Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) decision to approach 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 elicited questions about the integrity of the recently held poll.
INEC said the request was predicated on the need to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used in the presidential election before deploying them for the March 11 governorship and state Houses of Assembly polls.
However, some IT experts who didn’t want their names in print were unanimous that granting the order would allow the electoral body to tamper with the evidence and compromise the pending litigations on the controversial poll and further worsen the credibility of the entire process.
The IT experts believe that INEC does not need to reconfigure the BVAS ahead of the gubernatorial and the states’ houses of assembly polls.
The presidential candidates of PDP, Atiku Abubakar, and LP, Peter Obi, had in their challenge of the outcome of the presidential election, recently, obtained the order of the court to inspect materials used in the conduct of the poll, including the BVAS.
INEC had declared candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, winner of the presidential election, which was marred by technical challenges.
The controversial poll has been rejected by the two leading opposition parties and had been criticised by international observers and civil society organisations.
Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor, was said to have polled a total of 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 polled 6,101,533 votes, in an election that INEC failed to ensure instantaneous transmission of results to its IReV at the conclusion of voting at polling units as originally planned for the 2023 general election.
Both Tinubu and Atiku won 12 states each, while Obi won 11 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Court of Appeal presided by Justice Joseph Ikyegh had last Friday, while delivering ruling in two separate applications, permitted Atiku and Obi to inspect the said materials, which they intended to use in proving their allegations of non-compliance and rigging of the poll.
The appellate court, ruling in an ex parte application, permitted Atiku and Obi to inspect, “All the electoral materials used in the conduct of the election for the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on February 25, 2023.”
The court also permitted Atiku and Obi to do electronic scanning and/or make photocopies of Voter’s Registration and ballot papers used in the presidential election.
In addition, both Atiku and Obi were by the order permitted to, “Carryout digital forensic inspection of BVAS machines used for the conduct of the February 25” presidential election.
However, INEC, in a fresh application, which THISDAY learnt was filed over the weekend, asked the appellate court to vary the order so as to allow the electoral umpire reconfigure the BVAS for use in the March 11 governorship and Houses of Assembly elections.
No date was fixed for hearing of the application.
According to a source in INEC, the application became necessary following an order restraining the commission from tampering with the information embedded in the BVAS machines until due inspection was conducted and Certified True Copies (CTC) issued to the applicants.
The source added that INEC needed sufficient time to reconfigure the BVAS to be used during this Saturday’s poll holding in the 36 states of the federation, excluding the FCT.
According to the source, considering the number of BVAS machines required to conduct the election across the states, INEC needs to reconfigure the BVAS used for the February 25 elections before deploying them to the various polling units.
The source said the technical team of the commission had to be deployed on time to start the reconfiguration of the devices, which had to be done one by one.
The source maintained that not varying the order could result to postponement of the March 11 elections.
Alex Enumah in Abuja