“Controversial Ruling Sheds Light on Nigeria’s Election Tribunal’s Clash with Technology”
In a recent ruling, Nigeria’s presidential election petition tribunal declared that the electronic transmission of election results is not a mandatory provision of the Electoral Act 2022. This decision has raised concerns about the future use of technology in elections.
The tribunal, consisting of a five-man panel, upheld the victory of Bola Tinubu in the 2023 presidential election, dismissing the petitions filed by leading opposition candidates Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. These petitions accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of manipulating results through technological means.
According to the tribunal’s ruling, “By the provision of Section 52 and Section 65 of the Electoral Act, INEC is at liberty to prescribe the manner in which result can be transmitted. INEC cannot be compelled to electronically transmit results.”
The opposition parties had hoped that the introduction of the biometric voter accreditation system (BVAS) and the INEC result election viewer portal (IReV) by the electoral umpire would revolutionize the electoral process. The Electoral Act mandates INEC to electronically transmit results from polling units to collation systems to prevent ballot destruction or theft from significantly impacting the results.
However, on election day, BVAS and IReV failed to meet expectations. Only 45% of Nigeria’s election results were available on IReV three days after the elections closed, leading to a loss of confidence in the credibility of INEC and its results. INEC attributed the delays to “technical glitches.”
While the Electoral Act allows INEC to transmit election results electronically, it also grants the commission the authority to transmit results in any manner it deems appropriate. Section 60 of the Act states that “the presiding officer shall, after counting the votes at the polling unit, enter the votes scored by each candidate in a form to be prescribed by the commission as the case may be.”
In the aftermath of the presidential election results, a TechCabal article highlighted the failure of BVAS and IReV, bringing technology into the spotlight. Many Nigerians had expected these technologies, which were funded with public funds amounting to billions of naira, to ensure transparency in the elections. With the ruling of the presidential election tribunal, the future role of these technologies in Nigeria’s elections remains uncertain.