Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) will today meet with chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, ahead of next Saturday’s governorship and state assembly elections.
The meeting, LEADERSHIP learnt, is to discuss ways to avert the glitches experienced in uploading results of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections to the Results Viewing Portal (IReV). The presidential and National Assembly elections raised questions about the performance of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and IReV Portal deployed by the commission to enhance the credibility of the electoral process.
At today’s meeting, the INEC chairman will also get briefing on the ongoing configuration of the BVAS. National commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, of INEC, Barr Festus Okoye, stated this in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday in Abuja. According to him, the meeting with the RECs will be held at the commission’s headquarters by 3:00 pm in Abuja.
Okoye said during the meeting each REC will explain the level of their preparedness for the polls in their respective states. “The INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, will hold an emergency meeting with the resident electoral commissioner (RECs) in states where elections will hold. During the meetings, each REC will explain the level of their preparedness for the polls in their respective states,” he noted.
The meeting of the leadership of the commission and the RECs is coming less than five days to the governorship and State Assembly election. LEADERSHIP checks have also revealed that the upload of the results of the presidential election on IReV has suffered some glitches, showing that something has gone wrong with the process.
LEADERSHIP reports that the first phase of Nigeria’s 2023 general elections held on Saturday, February 25, produced president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and federal lawmakers. In the second phase of the elections which have been rescheduled to hold on Saturday, March 18, new governors will be elected for 28 out of the 36 states, as well as new lawmakers for the state Houses of Assembly in the 36 states of the federation.
Amid the concerns over the performance of BVAS, the commission admitted that, unlike off-season elections where the portal was used, it had been relatively slow and unsteady during the presidential and National Assembly elections.
To this effect, Okoye told LEADERSHIP yesterday that the commission “regretted the setback, especially because of the importance of IReV in our results management process.” He maintained that the problem was totally due to technical hitches related to scaling up the IReV from a platform for managing off-season elections to one for managing nationwide general elections.
He added that it is indeed not unusual for glitches to occur and be corrected in such situations. INEC had last week postponed the March 11 governorship and state assembly elections by one week. By this development, the governorship and state assembly elections will now hold on March 18, 2023.
Okoye said following the ruling by the presidential election petition tribunal (EPT) on the reconfiguration of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) used for the presidential election, the commission met to assess its impact on the level of preparations for the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections scheduled for Saturday, March 11, 2023 and was forced to postpone the polls.
He said while the ruling of the tribunal made it possible for the commission to commence the preparation of the BVAS for the governorship and state assembly elections, it came far too late for the reconfiguration to be concluded before the polls.
Consequently, he said the commission had taken the difficult but necessary decision to reschedule the governorship and state assembly elections which will now take place next Saturday. “By this decision, campaigns will continue until midnight of Thursday 16th March 2023 i.e. 24 hours before the new date for the election,” he said.
He noted that the BVAS can only be activated on the specific date and time of an election. “Having been used for the presidential and National Assembly elections on 25th February 2023, it is necessary to reconfigure the BVAS for activation on the date of the Governorship and State Assembly elections,” he said.
He said the commission’s 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 and then 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 Card Readers,” he said.
He, however, reiterated 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,” he said.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) support groups have called on the security agencies in the country to call the Labour Party (LP) to order. In a statement issued in Abuja, the secretary, Support Group Coordination, Tosin Adeyanju, said the leadership of the Labour Party should be warned against any form of protest.
According to the group, any form of protest will be aimed at destabilising the country and nascent democracy. “The Labour Party had threatened to truncate INEC activities with protest over inability to inspect election materials of the last Presidential election,” Adeyanju said, describing the Labour Party’s leadership as “mischief makers”.
Warning the LP to desist from any protest, the support groups said, “We have uncovered plans by some groups of persons who wants to in the name of protest unleash violence, instead of addressing their grievances to the tribunal”
“We hereby warn these groups/persons to shelve their planned violence or have us to contend with” Therefore, parents and guardians are advised to warn their children against participating in the planned protest slated for tomorrow across the country.
“The Labour Party sponsoring such protests is also warned in their own interest to desist from such unpatriotic plans or face the full wrath of Nigerian people. “We call on security agencies to as a matter of urgency take proper action against these enemies of Democracy”.