The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that information in the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) used for February 25 presidential poll is intact.
The electoral commission lead counsel, Tanimu Inuwa (SAN), 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 state 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.
INEC 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, pleaded.
After listening to the parties, Justice Joseph Ikyegh adjourned ruling on the matter till Wednesday.
The court issued the restraining order in the ruling it gave on Friday granting permission to the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar and Obi to inspect the sensitive materials used for the conduct of the February 25 election.
Both Atiku and Obi obtained the order to challenge the outcome of the election which they alleged was marred by fraud and other irregularities.
INEC on March 1 declared the All Progressives Congress candidate, Bola Tinubu as the winner of the election but the PDP and the LP candidates are contesting the outcome.
They subsequently filed separate ex parte applications, praying to be granted access to inspect sensitive materials that INEC used for the conduct of the presidential poll.
But INEC, in a motion on the notice filed on March 4, asked the court to vary the order restraining it from tampering with materials used for the election.
The commission said it needed to reconfigure the BVAS for the next round of elections which would be held on Saturday.
The statement said, “Situation Room will like the Independent National Electoral Commission to clarify to the public how it intends to ensure that data collected in the BVAS used in the election will be preserved for use in the review and audit of the elections.
“Electoral accountability requires that information collected during elections is preserved for use in the audit and review of the election and for accountability purposes. In light of the disputations that have emerged and the controversy surrounding the 2023 general elections, Situation Room is asking INEC to ensure that its records and data related to the election are held safely and securely to ensure their use for scrutiny and accountability.
“Reports indicating that the BVAS may need to be reconfigured or even erased for the upcoming State Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections due on Saturday, March 11 2023 is a serious cause for concern and we worry that this could further pose additional credibility questions over the integrity and conduct of the 2023 general elections.”
But the APC’s Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, endorsed INEC’s request to reconfigure the BVAS.
“INEC is the umpire. If INEC says come for election, we will be ready to go. Certainly, the BVAS has to be reconfigured because they were configured for the presidential election, they have to also be reconfigured for the governorship and state assemblies elections.