The Labour Party, on Thursday, knocked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, saying the electoral umpire deliberately came up with its idea of reconfiguring the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines after its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, sought to examine the election materials.
This was as the party faulted the commission’s claim of backing up the data retrieved from the BVAS without the presence of independent witnesses and representatives of political parties.
The protest is coming barely 24 hours after INEC rescheduled the planned governorship and states House of Assembly elections earlier slated for March 11 in order to reconfigure the BVAS machines.
The move was made possible after the Presidential Election Petition Court sitting at the Court of Appeal in Abuja granted the commission’s request to reconfigure the BVAS that was used for the presidential poll.
The court had, in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of Justices, dismissed the objection by the LP and held that preventing the electoral umpire from reconfiguring the BVAS would adversely affect the forthcoming governorship and state Assembly elections.
But the Chief Spokesman for the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, reiterated that it was wrong of INEC to claim that it had backed up the data from the BVAS without any witness.
Tanko further accused the electoral umpire of constantly changing its rule of engagement to cover up some of the anomalies they earlier observed.
He said, “Are we privy or invited to see what was being backed up? If there is going to be transparency, what INEC needs to do is to invite everybody with their technical experts to see what the commission intends to back up from the original source. Was this done?
“We didn’t want to use that as evidence in the court of law. INEC should not forget that we also have our own results. Anything contradictory to that particular result and what they backed up will be totally unacceptable to us.
“It is clear right from the beginning that INEC deliberately went to court for reconfiguration of the BVAS machines after Obi requested to inspect election materials. Of course, nobody, not even you and I, know the commission can come up with anything like reconfiguration at this time. This was done after we demanded to inspect those machines.
“When you are going into an arrangement, it is always important to tell people about the rule of engagement and ensure you don’t change it. But INEC keeps on changing the rule of engagement in order to cover their shady deals. It is unfortunate that we have to bring INEC down to this particular level.”
While stating that they had lost confidence in the capacity of the commission to hold a free and fair election, the LP campaign spokesman noted that Obi was consulting with his lawyers to determine whether or not to appeal the court ruling on BVAS reconfiguration.
Tanko also warned the electoral body to endeavour to raise its standard and seek to do the right thing to avoid incurring the wrath of the masses.
Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party expressed strong reservations about INEC’s capacity to conduct the upcoming governorship and Houses of Assembly polls in a free, fair, and transparent manner.
Speaking with The PUNCH, the National Publicity of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, said the commission’s conduct in the past two weeks had made most Nigerians to doubt its sincerity.
He said, “The governorship and Assembly polls were to hold on March 11, according to INEC, knowing full well that they could not do it. Now, they have moved it to March 18. Why can’t they allow the parties who had got a court order to get that information from BVAS so that they can be sure of their integrity? Given the behaviour of INEC in recent weeks, how can we be sure that they can even conduct acceptable polls this time?
“This is about the integrity and believability of INEC. What is the average Nigerian saying about INEC today? From the behaviour and activities of INEC, during and after the election, it was clear they were not ready to walk their own talk.”
On assurances by the commission that data from BVAS would be secured in a back-end and cloud, and made accessible to the PDP at any time, Ologunagba said, “This election is technologically driven but today, INEC is on its own, deliberately sabotaging a process it promised the whole world it would sanitise.
“On Google, you would realise that there is a possibility of losing data when saved in the cloud. There is the risk of losing data. So, if there is a risk of losing data, why is INEC not worried like the rest of us? How are we sure that this data will be preserved? This is the question we want INEC to answer.”
But reacting, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the data back-up of the BVAS was an internal affair of the Commission and not open to inspection by parties.
“The reconfiguration or data back-processes of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines is strictly an internal affair of the Independent National Electoral Commission, that no external eyes are allowed to witness.
“Of course, political parties are free to witness a test run of the BVAS, and they did during the mock accreditation exercise that we carried out before the general elections.
“However, it is really, really curious that the Labour Party would express any desire to witness such activity. What exactly do they want to see? Would the party also want to witness when ballot papers and result sheets are designed and printed?
“It is like students demanding to be present when their teachers are determining examination questions. While the commission appreciates and maintains a very cordial relationship with the Inter-Party Advisory Council, the boundaries are well defined and known to both parties,” Oyekanmi said.
Asked when INEC will complete the BVAS reset and storage of data in the backup, Oyekanmi said “about three days.”