The Presidential Election Petition Court sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on Wednesday, granted the request of the Independent National Electoral Commission 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 preventing the electoral umpire from reconfiguring the BVAS would adversely affect the forthcoming governorship and State Assembly elections.
It dismissed objections by the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, against the request.
According to the court, allowing the objections by Obi and his party, would amount to “tying the hands of the Respondent, INEC”.
Dismissing objections by LP and Obi, the court held that the backup files on the server cannot be lost and that restraining INEC will affect the forthcoming governorship elections.
Justice Joseph Ikyegh who presided over the panel chided the applicants for repeating their request to be allowed to scan and make copies of the electoral materials in INEC’s possession stating that it amounted to an abuse of court process.
It noted that INEC had in an affidavit filed before the court, assured that the accreditation data contained in the BVAS could not be tampered with or lost.
It further stated that neither Obi nor LP filed a counter affidavit to challenge the argument in INEC’s affidavit.
The court, however ordered INEC to allow the Applicants to inspect and carry out 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 result of the physical inspection of the BVAS.
The PUNCH reports that INEC had assured that information in BVAS used for February 25 presidential poll is intact.
The electoral commission lead counsel, Tanimu Inuwa, gave the assurance on Tuesday at the Court of Appeal in Abuja, while opposing an application filed by the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, on BVAS deployed in the presidential poll.
Opposing the application, Inuwa argued it would delay the conduct of governorship and houses of assembly elections scheduled for Saturday.
Earlier, Obi, lead counsel, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, had argued that the essence of the application was to enable the legal team to extract data embedded in the BVAS, “which represent the actual results from polling units.”
Obi’s lawyers also applied to obtain the certified true copy 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 the case”, Ikpeazu added.
However, INEC, through its team of lawyers comprising four Senior Advocates of Nigeria, led by Inuwa, urged the court to refuse the application.
INEC insisted that granting the request by Obi would affect its preparations for the impending governorship and houses of assembly elections.
It told the court that there were about 176, 000 BVAS machines that were deployed in 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 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”, INEC’s lawyer, Inuwa, SAN, pleaded.
After listening to the parties, Justice Joseph Ikyegh adjourned ruling on the matter till Wednesday.