The Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) decision to petition the Court of Appeal in Abuja for an order varying the permission the court had previously granted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) to inspect materials used by the commission in the conduct of the February 25 presidential election has raised concerns about the integrity of the recently held election.
INEC stated that the request was based on the necessity to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) utilized in the presidential election prior to their deployment for the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections on March 11.
However, some IT experts who did not wish to have their names published were unanimous in their opinion that granting the order would allow the electoral body to tamper with the evidence, jeopardize the pending litigations on the controversial election, and diminish the overall credibility of the process.
The IT specialists feel that INEC does not need to alter the BVAS before to the governorship and state assembly elections.
The presidential candidates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and the People’s Liberation Party (LP), Peter Obi, have recently acquired a court order to investigate documents used in the conduct of the presidential election, including the BVAS.
INEC named Bola Tinubu, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the winner of a presidential election hampered by technological difficulties.
The poll was rejected by the two biggest opposition parties and criticized by international observers and civil society groups.
Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor, reportedly received 8,794,726 votes to defeat his closest rival and presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku, who scored 6,984,520 votes, and Peter Obi of LP, who received 6,101,533 votes, in an election where INEC failed to ensure instantaneous transmission of results to its IReV at the conclusion of voting at polling units, as was originally planned for the 2023 general election.
Tinubu and Atiku each won twelve states, whereas Obi won eleven states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Last Friday, while ruling on two distinct applications, the Court of Appeal presided by Judge Joseph Ikyegh enabled Atiku and Obi to inspect the papers they intended to use to prove their allegations of non-compliance and rigging of the election.
In a judgement on an ex parte application, the appeal court granted Atiku and Obi to inspect “all electoral materials utilized in the conduct of the presidential election for the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on February 25, 2023.”
In addition, the court permitted Atiku and Obi to electronically scan and/or create reproductions of the Voter Registration and ballot papers used in the presidential election.
In addition, the court enabled both Atiku and Obi to “perform digital forensic inspections of the BVAS machines used to conduct the February 25 presidential election.”
In a new motion, which THISDAY learned was filed over the weekend, INEC urged the appellate court to modify the decision to allow the electoral umpire to reconfigure the BVAS for use in the governorship and Houses of Assembly elections scheduled for March 11.
No date was set for the application’s hearing.
According to an INEC source, the application was necessitated by a court order prohibiting the commission from tampering with the information encoded in the BVAS machines until a proper examination was done and Certified True Copies (CTC) were delivered to the petitioners.
The source stated that INEC required ample time to modify the BVAS to be utilized for Saturday’s election in 36 of the federation’s states, except the FCT.
According to the source, given the number of BVAS machines required to conduct the election throughout the states, INEC must reconfigure the BVAS machines used for the polls on February 25 before deploying them to the various polling units.
The source stated that the technical team of the commission had to be deployed on time to begin the one-by-one reconfiguration of the devices.
According to the source, failure to alter the order could result in the postponing of the March 11 elections.