A witness for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has told the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja that results on all 110 BVAS machines he inspected were deleted.
The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine is an electronic device distributed across the over 176,000 polling units in the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the accreditation of voters during the 2023 general elections.
The device was also designed to promptly upload photographic copies of result sheets to the INEC Results View (IReV) portal after result documentation at the polling units.
Atiku disputed the results of the presidential election declared by INEC. He also rejected the results because of INEC’s failure to promptly upload the polling unit results of the election to IReV.
In his petition that he filed at the Presidential Election Petition Court to challenge President Bola Tinubu’s victory, Atiku prayed that he be declared the winner instead. But he alternatively asked for an outright cancellation of the poll for a fresh one to be conducted.
Hitler Nwala, who was subpoenaed to testify as an expert witness for the petitioners, said he inspected and analysed 110 BVAS machines used for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) election.
The witness, led in evidence by the petitioner’s lead counsel, Chris Uche, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), described himself as a Digital Forensic Analyst.
He said his analysis of the BVAS showed that their results were deleted but that he didn’t know when the deletion was done.
Under cross-examination by INEC’s lawyer, Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN, the witness said that he attached a standard exercise device to the machine to arrive at his conclusion.
When asked if he had the authority of the commission to attach an external device to the BVAS machines, the witness answered in the affirmative.
Mr Mahmoud further asked the witness if he was aware that inspecting only 110 machines out of 3,163 that were deployed in the FCT amounted to only 3.4 per cent of the total number of BVAS deployed in the FCT and 0.06 per cent of BVAS deployed nationwide.
The witness told the court that he only compiled the report and didn’t take time to calculate the percentages.
The INEC counsel attempted to give a BVAS machine to the witness to check if the results on them were deleted, as he had said in his report.
The witness, however, said that it would be against the ethics of his profession to collect the BVAS machine in open court to check it.
“It is professionally wrong to access a device that will be used as evidence in a court of competent jurisdiction because it will tamper with the evidence.
“We cannot access the device directly; what we do is extract the evidence and take it for analysis,” he said.
Moreover, the witness told the court that since all the devices had the same model and looked the same on the outside, he couldn’t tell by merely looking at it if it was one of those he inspected.
On his part, counsel for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lateef Fagbemi, also a SAN, told the witness that neither he nor his team members signed the six-volume forensic report.
The witness, however, insisted that he signed the report and the certificate of compliance.
On his part, counsel for President Tinubu, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, confronted the witness with a portion of his report where he said that from his inspection of the machines, “nothing was intrinsically wrong with them”.
“Were you in Abuja on the day of the presidential election? If you were not in Abuja, how can you know that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the machines on the day of the election?” the senior lawyer asked.
The witness said he was not in Abuja, so he couldn’t have known if something went wrong with the machines on election day.
After the witness was discharged, the petitioners went further to tender Forms EC8A series from 20 local government areas of Ogun State, 17 local government areas of Ondo State, 27 local government areas of Jigawa State, and 20 local government areas of Rivers State.
The five-member panel of the court led by Haruna Tsammani adjourned the hearing of the petition until Friday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that after the pre-hearing report, Atiku and the PDP are expected to close their case on Friday.
NAN reports that they had asked for three weeks to present their case, which elapsed on Tuesday, but because they had lost three days, one being the June 12 Democracy Day public holiday, the court extended their time by three days. (NAN)
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