It also, according to them, shows lack of preparedness, in spite of the heavy hype and colossal amount expended on the preparations.
However, according to a statement released by the commission’s spokesperson, Festus Okoye on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, the exercise which was previously scheduled to hold on March 11 was shifted due to a logistics crisis stemming from BVAS configuration, and transportation.
Recall that the Presidential Election Tribunal had restrained the commission from tampering with all sensitive materials –including the BVAS – used in the conduct of the presidential election following the request by the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP), Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, respectively, who rejected the outcome of the presidential election.
The opposition candidates, who came second and third respectively, rejected the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Bola Tinubu, as winner of the election and called for the conduct of another round of elections or be declared the winner.
In preparation of a suit to challenge the outcome, they approached the court seeking permission to inspect all sensitive materials and restrain INEC from tampering with them.
While INEC approached the court on Monday to seek permission to reconfigure the BVAS, the request was only granted on Wednesday, two days to the initial date of the governorship election.
“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,” Mr Okoye said in Wednesday’s statement.
“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.”
INEC said the decision was taken 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 “and then to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly elections.”
The commission, however, stated that it is not against any litigants inspecting the election materials, promising to grant them all the access they require to pursue their cases in court.
“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.”
But some stakeholders argue that if the commission could act in this manner so as to come out with a credible Governorship and State Assembly election results, what was responsible for the rush in the presidential and National Assembly elections that have plunged the nation into avoidable crisis and litigations.
Afam Osigwe, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) believes INEC was ill prepared for the elections or scuttled it’s own internal processes.