February 28, 2024

A head of the 2023 general elections, the opposition parties on Thursday advised the Independent National Electoral Commission not to succumb to forces pushing against the deployment of the Biometric Voter Accreditation System and electronic transmission of results.

The Peoples Democratic Party, Labour Party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Social Democratic Party, the New Nigeria Peoples Parties and the Coalition of United Political Parties in separate interviews with The PUNCH insisted that jettisoning the BVAS would compromise the polls.

The parties spoke in reaction to a statement credited to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Abdullahi Adamu, in which he expressed doubts over INEC’s capacity to deliver a credible election using the BVAS.

Adamu had expressed reservation over the deployment of electronic transmission of results when a Commonwealth delegation on the 2023 general elections paid a courtesy visit to him at the party secretariat in Abuja on Wednesday.

Adamu’s fear was re-echoed by the party’s National Organizing Secretary, Suleiman Argungu, who identified a stable power supply as one of the obstacles facing the innovation.

Argungu also cited his home state of Kebbi as an example of an area where such technology could experience some hitches.

But barely 24 hours after their statements, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, announced that the party chairman was quoted out of context.

Morka stated that much as Adamu had tasked the INEC on its readiness to deploy the technology, the party remains committed to the highest levels of electoral transparency.

The statement read, “A section of the media is awash with comments credited to the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Abdullahi Adamu on the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and the Results Viewing Portal, otherwise known as electronic transmission of election results, for the 2023 general elections.

“Media reports that chairman Adamu kicked against INEC’s decision to deploy BVAS and electronic transmission of results is patently false, and constitutes an unfair misrepresentation of the national chairman’s comments.

“At a meeting with the  Commonwealth pre-election delegation, yesterday, Wednesday, November 23, 2022, in response to a question regarding the country’s preparations for next year’s election, the national chairman noted that while preparations were in top gear, he tasked INEC to take effective steps to bridge any gaps that may be created by electricity and telecommunications network challenges in certain outlying voting districts in the country in order to ensure a smooth and successful deployment of BVAS and other technologies to ensure free and transparent elections.”

But dismissing Abdullahi’s volte-face, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, said technology had come to stay in the nation’s electoral process, warning those mounting pressure on INEC to desist.

“We know where the pressure is coming from but we must tell them that technology has come to stay; BVAS has come to stay. The whole world wants to witness free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria in 2023. Credible polls are impossible without the use of technology. INEC must not listen to these enemies of democracy. They must resist their antics as Nigerians are solidly behind the commission,” he admonished.

The Director of Strategic Communications, PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Dele Momodu, fingered the APC as the force behind the pressure being mounted on INEC to dump the BVAS.

“APC is jittery and they don’t want to go through the technological process. Whether they admit it or not, they are scared, knowing they cannot win elections anywhere in Nigeria.  Technology will expose their rigging plans. Every other party is interested in credible elections except the ruling party. INEC must, therefore,  not yield to pressure from any quarters,” he advised.

The National Publicity Secretary of Labour Party, Abayomi Arabambi, argued that Adamu’s earlier position was a subtle strategy aimed at putting pressure on the electoral umpire to discard the BVAS.

He said, “It is obvious that the APC is jittery. This is a strategy to put pressure on INEC but it is not going to work. The APC is not the only party contesting in the 2023 election. For the fact that they claimed the man recanted is enough to indicate that they are afraid they will lose the election.

“I expect that the man was in his right senses before he complained about the BVAS, which is the only solution to election rigging. Even INEC has affirmed that there is no going back.

“Is it only the APC that wants to run for election in Nigeria? They are not the owner of the country and the electoral system. They came in through the electoral system and will be booted out through the same process. As far as we are concerned, whether Adamu recanted or not is an afterthought.”

On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of the Social Democratic Party, Rufus Aiyenigba, called on INEC to be firm, saying the Ekiti state governorship election showed how relevant the BVAS is to the electoral system.

“INEC has demonstrated its non-partisanship in the past few years and the SDP will continue to support the commission, particularly its use of technology to improve the conduct of our elections. As a party, we are prepared for the elections. Any individual or group mounting pressure on INEC is an enemy of our democracy,” he declared.

Similarly, the National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Tex Okechukwu, backed the electoral commission to continue to improve on its records, noting that “any plan to drop BVAS now will not work; it will not happen.’’

Speaking in the same tone, the spokesman of the New Nigeria Peoples Party Presidential Campaign Council, Ladipo Johnson, also insisted that the electronic transmission of results had come to stay.

Johnson further knocked the leadership of the ruling party, which he said was still being haunted by the loss of Osun state governorship polls to the efficiency of BVAS.

He stated, ‘’We are not surprised that they don’t like BVAS after the result from the Osun election. Even if there is any problem with the network, shouldn’t the ruling party be looking at solving the challenge instead of taking us backward in terms of electoral reform? That is what a forward-looking person should do.

“We all want BVAS to stay. In fact, we all hope that gradually, INEC will move to an automated system, whereby it will be difficult for individuals to manipulate the process of election. The NNPP is happy with it.’’

Calling on the electoral body to resist pressure from any quarters, Johnson further stated, “We want to encourage INEC not to be intimidated by any party and ensure that elections are conducted efficiently. BVAS has come to stay. In the long run, it will be cheaper and reduce the need for manpower.’’

Also reacting to the development, the spokesperson of the Coalition of United Political Parties, Ikenga Ugochinyere, said his group has been vindicated by the APC chairman’s earlier stance on the BVAS.

He said, “The reports of the rejection of the BVAS machine and electronic transmission of results by the national chairman of APC has proved that the intelligence by the CUPP was spot on and the opposition coalition is yet again vindicated.

“Now, the APC national chairman has come out in the open with the position of the APC on rejecting the BVAS and electronic transmission of results because we have exposed their rigging plans. They have now resolved for a full onslaught on the INEC chairman and not to spare any resource in ensuring he is removed from office.’’

Ugochinyere claimed that the ruling party’s only hope of winning the forthcoming election was to rig the exercise, hence its opposition to the BVAS and IREV.

He added, ‘’Their only hope of winning the election is by massively rigging the process and they know with the BVAS, electronic transmission of results and the INEC Election Result Viewing Portal,  they stand no chance as Nigerians have rejected the party completely. Their focus now is the removal of the INEC chairman by any means necessary.

“Moving from the poor performance of President Muhammadu Buhari to the worse performance promised by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be like jumping from a frying pan into fire and Nigeria and Nigerians cannot afford that at all.”

INEC’s position

INEC had disclosed that it would deploy a total of 176, 846 of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System for the February 2023 general elections.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, revealed this at the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Alumni Association Annual Seminar 2022 in Abuja on Monday

He further said that the commission would provide 17,618 BVAS machines for back-up, with two devices per registration area.

Okoye also said that INEC’s data recovery centres would be upgraded and all its platforms enhanced before the elections in order to forestall the constant attacks the platform had received from hackers and political actors,adding that the commission was determined to conduct free and fair elections in 2023.

He said, “The commission is firm and fixed on its resolve to conduct free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections.

“The commission will continue to be open and transparent in its technological innovations because election business is public business and the public has a right to know what the commission is doing.

“INEC will continue to gradually infuse technology in the electoral process to enhance transparency and verifiability in voter authentication and result management. The level of technological development in the country and the state of infrastructure will invariably impact on the technology the commission can deploy.

“In this regard, the commission will continue to make haste slowly as accuracy in result management is more important than the speed at which technology is introduced.

“We are confident that the BVAS and IReV will form an important pillar and component in the march towards an electoral process driven by technology to obviate malicious human interference in the electoral process,” he added.

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