BVAS: OBI, ATIKU, INEC KNOW FATE, AS COURT RULES TOMORROW
The Court of Appeal sitting at Abuja has fixed tomorrow to deliver a ruling on the application by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to vary its orders retraining INEC from tampering with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines used for the conduct of the 25 February presidential election.
The three-man panel led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, sitting as Presidential Election Petition Court, set down the case for a ruling after listening to the parties.
CITY LAWYER recalls that the court had earlier granted Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) access to inspect the sensitive electoral materials including BVAS to enable them file their petitions against the election.
Represented by renowned election petition expert, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Labour Party and Obi had argued that the essence of the application was to enable them to extract data embedded in the BVAS “which represent the actual results from Polling Units.”
Urging the court to refuse INEC’s application to vary the order earlier granted to the political parties, Ikpeazu said: “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.” He equally applied to obtain the Certified True Copy of all the data in the BVAS.
INEC however disagreed, urged the court to refuse the application.
Speaking through its Lead Counsel, Mr. Tanimu Inuwa, the commission insisted that sustaining the order would affect its preparations for the Governorship and State Assembly Elections scheduled to hold on Saturday.
Inuwa told the court that there are about 176, 000 BVAS machines that were deployed to polling units during the presidential election, adding that “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.”
INEC argued that “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.”
The political parties had sought the following orders: “An order granting the applicants’ permission to do electronic scanning and make photocopies of voter’s registration, ballot papers used in the conduct of the election for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria held on the Feb. 25.
“An order granting leave to the applicants to carry out Digital Forensic Inspection of BVAS machines used for the conduct of the Feb. 25 election for the Office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“An order restraining INEC from tampering with the information embedded in the BVAS machines until the due inspection was conducted and Certified True Copies of them issued”.
Ruling on the earlier application, the court had ordered INEC to allow the applicants to inspect all the electoral materials used in the conduct of the presidential election. It also permitted Labour Party and PDP to do electronic scanning and/or make photocopies of Voter Registration and Ballot Papers used in the conduct of the presidential election.
The court ordered “That leave is hereby granted to the applicants to carry out Digital Forensic Inspection of BVAS machines used for the conduct of the 25 February 2023 election for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu have also approached the court for an order to inspect the sensitive materials including the BVAS machines used for the conduct of the election. It was unclear at press time whether a date has been fixed for hearing of the application.
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