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2023 poll: INEC, political parties and BVAS fear

By Martins Oloja

 

The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) alleged on October 12, 2022 that there was a grand plot by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deactivate the Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) from its server during the 2023 general elections.

The Coalition’s spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, who disclosed the plot in Abuja, then alleged that there was immense pressure on INEC by some highly placed politicians to compromise the 2023 polls. Ugochinyere, who vowed that the opposition political parties would resist any attempt to conduct the 2023 general elections without BVAS and electronic transmission of results, said highly placed politicians in the country were jittery and uncertain of the 2023 electoral trajectory. Part of his words: “They are afraid of INEC using BVAS and transmitting results of the 2023 polls electronically. And the only way for them is for INEC to stop its use in the polls and part of the plan is to threaten to remove the INEC Chairman and national commissioners in the event that they insist on BVAS and electronic transmission of results for the 2023 polls.”

The CUPP leader, however, insisted that opposition political parties would resist anything that would stop INEC from using BVAS and transmission of poll results. He added that the opposition parties would also be heading to court over the issue, and petition the United Kingdom, United States of America (USA), and other foreign missions about the alleged conspiracy to compromise next year’s general elections.

“As parties, we say that arrest and public shaming of the perpetrators and their collaborators who perpetrated the voter registration fraud is non-negotiable. No matter the atmosphere, no matter who is involved, as leaders of the country’s political process and platforms, we have an equal stake and can’t be intimidated into silence.

“We will continue to act within the ambit of the law, but we are not going to run away or surrender to those who want to destroy what they did not build and what does not belong to them. We are ready for the election and will keep vigil and not allow our electoral process to be derailed,” he stated.

Interestingly, before anyone could understand the implications of the alarm raised by CUPP on those who are afraid of BVAS and the now credible INEC, it was discovered that one citizen Nwankwere Morale Chinwen had in August this year filed a three-page suit before the Federal High Court, Owerri, seeking to stop INEC from using the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) in the 2023 general elections. It is again curious why another Arthur Nzeribe is emerging from the same Imo State where it all began in 1993 as if it were a joke and ‘Hope 1993’ was eventually buried by dark forces behind the then Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) the late Arthur Nzeribe established in Abuja, our Abuja. The ABN we didn’t take serious then used the Courts in Abuja to confine the June 12 election gains to the dark side of history as an inglorious Interim National Government (ING) some elders are also calling for today, was mysteriously formed. That ING headed by a corporate guru, Ernest Shonekan was the platform the then Minister of Defence pulled down to return Nigeria to military rule. We are on the march again as the then ‘Hope 1993’ popular political campaign slogan indicated then. Watch out for the suit against democracy by yet another citizen from Imo State.

It is getting curiouser and curiouser as in Alice in Wonderland that Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has been accused of being behind the lawsuit seeking to stop INEC from using the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) in the 2023 general elections. It would be naïve to ignore Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State some cynics call ‘Supreme Court Governor.’ Reason: the now entrenched electoral justice system in Nigeria, Mr. Wole Olanipekun (SAN) warned about in 2003 at a seminar in Abuja mysteriously confirmed Uzodimma as duly elected Governor although he organically came fourth according to INEC. Many Nigerians who should know on Twitter alleged that the governor was behind the suit to stop the use of BVAS. The allegation has not been vehemently denied.

Sahara Reporters discovered that Citizen Chinwen actually filed the dangerous suit on August 24 this year before the Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo State capital.

Chinwen filed a three-page suit before the Federal High Court, Owerri, seeking to stop INEC from using the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) in the 2023 general elections.

In the three-page suit with suit No: FHC/OW/CS/144/2022, where the INEC and its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu are respondents, Chinwen asked the court to “Within thirty-one (31) days after the service of this Summons on them inclusive of the day of such service cause appearance to be entered for them to this Summons, which is issued upon the application of the plaintiff whose address within jurisdiction is J. O. Abazie Esq of Dimogbuji Chambers of 134 Wetheral Road, Owerri, Imo State and who has applied for the determination of the following questions:

“Whether upon the construction of the totality of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended) and the Electoral Act, 2022, it is not unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful for the Defendants to use or deploy the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) or any other similar device, equipment, instrument or gadget of such or same nature for the accreditation of registered voters in the 2023 general elections…Whether in view of the combined effect of Sections 50(2), 60 and 62 of the Electoral Act, 2022, it is not illegal and unlawful for the Defendants to electronically transmit, feed or collate the results of elections at the 2023 general elections…”

“Whether in view of the unassailable fact of unavailability of telecommunication network coverage across substantial part of Nigeria, it is not untenable, unreasonable and utterly impracticable for the Defendants to use or deploy the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) or any other similar device, equipment, instrument, device or gadget of such or same nature, for the accreditation of registered voters in the 2023 general elections?”

