A Nigerian court on Wednesday allowed election authorities to reconfigure machines used in last month’s disputed presidential election, rejecting an opposition demand to inspect them beforehand for forensic evidence of what they say was massive tampering.
The legal ruling was the first volley in what is expected to be a long legal battle over Nigeria’s 25 February election, which saw ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate Bola Tinubu declared the winner.
Tinubu, a former Lagos governor, won 8.8 million votes in the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, with main opposition PDP’s Atiku Abubakar at 6.9 million and surprise third challenger Labour Party’s Peter Obi at 6.1 million.
But huge delays in voting and widespread problems uploading results through BVAS biometric machines from polling stations to a central database fuelled opposition claims of ballot rigging.
Obi, a former governor, filed to prevent the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from reconfiguring BVAS machines to give his team a chance to inspect them.
The court ruled that the opposition demand could not be granted because INEC needed to carry out the reconfiguration to hold state governor elections on Saturday.
As well as state governors, Nigerians vote on Saturday for state assemblies.
“The need for the reconfiguration of BVAS devices for the conduct of the governorship and state houses of Assembly elections cannot be restricted by an inspection order,” Justice Haruna Tsamani said in the ruling.
The court said any data could be safely stored on a backend server.
Obi, who won over many younger voters with his message that he would usher in change, was in court for the ruling.
“The place of the Nigerian Judiciary as a revered national institution remains important. We believe in due process,” he said on Twitter before the ruling.
In a bid to improve transparency, INEC this year introduced BVAS for the first time at the national level as well as IReV, an online database for uploading results.
But some voters and opposition parties said failures in the system when uploading tallies allowed for ballot manipulation and disparities from what was counted locally.
Obi said last week he would challenge the outcome of the election in court, claiming he would prove to Nigerians he had won the presidential race.
With the third largest number of votes, he managed a significant feat for an outsider in a country where two establishment parties, the APC and PDP, have dominated since the end of military rule in 1999.
PDP’s candidate Abubakar, who lost his sixth bid for the presidency, denounced Tinubu’s victory, describing it as “rape of democracy”.
International observers, including from the European Union, also noted logistical problems, disenfranchised voters and a lack of transparency by the INEC.
Source : News 24