The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday rescheduled the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections earlier fixed for March 11 to March 18.
The commission announced this in a statement by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, in Abuja on Wednesday night.
Okoye said that the decision was necessary to ensure adequate time to back up the data stored on the over 176,000 Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) devices used for the Feb. 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections, and then reconfigure them for the governorship and state assembly polls.
Okoye said following Wednesday’s ruling by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (EPT) on the reconfiguration of the BVAS used for the Presidential election, INEC met to assess its impact on the commission’s preparations for the state elections scheduled for March 11.
He recalled that on March 3, the 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.
He explained that INEC approached the Tribunal to reconsider the order, given that the BVAS Systems were to be deployed for the state elections.
He said the action was also necessary given 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 Feb. 25, 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, March 18,” the statement read in part.
Okoye said that by the decision, campaigns would continue until midnight of Thursday (March 16); which is 24 hours before the new date for the election.
“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 Feb. 25 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 the Smart Card Readers,” he asserted.
Okoye reiterated that INEC was 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.”
He assured all political parties and candidates that the data from the Presidential and National Assembly elections would 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.”
Okoye appreciated all Nigerians and friends of Nigeria for their understanding as INEC continue to deal with those difficult issues and navigate these challenging times.