Before the trial, Nigerians tended to be optimistic that the deployment of the accreditation machine by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the upcoming elections would lead to a clean electoral exercise.

The ‘successful’ deployment of BVAS in the Anambra gubernatorial elections in 2021, Ekiti and Osun in 2022 somewhat strengthened the confidence of Nigerians in the electoral system and INEC.

The use of the machine in the three off-season elections was widely applauded as the polls reportedly went smoothly and few cases of violence and electoral irregularities were reported.

This is where many Nigerians believed that BVAS would make a big difference in hindering electoral malpractice in the 2023 General Election.

However, the recent verdict of the Osun court has dampened the hope of Nigerians, as the court ruling indicted INEC and BVAS.

On Friday, January 27, 2023, the Osun State Governor’s Elections Petition Court dismissed Senator Ademola Adeleke as Governor of the State of Osun.

Remember that in the gubernatorial elections on July 16, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate allegedly obtained 403,371 votes to emerge victorious, while Gboyega Oyetola of the Congress of All Progressives (APC) obtained 375,027 votes.

Dissatisfied with the result, Oyetola dragged INEC, Adeleke and the PDP into court to challenge the survey result. .

In ruling on the case, the court held that the statewide election was overvoted in 744 voting units statewide.

This means that, in those 744 polling stations, the number of votes cast far exceeded the number of voters accredited by the INEC for the election.

When this happens, the 2022 Electoral Law obliges INEC to cancel all votes at those polling stations.

Section 51 (2) of the law stipulates that “When the number of votes cast in an election in any voting unit exceeds the number of accredited voters in that voting unit, the President shall cancel the result of the election in that voting unit.

Thus, once the fact that there was overvoting in those 744 polling stations was proven, the court declared the votes of the affected polling stations null and also discounted the figures obtained from the total votes of Oyetola and Adeleke.

As a result, Adeleke’s votes dropped to 290,666 votes, while Oyetola had 314,931 votes.

Therefore, the court ruled that the former governor of the state, Gboyega Oyetola he won the election and not Adeleke, who had only been in office for two months as state governor.

The court also asked INEC to withdraw Adeleke’s return certificate and hand it over to Oyetola.

The issue of overvoting highlighted by the Osun court caused Nigerians to ask questions about the credibility of BVAS.

Terste Kumethe president of the court, when issuing the sentence, accused the INEC of manipulating the BVAS.

He criticized INEC’s timing of the machines after the election, saying the evidence before the court showed that the conduct of the gubernatorial election was “carried out in substantial breach of the provisions of the Electoral Law”.

Let’s make it clear that the main objective of the BVAS at each polling station is to accredit voters either through facial recognition or fingerprint capture.

By this, it means that, under normal circumstances, anyone who is not verified by BVAS should not be able to vote.

After the elections, the votes are collected and entered into the EC8A form, after which BVAS scans the results sheet (EC8A form) and uploads it to INEC’s electoral results visualization platform (IREV), a portal online where the results of the voting units are uploaded, broadcast and posted to the public.

However, before announcing a winner, INEC is expected to collate the number of votes registered on Form EC8A and the number of registered voters in BVAS.

If the number of votes on the form exceeds the number of voters accredited by BVAS, there is an overvote.

Thus, in the APC’s petition against the INEC, Adeleke and the PDP, it was established that there was overvoting in 744 polling stations, and as previously stated, when this happens, the law recommends the cancellation of votes in said areas.

But in his defense, the INEC lawyer, Pablo Ananaba during cross-examination, he argued that the BVAS records that APC submitted in its petition were incomplete because it was provided to them before the BVAS machines were synchronized.

INEC apparently issued two conflicting BVAS registrations to the PDP and APC and both parties filed the reports with the court to present their case.

In his judgment, the president of the court dismissed INEC’s claim that the BVAS report issued to the APC was incomplete. He said that even with the synchronization of the BVAS machines, the election results were still not accurate.

He said, “These ‘synchronizations’, rather than rhyming with each other, are inconsistent and contradictory. Said annexes presented by the defendants have not rebutted the presumption of regularity in favor of the BVR annex and the other documents presented by the petitioners in this petition.

“In other words, Defendants’ defenses are plagued with highly irreconcilable and unreliable fundamental fatal flaws, unable to defeat the credible evidence presented by Petitioners regarding the 744 voting units where excess voting has been established.

BVAS was not responsible for the excess votes in the Osun gubernatorial elections. Overvoting occurred at 744 polling stations because some INEC officials in the areas allowed non-accredited people to cast their ballots. They should be held accountable.

Nigeria’s electoral system is obviously a work in progress and with the country’s voting procedure still largely manual, desperate politicians will always look for ways to game the system.

As the 2023 general election approaches, one lesson politicians need to learn from the court verdict is that with IREV and BVAS, it will be hard for election riggers to get away with voter fraud.

And if this is the only electoral problem that BVAS is solving for now, it’s a good start.