Court declines Obi’s request to stop agency from reseting BIVAS
Peter Obi

The reconfiguration of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will go on, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) held yesterday.

It rejected the request by the Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, to restrain the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from tampering with information on the February 25 presidential election stored on the machines.

Obi and LP had sought to bar the commission from reconfiguring the machines until they inspect them and obtain a certified true copy (CTC) of the information retrieved. 

A three-member panel of the tribunal presided over by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, held that granting the prayer would hinder INEC’s preparation for the next round of elections.

Justice Haruna Tsammani, who read the lead ruling, declared: “Prayer six has the effect of constraining or restricting the respondent (INEC) from the use of the BVAS machines for any other purpose, and particularly considering the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections coming up on the 11th of March 2013.”

The jurist said the assurance by INEC that the information on voter accreditation stored on the BVAS machines is safe and cannot be tampered with when evacuated and stored on its accreditation backend server was not controverted or challenged by Obi and LP.

He, however, ordered INEC to avail the applicants of the CTC of the result of the physical inspection of the BVAS machines.

INEC had, in its counter affidavit, stated that it needed to reconfigure the BVAS machines for the next round of elections.

The commission said accreditation data on the BVAS devices are uploaded to the Accreditation Backend Server before any resetting is done. 

Justice Tsammani noted that these averments by INEC were not countered by the respondents.

Justice James Abundaga, who delivered the lead ruling in the motion by INEC for the variation of the tribunal’s earlier orders, struck it out for being unmeritorious.

He said the commission’s fears were unnecessary.

The Justice held: “We made the orders of 3rd March 2023 which are sought to be varied by this application.

“The court did not in any of those orders authorise the applicants to access the database of the applicant (INEC).

“Therefore, the fear that the orders we made, if not varied, will expose the identities of the voters and who they cast their votes for is not genuine.

“We made the orders, very conscious of the court’s power to do so pursuant to the Electoral Act, particularly Section 74 of the Act, to enable the respondent herein (Obi and LP) to have simple access to electoral materials for the purpose of instituting and maintaining their petition if they ever wish to file any.

“We take judicial notice that similar applications to access electoral materials for the purpose of instituting petitions were made by other applicants.

“The respondents (Obi and LP) are hereby reminded, in case of any misapprehension by any of them, that the court did not, in any of those orders granted, authorise the applicants therein, the permission to electronically open the applicant’s (INEC’s) database.”

The tribunal applied the ruling to a similar application by INEC over the orders for inspection earlier granted to Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In other rulings delivered by Justice Ikyegh, the tribunal granted the request by President-elect Bola Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to inspect materials used for the February 25 election.

The tribunal, in four rulings, granted the reliefs sought by Tinubu and APC in the four ex-parte motions.

It rejected prayers five and six in the motion filed by Tinubu on the scientific inspection of the BVAS.