By Simeon OSAJIE
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has postponed the governorship and state assembly elections scheduled to hold on March 11 by one week.
The elections will now hold on March 18, 2023.
This postponement was made known in a statement signed by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, Festus Okoye on Wednesday.
The decision was reached after the meeting with the INEC chairman and his team.
The postponement is coming about three days before the March 11 date earlier scheduled for the state elections.
Consequently, all activities pertaining to the exercise are rescheduled, especially the states inspection of sensitive materials at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
INEC’s decision was due to the commission’s inability to earnestly commence reconfiguration of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines utilised during the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections to enable their use in the state elections.
This came some hours after the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja granted INEC’s request on the reconfiguration of (BVAS), ahead of the March 11 state elections.
Recall the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi had approached the court to stop INEC from reconfiguring the BVAS machines used in the previous election for the fear of tampering with the data imputed into the device.
The INEC statement reads:
“Following today’s ruling by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (EPT) 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, 11th March 2023.
“Nigerians would recall that on 3rd March 2023, the Presidential EPT had given an exparte 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 Systems were to be deployed for the Governorship and State Assembly elections and that the lack of a clearly defined timeframe 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 i.e. 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.”