‘BVAS refused to work’ | ‘INEC undermined process’ — 5 takeaways from presidential election tribunal

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    The presidential election petition tribunal continued proceedings on Thursday, with testimonies from witnesses of Peter Obi, the Labour Party (LP) and an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

    Here are five takeaways from the session.

    OBI’S WITNESS ACCUSES INEC OF SABOTAGE

    A witness presented by Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the election, alleged that INEC deliberately delayed the upload of election results.

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    Ahead of the 2023 polls, the IReV portal was part of the technologies introduced by INEC to improve the transparency of the electoral process.

    The commission had assured that polling unit results would be uploaded to the portal in real-time — but during the presidential poll of February 25, the portal was inactive for some time after the conclusion of the exercise.

    The development sparked controversy over the outcome of the election.

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    At the tribunal proceedings, Anthony Chinwo, a software engineer, claimed that he conducted investigations on the upload of results on the IReV portal by INEC.

    Chinwo said he discovered the commission’s “plot to undermine the process”.

    During cross-examination, Abubakar Mahmoud, counsel to INEC, asked the witness if he played any role during the election — but he said he was not involved.

    “In paragraph 10 of your witness statement, you said you read the relevant provisions of the electoral act related to the use and deployment of BVAS. The opinion you give is based on your understanding?” Mahmoud asked.

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    The engineer responded in the affirmative to the question.

    Mahmoud also asked the witness if he was familiar with any of the applications on the BVAS device.

    The witness noted that he had no physical knowledge, but added that he was familiar with the backend server.

    LP TENDERS EXHIBITS

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    After the testimony of the software engineer, the LP sought to tender Form EC40G for four LGAs in Bayelsa state.

    The five-member panel court chaired by Haruna Tsammani admitted the documents as exhibits.

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    Lawyers of the respondents — President Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) — objected to the admissibility of the documents and said they would reserve their objections until the final address.

    INEC OFFICIAL SAYS BVAS DIDN’T TRANSMIT

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    A presiding officer of INEC who served in the presidential election spoke on the inability to upload results in real-time.

    The witness was subpoenaed to appear by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the party.

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    The presiding officer told the court that the presidential election results “refused” to be transmitted with the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS).

    He however added that he was able to successfully transmit the results of the senatorial and house of representatives elections which were held on the same day.

    ‘NO ISSUE IN MY POLLING UNIT’

    Under cross-examination by lawyers for Tinubu and the APC, the witness admitted that there was no issue in his polling unit and that he was happy with the exercise.

    Responding to further questioning, the witness also confirmed that the Labour Party won the election in his polling unit.

    The testimony of the witness was delayed on Wednesday after the respondents raised objections on the ground that their statements were not front-loaded, leading to a heated argument between the petitioner’s counsel and the respondents’ counsel.

    THE IReV CONTROVERSY

    In the wake of the presidential election, INEC said technical challenges with its system were responsible for the delay in uploading results.

    “There is no technology that does not have challenges. Yes, we promised that results will be uploaded in real time to our result viewing portal, but there were challenges. We already explained to Nigerians that these glitches happen, we didn’t anticipate that we’re going to have these challenge,”  Festus Okoye, INEC national commissioner, had said.

    Lai Mohammed, the immediate past minister of information and culture, had attributed the hitches with IReV to suspected cyber attacks.

    Mohammed said the allegation of fraud being bandied by the opposition is a result of ignorance of how the process works.

    “What happened on the 25th of February was that INEC observed that the results of the presidential elections were not being viewed. INEC, suspecting a cyber attack, withheld the uploading of the results to preserve the integrity of the data,” the ex-minister had said while addressing international media in Washington DC.

    “INEC immediately proceeded to float an alternative platform while asking its technicians to investigate what happened to its original portal.”

    Adewole Adebayo, presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the election, has averred that the issues around the result viewing portal may not be relevant to the election petition tribunal.

    Adebayo, a lawyer, had said many of the promises made by INEC, including uploading of results in real-time, are not recognised by law and thus not legally binding.

    Bola Tinubu, the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), won the presidential election with 8,794,726 votes.

    The president’s victory is being challenged by Obi and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

    The presidential election petition tribunal is expected to reconvene on June 9.

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