The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, a coalition of over 70 election monitoring groups, has warned that reconfiguring BVAS machines used for voter accreditation during the February 25 presidential election will hamper any forensic audit of the outcome.
The Situation Room wants the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to explain how its request to reconfigure the machines will not “pose additional credibility questions over the integrity and conduct of the 2023 general elections”.
It was reported that after the Presidential Election Petition Court granted permission to the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, to inspect the BVAS machines and other materials used for the election, INEC approached the same court with an application to vary the order.
The order restrains INEC from tampering with the election materials until Obi or any other candidate who suspects that the presidential election was rigged against them concludes inspection of the materials for litigation purposes.
But the commission wants the order varied to enable it reconfigure the BVAS machines for use in the March 11 governorship and state assembly elections.
Reacting, the Situation Room, in a statement signed by its co-conveners, Ene Obi, Asma’u Joda, and James Ugochukwu, wondered how candidates who are challenging the outcome of the election in court will be able prove their cases if the machines are reconfigured.
The statement partly reads: “The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) is concerned about the question of preservation of data collected during the Presidential and National Assembly elections of 25th February 2023.
“Situation Room will like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to clarify to the public how it intends to ensure that data collected in the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used in the election will be preserved for use in the review and audit of the elections.
“Electoral accountability requires that information collected during elections are preserved for use in the audit and review of the election and for accountability purposes. In the light of the disputations that have emerged and the controversy surrounding the 2023 general elections, Situation Room is asking INEC to ensure that its records and data related to the election are held safely and securely to ensure its use for the purposes of scrutiny and accountability.
“Reports indicating that the BVAS may need to be reconfigured or even erased for the upcoming State Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections due on Saturday, 11th March 2023 is a serious cause for concern and we worry that this could further pose additional credibility questions over the integrity and conduct of the 2023 general elections.”