INEC refuses LP’s request to witness BVAS reconfiguration
On Thursday, Labour Party confronts the Independent National Electoral Commission, alleging that the electoral umpire had rearranged the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines on purpose after its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, asked to review the election materials.
This occurred as the party criticized the commission’s assertion that it had independent witnesses and political party members present to support the data it had obtained from the BVAS.
In order to reconfigure the BVAS machines, INEC postponed the scheduled governorship and state House of Assembly elections that were originally set for March 11 less than 24 hours prior to the protest.
The commission’s request to reconfigure the BVAS that were used for the presidential election was allowed by the Presidential Election Petition Court, which was sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
In a unanimous ruling, the court dismissed the LP’s protest and determined that stopping the electoral umpire from reconfiguring the BVAS would have a negative impact on the upcoming governorship and state assembly elections.
However, Yunusa Tanko, the chief spokesperson for the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, reaffirmed that INEC erred in asserting that it had backed up the data from the BVAS without providing any witnesses.
Tanko further accused the electoral umpire of constantly changing its rule of engagement to cover up some of the anomalies they earlier observed.
He said, “Are we privy or invited to see what was being backed up? If there is going to be transparency, what INEC needs to do is to invite everybody with their technological experts to see what the commission intends to back up from the original source. Was this done?
“We didn’t want to use that as evidence in the court of law. INEC should not forget that we also have our own results. Anything contradictory to that particular result and what they backed up will be totally unacceptable to us.
“It is clear right from the beginning that INEC deliberately went to court for reconfiguration of the BVAS machines after Obi requested to inspect election materials. Of course, nobody, not even you and I, know the commission can come up with anything like reconfiguration at this time. This was done after we demanded to inspect those machines.
“When you are going into an arrangement, it is always important to tell people about the rule of engagement and ensure you don’t change it. But INEC keeps on changing the rule of engagement in order to cover their shady deals. It is unfortunate that we have to bring INEC down to this particular level.”
The LP campaign spokesperson noted that Obi was conferring with his attorneys to decide whether or not to appeal the court ruling on BVAS reconfiguration while stating that they had lost faith in the commission’s ability to conduct a free and fair election.
Tanko also cautioned the electoral body to work to raise its bar and strive to act morally in order to avoid angering the general populace.
Similar concerns about INEC’s ability to conduct the upcoming governorship and Houses of Assembly elections in a free, fair, and transparent way were raised by the Peoples Democratic Party.
Speaking with The PUNCH, the National Publicity of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, said the commission’s conduct in the past two weeks had made most Nigerians to doubt its sincerity.
He said, “The governorship and Assembly polls were to hold on March 11, according to INEC, knowing full well that they could not do it. Now, they have moved it to March 18. Why can’t they allow the parties who had got a court order to get that information from BVAS so that they can be sure of their integrity? Given the behaviour of INEC in recent weeks, how can we be sure that they can even conduct acceptable polls this time?
“This is about the integrity and believability of INEC. What is the average Nigerian saying about INEC today? From the behaviour and activities of INEC, during and after the election, it was clear they were not ready to walk their own talk.”
On assurances by the commission that data from BVAS would be secured in a back-end and cloud, and made accessible to the PDP at any time, Ologunagba said, “This election is technologically driven but today, INEC is on its own, deliberately sabotaging a process it promised the whole world it would sanitise.
“On Google, you would realise that there is possibility of losing data when saved in the cloud. There is the risk of losing data. So, if there is a risk of losing data, why is INEC not worried like the rest of us? How are we sure that this data will be preserved? This is the question we want INEC to answer.”
But reacting, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the data back-up of the BVAS was an internal affair of the commission and not open to inspection by parties.
“The reconfiguration or data back-processes of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines is strictly an internal affair of the Independent National Electoral Commission, that no external eyes are allowed to witness.
“Of course, political parties are free to witness a test-run of the BVAS, and they did during the mock accreditation exercise that we carried out before the general elections.
“However, it is really, really curious that the Labour Party would express any desire to witness such an activity. What exactly do they want to see? Would the party also want to witness when ballot papers and result sheets are designed and printed?
“It is like students demanding to be present when their teachers are determining examination questions. While the commission appreciates and maintains a very cordial relationship with the Inter-Party Advisory Council, the boundaries are well defined and known to both parties,” Oyekanmi said.
Asked when INEC will complete the BVAS reset and storage of data in the back-up, Oyekanmi said “about three days.”