Chinwen, therefore, urged the court to declare “that it is unconstitutional, illegal and unlawful for the defendants to use or deploy the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) or any other similar device, equipment, instrument or gadget of such or same nature for accreditation of registered voters in the 2023 general elections.

Chinwen and his supporters are claiming that it is illegal and unlawful for the defendants to electronically transmit, feed or collate the results of elections at the 2023 general elections. They are insisting that in view of the unassailable fact of unavailability and inaccessibility of telecommunication network coverage across substantial part of Nigeria, it is untenable, unreasonable and utterly impracticable for the defendants to use or deploy the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) or any other similar device, equipment, instrument, device or gadget of such same nature, for the accreditation of registered voters in the 2023 general elections.

They are, therefore, seeking “an order of injunction restraining the defendants, whether by themselves, staff, officers, privies or howsoever described from using or deploying the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) or any other similar device, equipment, instrument or gadget of such same nature for the accreditation of registered voters in the 2023 general elections. They are also seeking an order of injunction restraining the defendants, whether by themselves, staff, officers privies or howsoever described from electronically transmitting, feeding or collating the results of elections at the 2023 general elections.

It is, therefore, gratifying to note that the election management agency, INEC that is as credible today as the Professor Humphrey Nwosu-led National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) in 1993 has been re-assuring the nation that all the water-testing stratagems on the use of BVAS and other electronic devices for the 2023 elections should be likened to what Shakespeare calls “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It has been reported that INEC has vowed to end vote-buying, and even violation of campaign finances. The same INEC has repeatedly confirmed that the most dreaded Bimodal Voter Registration System (BVAS) is the most important asset of the commission; hence, it won’t entrust or yield it to any individual or institution as being widely feared.

It is, therefore, clear that resourceful election riggers in Nigeria are afraid of BVAS because the election management agency, INEC continues to insist on no more use of ‘Incident Form,’ a development that BVAS has made irreversible. Those who are afraid of electoral purity do not also like to hear that BVAS will be deployed even in the rural and coastal areas where election riggers have always exploited to rig elections to lead us.

For the last two years (since August 2020), INEC has published results direct from polling units in 105 off-cycle governorship and bye-elections in real-time and the results can still be viewed on the IReV portal. The 2023 general elections will not be different according to Nigeria’s election management agency. Why will this cause even party leaders of the governing party sleepless nights?

What is more, Nigeria’s public enemies are afraid of successful operations of INEC, which has continued to assure the people that there would be no ‘Incident Form,’ which enables unaccredited voters to vote on election day.

Whatever even the powerful people are saying and denying about BVAS, the authorities in INEC should continue to assure Nigerians that the BVAS has come to stay as the only means of voter accreditation. They should continue to add that there shall be no ‘Incident Form’ on the election day. This means results from polling units would be uploaded to the IReV portal in real-time, and that, Nigerians would view the results as they are uploaded. The last governorship election in Osun confirmed the authenticity of this process as result of that election was actually ready online before 6pm that day. How can people who want to lead their people be afraid of this kind of value addition for our democracy?

In the main, even our judicial officers should not allow principalities and powers to continue with what the Arthur Nzeribes of this world did to ruin our democratic joy in 1993. I hope those who are calling for another Interim National Government at this time because of the curious qualifications of the candidates would not play into the wicked hands of those who don’t want free and fair elections in Africa’s most strategic country.

And so, those who are afraid of this mojo called BVAS and its accompanying INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal, which can take us away from darkness of leadership recruitment in this country, should note that it is time for the good people of Nigeria to take back their country from scoundrels who have always rigged elections to grab power they have always used to serve only the gods of their bellies.

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