An opposition request to inspect the voting machines beforehand for forensic evidence of what they claim to be significant tampering was rejected by a Nigerian court on Wednesday, allowing election officials to reconfigure those used in last month’s contentious presidential election.
The court decision was the opening salvo in what is anticipated to be a protracted legal battle over Nigeria’s February 25 election, which saw Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) declared the victor.
In the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu received 8.8 million votes, followed by Atiku Abubakar of the PDP with 6.9 million votes and surprise third-place finisher Peter Obi of the Labour Party with 6.1 million.
However, significant voting delays and widespread issues with uploading results from polling places to a central database using BVAS biometric machines fueled opposition claims of ballot tampering.
In order to give his team a chance to inspect the BVAS machines, former governor Obi filed a petition to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from reconfiguring them.
The opposition’s request could not be granted, the court ruled, because INEC had to carry out the reconfiguration in order to hold state governor elections on Saturday.
Nigerians vote on Saturday for state assemblies as well as state governors.
“An inspection order cannot limit the need for the reconfiguration of BVAS devices for the conduct of the governorship and state houses of Assembly elections,” Justice Haruna Tsamani ruled in the decision.
According to the court, any data could be stored on a backend server safely.
Obi, who attracted many younger voters with his promise to bring about change, was present in court for the decision.
“The judiciary in Nigeria continues to hold a significant position as a cherished national institution. We respect the rule of law, “Before the decision, he tweeted something.
In an effort to increase transparency, INEC this year launched IReV, an online database for uploading results, as well as BVAS for the first time at the national level.
However, some voters and opposition parties claimed that irregularities in the system’s uploading of tallies permitted ballot manipulation and discrepancies from what was actually counted locally.
Last week, Obi declared that he would take the election results to court, claiming that he would show Nigerians that he had won the race for president.
He accomplished a noteworthy feat for an outsider in a nation where the APC and PDP, two establishment parties, have dominated since the end of military rule in 1999, receiving the third-highest number of votes.
Abubakar, the PDP candidate who came in second in his sixth attempt to win the presidency, blasted Tinubu’s victory as a “rape of democracy” and condemned it.
International observers, including those from the European Union, also mentioned logistical issues, voters who had been disenfranchised, and the INEC’s lack of transparency.