The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday, received knocks and praises over its decision to postpone the March 11 governorship and state assembly elections to March 18.
The electoral umpire, late Wednesday night, postponed the state balloting due to its inability to commence the reconfiguration of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System, BVAS, machines, on time.
The Court of Appeal, on Wednesday, gave the commission the nod to reconfigure the BVAS used for the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly polls in readiness for the state elections.
Shortly after getting the court's nod, the INEC management went into a meeting after which it postponed the governorship polls to enable it to reconfigure the over 176,000 BVAS machines which would require five days to do.
The Labour Party, LP, said INEC's handling of the presidential poll had eroded its confidence in the electoral umpire, which it said could no longer be trusted.
Political parties in the country, under the aegis of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, while supporting the postponement however warned that the electorate will no longer accept excuses for poor performance.
This was as Deputy Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Abiodun Fadeyi; and Nigeria's former envoy to the Philippines, Dr Yemi Farounbi, said the postponement of the polls was inevitable considering that INEC had to reconfigure the BVAS for the elections.
This INEC can no longer be trusted — LP
The Labour Party said the recent conduct of the INEC had done incalculable damage to the trust Nigerians once had in the commission's promise to let the people's vote count.
National Chairman of the party, Comrade Julius Abure, said this in an interview in Abuja, yesterday.
He explained that he was one of those who at various fora expressed implicit confidence in the ability of the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC to deliver based on his repeated assurances that the commission would adhere strictly to its rules and the tamper-proof BVAS technology.
According to Abure, INEC not only failed to deliver but had through its subsequent actions shown that it cannot be trusted.
The LP Chairman expressed misgivings over INEC's various applications to court, reliefs sought and the postponement of the Governorship and State Assembly elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, March 11, 2023.
Abure said: “Our major concern is that aspect (of the Appeal Court ruling) which granted INEC the opportunity not to allow us to inspect the BVAS. Our concern really stems from the fact that INEC these days is not to be trusted. INEC will make a promise from one side of the mouth and then swallow their vomit from the other.
He continued: “Recall that in 2019, INEC promised that it had a server only for those servers not to be available when litigants wanted to inspect the server that they claimed they had.
“INEC had gone out of their way to assure and reassure Nigerians again and again that election results will be uploaded from polling units to their server and that people are going to view these results from their server but you could see that when it was time for people to start uploading the results, INEC said it had a technical glitch even when they had explained to Nigerians that they had backup that will roll off into work immediately when the main server had a technical issue.
“All of these bring us to the point that even though INEC had assured us and the courts in their counter affidavits that the records in the BVAS will be saved in their backend server we have our doubts because this is not the first time INEC will be telling us that they have a server, they will upload to their server and so on and so forth.
“But the Court in their wisdom has given them privilege and you can see, immediately they got that judgment, they shifted the elections.
“If they knew they were going to postpone the governorship election for a week why did they go to court to vary the order given to us to inspect materials?
“There was absolutely no need for it because one of the reasons they gave to the court was that if they allowed us to inspect the BVAS it would affect the timeline for the election but surprisingly, after getting the court to grant them the request to reconfigure the BVAS they immediately shifted the election.
“One had a lot of doubts about the patriotism, commitment, truthfulness and integrity of this INEC to do what is right.
“The way and manner they conducted the last election has completely destroyed the confidence which I had in INEC. Let's see what stories they will come up with tomorrow.
“Tomorrow is here it's not far. Since the court gave the order for INEC to allow us inspect materials, INEC has not allowed us.
“We have not been able to inspect, our lawyers have been going there every day, our technical experts have been going there on daily basis and we have not been allowed access.
“At times you begin to wonder whether this INEC is working for Nigerians or some persons somewhere.
“I will be sincere with you, if INEC says they are going to Lagos, I will go and look for them in Sokoto.”
We respect INEC's decision-APC
The ruling All Progressives Congress APC has said it respects the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to postpone the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections from March 11 to Saturday March 18 2023, urging it to address all the hitches identified in the last elections.
It specifically asked the commission to ensure adequate protection of the data on its Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, which the electoral umpire has promised to back up.
Party Spokesman, Felix Morka in a statement on Thursday said while noting its reassurance that data from the Presidential and National Assembly elections will be properly backed up on its cloud facilities, INEC should “do everything within its power to preserve and protect the integrity of the extracted data from BVAS as it has committed to do before court.”
“Further, we enjoin INEC to use the opportunity presented by the election postponement to address any gaps or hitches identified in the presidential election in order to avoid a reoccurrence in the March 18, election.
“Even as Presidential Candidates and their political parties explore and exercise their constitutional liberty to challenge or defend the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, we must remind ourselves of the overriding duty that we bear to eschew conduct and action capable of undermining the peace of our country or imperil the capacity of INEC to conduct the upcoming Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections.
