The Independent National Electoral Commission’s appeal to modify the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System it utilized for the presidential election was granted on Wednesday by the Presidential Election Petition Court, which was sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
A three-judge panel of the court ruled unanimously that blocking the electoral umpire from altering the BVAS would have a negative impact on the next governorship and State Assembly elections.
Peter Obi, the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, and their objections to the proposal were overruled.
According to the court, allowing the objections by Obi and his party, would amount to “tying the hands of the Respondent, INEC”.
The court overruled LP and Obi’s concerns, concluding that the backup files on the server cannot be lost and that preventing INEC from conducting the next governorship elections would be detrimental.
The panel’s judge, Justice Joseph Ikyegh, reprimanded the petitioners for repeatedly asking to be permitted to scan and make copies of the election materials INEC is in possession of, saying that this constituted an abuse of the legal system.
It was mentioned that INEC has guaranteed that the accreditation information included in the BVAS could not be altered or lost in an affidavit submitted to the court.
It further stated that neither Obi nor LP filed a counter affidavit to challenge the argument in INEC’s affidavit.
The court, however ordered INEC to allow the Applicants to inspect and carry out digital forensic examination of all the electoral materials used in the conduct of the elections, as well as to avail them the Certified True Copy, of result of the physical inspection of the BVAS.
The integrity of the data in BVAS used for the presidential election on February 25 had been guaranteed by INEC.
On Tuesday at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, Tanimu Inuwa, the lead attorney for the electoral commission, offered the guarantee in opposition to a request made by Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, over the use of BVAS during the presidential election.
Inuwa, who opposed the application, claimed it would cause the gubernatorial and houses of assembly elections, set for Saturday, to be postponed.
Earlier, Obi, lead counsel, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, had argued that the essence of the application was to enable the legal team to extract data embedded in the BVAS, “which represent the actual results from polling units.”
Obi’s lawyers also applied to obtain the certified true copy of all the data in the BVAS.
“My lords, this is to ensure that the evidence is preserved before the BVAS are reconfigured by INEC. This is because if they are wiped out, it will affect the substance of the case”, Ikpeazu added.
However, INEC urged the court to reject the application through a team of four Senior Advocates of Nigeria, led by Inuwa.
Obi’s plea, according to INEC, will have an impact on its planning for the upcoming elections for the governor and houses of assembly.
It informed the court that during the presidential election, around 176 000 BVAS devices were placed in polling places.
“Each polling unit has its own particular BVAS machine which we need to configure for the forthcoming elections. It will be very difficult for us, within the period, to reconfigure the 176,000 BVAS.
“We have already stated in our affidavit that no information in the BVAS will be lost as we will transfer all the data in the BVAS to our backend server.
“We need the BVAS configured. So, granting this application will be a clog in the process and may delay the conduct of the elections”, INEC’s lawyer, Inuwa, SAN, pleaded.
Judge Joseph Ikyegh delayed making a decision on the case until Wednesday after hearing from the parties.
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