Nigeria: Regional Elections On Hold After Challenge Of Presidential Vote


By Timothy Obiezu

Saturday’s elections in Nigeria for governors and state assemblies have been postponed by a week, with officials citing pending legal cases in the presidential vote.

Nigeria’s opposition parties have filed lawsuits to examine ballot papers and voting machines in the February 25 presidential polls, alleging that the vote was rigged. Nigeria’s electoral commission declared the ruling All Progressives Congress candidate, Bola Tinubu, the winner and next president.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Wednesday night the new date of March 18 for local voting after an executive meeting.

The meeting was held shortly after a federal appeals court ruling that favored applications by the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Labor Party to inspect materials, including ballot papers and result sheets used in the February 25 presidential and parliamentary elections.

INEC had filed a countersuit saying it needed to reconfigure the voting machines, known as the Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems (BVAS), ahead of the gubernatorial elections that had been planned for this Saturday.

But the court directed INEC to upload information in the BVAS into a secure server for opposition parties to review.

INEC said the ruling less than 72 hours before the polls came far too late for the commission to adequately prepare for the elections.

Festus Okoye, a national commissioner at INEC, did not take calls for comment.

An official of the Labor Party presidential campaign team, Toochukwu Ezeoke, said seven days might be too little time for an inspection and configuration of voting machines.

“By that ruling yesterday, they would start the backup. Two days is impossible for them to have done that [and] understanding the system,” Ezeoke said. “I dare say that one week will be enough to do that. For the Labor Party, we would keep close eye and watch what is happening within the INEC and BVAS.”

More than 176,000 BVAS units were used nationwide during the February 25 presidential and parliamentary elections to accredit votes.

But the election results have been opposed by the PDP and Labor Party. Both parties claim they won the election in which INEC declared ruling APC candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu the winner.

Observers say widespread delays and technical difficulties with the BVAS hindered prompt result uploads and raised concerns about the transparency of the election.

Joe-Kyari Gadzama, legal counsel to the PDP, spoke to journalists after a court hearing Wednesday.

“They have to comply with the orders of court and allow us access and we need just seven days to have all that we need,” Gadzama said. “Because without exercising our right to have access to all these devices, backends and also to have access to the clouds, all the storage in the cloud, that simply means that our petition is indirectly being affected.”

But Tanimu Inuwa, a lawyer who represented INEC at the court appeal, said the inspection opposition parties seek could jeopardize the confidentiality of voters.

“What the court ordered was that they can have access to the election materials such as the ballot papers, results sheets and any other materials used for the election, not that they’ll have access to our cloud or database,” Inuwa said. “They want to have access to our cloud, which has biometrics data of all voters. If you match the ballot papers, the forensic analysis of our cloud, it’ll definitely show you how a voter voted.”

While many wait to see what happens, opposition parties threaten to protest if denied access.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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