“Our Candidate, now President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged as the overwhelming choice of Nigerians in the presidential election which was free, fair and in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and INEC Guidelines for the 2023 General Elections,” the party stated.
Excuses no longer acceptable, IPAC cautions INEC
Also speaking to journalists after an emergency General Assembly meeting held at the Council's Secretariat in Abuja, IPAC's National Chairman, Engr. Yabagi Sani, warned the INEC that excuses that appeared to undermine credible polls were no longer acceptable.
He, nevertheless, disclosed that the political parties are in support of INEC's rescheduling of the governorship and State Assembly elections from March 11 to 18 because adequate preparation by the electoral umpire will guarantee the integrity, credibility and transparency of the elections.
Sani said: “Adequate time is needed to ensure things are properly done as the destinies of over 200 million Nigerians are at stake.
“As a major stakeholder in the political process, IPAC has always urged the electoral umpire to ensure it starts early preparation for elections and seek more time, if necessary to ensure it conducts hitch-free, credible, inclusive and generally acceptable polls as Nigerians will not tolerate any excuse for poor performance as witnessed in the failure to upload results from Polling Units to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) in real time.”
However, the IPAC Chairman called on players in the political and civic space to provide maximum support to INEC.
He said: “IPAC urges all stakeholders in the electoral process, to please bear with the Commission as it puts its acts together for the March 18, 2023 Governorship and State House of Assembly elections.
“With the assurance that BVAS will function properly and results uploaded to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) in real time, Nigerians and the international community expect free, fair, credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful gubernatorial and legislative elections.
“The Commission should this time justify the confidence Nigerians repose in it and improve on its performance in the disputed Presidential and National Assembly polls.”
The Council also urged security agents to sit up and be alive to their constitutional mandate to secure lives and property before, during and after elections.
Doing this, it said, would avert the violence and other security breaches witnessed during the presidential election.
Sani equally urged Nigerians to come out en masse on March 18 and vote for their preferred political parties, and ensure their votes count in the overall results.
“The ballot is sacrosanct, the will and mandate of the people freely given to a political party must be respected. This is the beauty of election and representative governance.
“Any attempt to manipulate the upcoming elections must be resisted. The era of vote buying and other irregularities that marred previous polls is over,” he stressed.
Postponement's welcome devt — Oyo dep speaker
Speaking on the postponement, Deputy Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Abiodun Fadeyi Said: “It's a welcome development, I had anticipated it the moment INEC said it needed time to reconfigure the BVAS machines before it can be used for the governorship and House of Assembly elections.
“I am not a computer expert but I know for sure this will happen. This postponement will also afford the Commission the opportunity to fix faulty machines and get them in good order before the poll.
“All the noticeable flaws experienced during the last presidential election will be corrected and the BVAS machines will work more effectively.”
The needful must be done – Gbadebo
The Lagos State Governorship Candidate of the LP, Mr. Gbadebo Rhodes- Vivour he had no problem with the postponement so long as the BVAS machines were not compromised.
“I feel it's extremely important for the needful to be done with regards to data gathering and data collection of the presidential election to ensure that we can put the best case forward with regards to the presidential election that was robbed.”
We're not surprised – Otti
On his part, the Labour Party Governorship Candidate in Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti, said: “We are not very surprised but we are a bit disappointed because a lot of plans had to change and the way the February 25 election was handled we began to think that it may be possible to postpone the election.
One of the things is the reconfiguration of the BVAS, our inquiry shows that it takes four to five days to configure over 176,000 or more BVAS. It would change a whole lot of things for some people that have come from abroad, Lagos and other parts of the world to vote.
Some are going to leave on Monday or Tuesday and some of them cannot reschedule these trips, so their votes and services would have been lost. Also, one more week of the campaign would mean more expenses and more resources would be redeployed and these are not in our plans. Having said that, either the election will be held on March 11 or 18, I can assure you that we are ready.”
Postponement of poll inevitable — Yemi Farounbi
Nigeria's former Envoy to the Philippines, Dr Yemi Farounbi, said: “Postponement of the polls appears inevitable considering that INEC have to configure the BVAS for the elections.
In all the 28 states where the governorship election will hold and the 36 states where the Houses of Assembly is scheduled to hold, it does not seem that INEC has enough time to reconfigure the machines, having in mind that Court of Appeal gave the judgment that allowed INEC to go ahead with the configuration just on Wednesday. So, the postponement is inevitable.”
Also speaking, the Ondo State Publicity Secretary, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Kennedy Peretei, said: “If INEC says they are not ready for Gubernatorial election until 18th March, I think we should give them benefit of the doubt to avoid them coming back with excuses later.”