In a significant development regarding the disputed presidential election, five Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ad hoc staff members have been authorized to testify as special witnesses. These staff members played a crucial role in the conduct of the election, which is being challenged by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the former vice president and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Atiku, who came second in the election held on February 25, has alleged that the election was rigged in favor of President Bola Tinubu from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In a joint petition with his party, Atiku claimed that a third-party device was used to intercept and manipulate the election results in favor of the APC and Tinubu.
The petition further alleges that INEC redeployed its in-house ICT expert, Mr. Chidi Nwafor, and replaced him with an IT consultant named Mr. Suleiman Farouk. It is claimed that Farouk facilitated the installation of a third-party mechanism, known as the Device Management System (DMS). This system allowed remote control, monitoring, and filtering of data transmitted from the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to the electronic collation system and the IRev portal.
According to Atiku, the DMS was used to manipulate the election results in favor of the APC. The petitioners argue that the BVAS, which was manufactured by Emperor Technologies China and supplied to INEC by Activate Nigeria Limited, was intended to upload data directly to the electronic collation system and the IRev portal. However, the intervention of the DMS allowed for interception, quarantine, and manipulation of the results.
During the proceedings, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, the lead counsel for the petitioners, informed the court that they had subpoenaed five INEC ad hoc staff members as witnesses. However, objections were raised by the INEC’s lawyer, Mr. Abubakar Mahmood, SAN, who requested time to review the documents and verify the identities of the witnesses.
The court subsequently deferred further proceedings to allow INEC’s counsel to conduct an internal inquiry. Meanwhile, certified copies of election results from 10 Local Government Areas of Kogi State were presented by the petitioners. Additionally, Mr. Ndubuisi Nwobu, the Chairman of the PDP in Anambra State, testified as the 11th witness, highlighting irregularities and non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
In his petition, Atiku seeks to be declared the valid winner of the presidential election and requests the withdrawal of the Certificate of Return issued to President Tinubu by INEC.
Overall, the testimonies of the INEC ad hoc staff members and the presented evidence will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of this highly contentious presidential election dispute.