An Election petition refers to the procedure for challenging the result of an election. Election petitions are instituted to challenge the validity of an election or for disputing the due return of a candidate and are the only legal way to do so under Nigerian law. It is usually presented by a candidate in an election or a political party that took part in the elections.

An election petition is referred to as sui generis in law because it has its peculiarities with legal procedures and processes that are different from normal civil proceedings.


Electoral Act 2022 and the Nigerian constitution 1999 (as amended) provide for the procedure of election petition. These laws provide for the courts that have jurisdiction to entertain electoral disputes. Petitions arising from National Assembly elections are to be heard by designated tribunals. The Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Tribunals handle petitions arising from elections conducted in the states of the federation for governorship and houses of assembly. For presidential elections, the appropriate court to hear election petitions is the Court of Appeal.


In Nigeria, Election petitions are time-bound actions and must be brought within the time prescribed. The timeframe for filing an election petition depends on the type of election.

For the presidential election, Section 134(2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) stipulates that an election petition challenging the outcome of the presidential election must be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

For governorship and legislative elections (i.e., elections into the Senate and House of Representatives), Section 138(2) of the Electoral Act provides that an election petition must be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of the results by INEC.

It is important to note that the 21-day period for filing an election petition is a strict and mandatory deadline, and failure to comply with this deadline may result in the dismissal of the petition by the court.


Elections make a fundamental contribution to democratic governance. The Legislature understands this importance hence the detailed provisions of the law on electoral disputes. The non-conformity with the provided timelines is a ground upon which the court can disregard the suit.

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