Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has shifted the conduct of the governorship and houses of assembly elections to March 18.
The elections were initially fixed to hold on March 11 across 24 states.
On Wednesday, the court of appeal refused an application by Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), to restrain INEC from reconfiguring the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) ahead of the governorship and state assembly elections.
INEC, in a statement late Wednesday signed by Festus Okoye, INEC national commissioner and chairman, information and voter education committee, said 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 18 March 2023. By this decision, campaigns will continue until midnight of Thursday 16 March 2023 i.e. 24 hours before the new date for the election,” the statement reads.
“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. 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.”
In an application, Obi had sought an order of the court restraining the INEC from tampering with the information embedded in the BVAS machines until the due inspection is conducted and certified true copies (CTC) of them issued.
Obi and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, on Friday, secured leave of the court to have access to all the sensitive materials used by the INEC in the conduct of the election held on February 25.
However, INEC filed an application to vary the orders of the court.
Tanimu Inuwa, counsel to the INEC, said each polling unit has its own particular BVAS machine which needs to be configured for the forthcoming elections.
He said it would be very difficult for INEC to reconfigure the 176,000 BVAS for the election.
Inuwa also explained that no information in the BVAS will be lost as all data will be transferred in the BVAS to the commission’s backend server.
“So, granting this application will be a clog in the process and disrupt the conduct of the elections,” he had said.
Ruling on Obi and LP’s application, the court which also doubles as the presidential election petitions tribunal, said granting the application would amount to tying the hands of INEC and therefore refused to restrain the commission from reconfiguring the BVAS.