By Bukola Hameed
The governorship and House of Assembly elections will not hold on Saturday. It has been shifted to March 18, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced last night.
This followed yesterday’s rejection by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) of the request by Mr. Peter Obi and his Labour Party (LP) to restrain INEC from reconfiguring the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the governorship poll in 28 states and Assembly election in 36 states of the federation.
Obi, the LP presidential candidate and the party had approached the tribunal to stop INEC from tampering with information embedded in the BVAS machines in respect of the February 25 presidential election, until they conduct their inspection and the Certified True Copy (CTC) is made available to them.
But the Commission said that the ruling by the PEPT to allow them reconfigure the BVAS for the governorship election came rather too late, adding that it has to take the painful decision to reschedule the election.
National Commissioner on Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, announced the postponement by a week in the statement.
The statement reads: “Following today’s (yesterday) ruling by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) on the reconfiguration of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used for the Presidential election held on 25th February, 2023, the Commission met to assess its impact on the Commission’s preparations for the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections scheduled for Saturday, 11thMarch 2023.
“Nigerians would recall that on 3rd March, 2023, the Presidential EPT had given an ex parte order for some political parties to inspect materials used for the Presidential election, including the forensic inspection of over 176,000 BVAS used in the election which are located in INEC LGA offices across the country.
“The Commission approached the Tribunal to reconsider the order, given that the BVAS were to be deployed for the governorship and State Assembly elections and that the lack of a clearly defined time frame for the inspection could disrupt the Commission’s ability to conduct the outstanding elections.
“For instance, the BVAS can only be activated on the specific date and time of an election. Having been used for the Presidential and National Assembly elections on 25th February, 2023, it is necessary to reconfigure the BVAS for activation on the date of the governorship and State Assembly elections.
“While the ruling of the Tribunal makes it possible for the Commission to commence the preparation of the BVAS for the governorship and State Assembly elections, it has come far too late for the reconfiguration to be concluded.
“Consequently, the Commission has taken the difficult, but necessary decision to reschedule the governorship and State Assembly elections which will now take place on Saturday 18th March, 2023. By this decision, campaigns will continue until midnight of Thursday, 16th March, 2023 which is 24 hours before the new date for the election.
“This decision has not been taken lightly, but it is necessary to ensure that there is adequate time to back up the data stored on the over 176,000 BVAS machines from the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on 25th February, 2023, and then to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly elections.
“This has been the practice for all elections, including the period when the Commission was using the Smart Card Readers.
“However, we wish to reiterate that the Commission is not against litigants inspecting election materials. Consequently, it will continue to grant all litigants access to the materials they require to pursue their cases in court.
“We wish to reassure all political parties and candidates that the data from the Presidential and National Assembly elections will be backed up and available in INEC Cloud facilities, including the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV).
“Political parties can apply for Certified True Copies of the backend data of the BVAS. Also, the results on the BVAS will continue to be available on the IReV for interested parties to access.
“We thank Nigerians and friends of Nigeria for their understanding as we continue to deal with these difficult issues and navigate these challenging times.”
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