Enthusiasm Nosedives As Court Grants INEC’s Request To Reconfigure BVAS Amid Postponement Of States Elections
Amid preparations for the governorship and state legislative elections, the Court of Appeal, Abuja has granted approval to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the governorship and state house of assembly elections.
This is even as the Commission postponed the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, March 11, depleting the enthusiasm of the electorates, many of whom expressed reservations on the process during the conduct of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections.
One of the aggrieved participants in the February 25 presidential polls, the Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate Peter Obi had, in an application, sought an order from the court restraining INEC – the Ist respondent – from tampering with the information in the BVAS machines until due inspection is conducted and certified true copies (CTC) of information on the BVAS are issued.
But on Wednesday, a three-member panel of the court of appeal led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh granted INEC’s request to reconfigure the BVAS machines for this week’s elections on the ground that the information on them will be uploaded into the back-end server which cannot be tampered with.
The panel argued that restraining the electoral umpire from reconfiguring BVAS will affect the conduct of the guber and assembly polls.
The appeal court, however, mandated INEC to allow the applicants to inspect and carry out a digital forensic examination of the electoral materials used to conduct the polls and also avail them of the certified true copy of the result of the physical inspection of the BVAS.
The court also granted the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Tinubu’s request to inspect election materials for the February 25th exercise.
Meanwhile, after assuring Nigerians in via text messages that the state elections would hold as scheduled, on Wednesday night, in a statement signed by the INEC National Commissioner for Voter Education, Festus Okoye, the Commission said the elections earlier scheduled to hold on Saturday, March 11 will be held on March 18.
This was contrary to earlier text messages to registered voters same Wednesday, which read, “Governorship and State Assembly Election are on Saturday 11th March 2023. Make your vote count. Go out and vote. For enquiries, call INEC on: 4632”.
However, the INEC Spokesman said that following the ruling by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (EPT) on the reconfiguration of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used for the February 25 Presidential election, the Commission met to assess its impact on its preparations for the governorship exercise.
According to the state, “The Commission has taken the difficult but necessary decision to reschedule the Governorship and State Assembly elections which will now take place on Saturday 18th March 2023.”
According to Okoye, political parties will continue their campaigns until midnight of Thursday, 16th March 2023 – 24 hours before the new date for the election.
Okoye stated that though the tribunal’s ruling would enable INEC to commence the preparation of the BVAS for the governorship and state assembly elections, it is too late for the reconfiguration to be concluded.
“This decision has not been taken lightly but it is necessary to ensure that there is adequate time to back up the data stored on the over 176,000 BVAS machines from the presidential and National Assembly elections held on 25th February 2023 and then to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly elections.
“This has been the practice for all elections, including the period when the Commission was using Smart Card Readers.
“However, we wish to reiterate that the Commission is not against litigants inspecting election materials.
“Consequently, it will continue to grant all litigants access to the materials they require to pursue their cases in court,” he added.
There are fears in certain quarters that the postponement would trigger voter apathy amid the controversies surrounding the announcement of the winner of the presidential election, with the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, declared the winner by the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu at the national presidential election collation centre in Abuja.
Both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party Candidates in the election are equally claiming victory and have approached presidential election petitions tribunal to seek redress.