INEC postpones governorship, house of assembly polls over BVAS reconfiguration
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has confirmed the postponement of the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections slated for Saturday, March 11, 2023.
The commission took the decision after meeting on the evening of Wednesday, March 8, 2023, to assess how the reconfiguration of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) impacted its preparations for the upcoming election.
In a statement on Wednesday night, INEC National Commissioner for Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said the elections will hold on Saturday, March 18.
He said following the ruling by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (EPT) on the reconfiguration of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used for the February 25 Presidential election, the Commission met to assess its impact on its preparations for the governorship exercise.
“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,” he said.
According to Okoye, political parties will continue their campaigns until midnight of Thursday, 16th March 2023 – 24 hours before the new date for the election.
Okoye stated that “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 Smart Card Readers.
Recall that earlier in the day, the Appeal Court had given INEC the permission to reconfigure BVAS machines which were used for the presidential election held on Saturday, February 25, 2023.
This followed an ex parte order given by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (EPT) to presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, preventing the commission from offloading the data on the BVAS machines in order not to tamper with sensitive materials needed to prove his case of rigging at the tribunal.
Meanwhile, despite getting a favourable judgement in court just three days before the scheduled elections, INEC said it had run out of time to get all the BVAS machines reconfigured in time for the Saturday exercise.
The statement partly read: “Having been used for the Presidential and National Assembly elections on 25th February 2023, it is necessary to reconfigure the VAS for activation on the date of the Governorship and State Assembly elections.
“While the ruling of the Tribunal makes it possible for the Commission to commence the preparation of the VAS 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 16th March 2023 i.e. 24 hours before the new date for the election.
On the court order to inspect BVAS, he said that the Commission is not against litigants inspecting election materials. He said INEC will continue to grant all litigants access to the materials they require to pursue their cases in court.