The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last night postponed the Saturday, March 11, governorship and state assembly elections to March 18, 2023.
The commission announced the postponement of the elections at the end of its management meeting, chaired by the chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, in Abuja.
The commission, in a statement issued at 11:20 pm by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the postponement was a result of the litigation against the electoral body.
He said that following Wednesday’s ruling by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (EPT) on the reconfiguration of the BVAS used for the presidential election held on February 25, 2023, the commission met to assess its impact on its preparations for the governorship and state house of assembly elections scheduled for March 11, 2023.
He recalled that on March 3, 2023, the Presidential EPT gave an ex parte order for some political parties to inspect materials used for the presidential election, including the forensic inspection of over 176,000 BVAS used in the election, which are located in INEC LGA offices across the country.
“The commission approached the tribunal to reconsider the order, given that the BVAS systems were to be deployed for the governorship and state assembly elections and that the lack of a clearly defined timeframe for the inspection could disrupt the commission’s ability to conduct the outstanding elections.
“For instance, 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.
“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.
“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.
The panel, however, refused Obi and LP’s relief to restrain INEC from tampering with the information embedded in the BVAS machines until the due inspection was conducted and certified true copies were issued.
The justices held that the governorship election date was statutory and as such, the court would not grant any application that sought to constrain it.
The panel, which agreed that the request was grantable, however, refused the application to stop INEC from reconfiguring the BVAS.
It said INEC’s submission that the accreditation data from the 176,000 BVAS used for the election would be uploaded and stored in the backend of its server, was not challenged or controverted by Obi and the LP and thus they were deemed admitted.
A/Court refuses INEC’s application to vary LP order
The Court of Appeal also refused the application by the INEC seeking to vary the order granted the LP to inspect sensitive election materials, including scanning and making photocopies of them for the prosecution of its petition against the conduct of the February 25 election.
The panel held that INEC’s fear about access to the devices was unfounded, as the court did not permit access to the electronic database on the server.