BREAKING: Nigerian Court Grants Electoral Commission, INEC Permission To Reconfigure BVAS, Erase Data Captured During Presidential Election.

The court insisted that allowing the objections would amount to “tying the hands of the Respondent, INEC”.

Nigeria’s Presidential Election Petition Court, sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, has granted the Independent National Electoral Commission permission to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System it used for the presidential election.

The court, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of Justices, held that stopping the electoral body from reconfiguring the BVAS would adversely affect the impending Governorship and State Assembly elections.

While dismissing objections raised by the Labour Party, and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, against INEC’s move to reconfigure all the BVAS, the court insisted that allowing the objections would amount to “tying the hands of the Respondent, INEC”.

The judges noted that INEC had in an affidavit it filed before the court, assured that the accreditation data contained in the BVAS could not be tampered with or lost, as they would be stored and easily retrieved from its accredited back-end server.

It further observed that neither Obi nor LP controverted the depositions in INEC’s affidavit, stressing that since such averments were not challenged, it amounted to an admission by the Applicants.

Nevertheless, the court ordered INEC to allow the Applicants to inspect and carry out a 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 the result of the physical inspection of the BVAS.

The Justice Joseph Ikyegh-led panel faulted Obi and LP for repeating their request to be allowed to scan and make copies of the electoral materials in INEC’s possession.

Noting that the request was earlier granted, the panel held that repeating the prayer amounted to an abuse of the court process.

INEC had insisted that the reconfiguration of the BVAS was necessary since they would be deployed for the next round of elections.

It maintained that without a prompt variation of the order the court earlier granted to Obi and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, especially the aspect restraining it from tampering with formation contained in the BVAS, it would be difficult for it to proceed with the scheduled elections.

Obi and his party had in their application marked: CA/PEC/09m/23, sought permission to be allowed to conduct a physical inspection of all the BVAS used for the presidential poll.

The Applicants, through their team of lawyers led by Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, said the essence of the application was to enable them to extract data embedded in the BVAS, “which represent the actual results from Polling Units”.

They specifically applied for; “leave to carry out digital forensic and physical inspection of BVAS, etc”, as well as to obtain the Certified True Copy, CTC, 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 our case,” Ikpeazu, SAN, added.

While opposing the application, INEC insisted that granting the request would affect its preparations for the impending Governorship and National Assembly elections.

It told the court that there was a total of 176, 000 BVAS machines that were deployed to polling units during the presidential election.

“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 back-end 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 lead lawyer, Tanimu Inuwa, SAN, pleaded

Meanwhile, over 70 CSOs had kicked against the move by INEC to reconfigure BVAS and erase data captured during presidential election.

The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room had expressed its displeasure at the alleged plan by INEC to erase data captured by BVAS during the recent presidential election.

The Situation Room is made up of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria numbering more than 70.

This was stated in a statement made available to the public on Tuesday by the group’s convener, Ene Obi, and Co-Conveners Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu, urging INEC to explain how the commission intends to preserve the information of voters captured by the machine for possible review ahead of future elections.