Section 134(2) of the Nigerian Constitution provides clear guidelines:

'(2) For a candidate to be duly elected as President, they must: (a) Have the highest number of votes in the election, and (b) Secure at least one-quarter of the votes in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja when there are more than two candidates in the election.'

Analyzing this provision carefully reveals that the one-quarter requirement isn't limited to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja alone. It actually applies to votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Therefore, interpreting Section 134(2) to mean that a candidate must exclusively secure one-quarter of the votes from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja would be a misunderstanding. Such an interpretation doesn't align with the wording and structure of the provision and goes against the democratic principles of the Nigerian Constitution.

In line with this interpretation, the knowledgeable judges of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal have correctly upheld the true intent of Section 134(2) in the judgment delivered on September 6, 2023. Their decision, which states that citizens of the Federal Capital Territory don't have a special claim regarding the one-quarter vote requirement compared to citizens of other States, is legally sound and unquestionable. This decision not only aligns with democratic principles in the Nigerian constitution but also prevents a harmful precedent from being established.

Indeed, a different decision favoring the citizens of the Federal Capital Territory excessively would have created uncertainty in future presidential elections. It would have put candidates at the mercy of the voters in that region, jeopardizing the fairness and integrity of the electoral process.

In conclusion, the interpretation of Section 134(2) by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal is commendable. It upholds democratic values, ensures fair representation, and prevents undue influence in elections. This ruling safeguards the integrity of presidential elections and ensures that the will of the entire Nigerian electorate is accurately reflected in the final election results.

Author:

Michael Akerele, LLB, MICL, BL