Human rights lawyer and former Chairman of Nigeria's National Human Rights Commission, Prof.
Chidi Odinkalu, has said Nigerians should not expect the election petition tribunal in Abuja to perform magic in its decision on election dispute resolution.
According to Odinkalu on Wednesday, judging by the Supreme Court judgment on the Osun State government election petition, the apex court has already predetermined the outcome of the major cases through an unrealistic standard of proof by demanding that whoever claims that there was election manipulation must produce all the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines used for all the affected polling units (PUs).
He said the quality of judicial decision-making in election disputes is utterly diabolical.
According to him, the implication of the Supreme Court judgment is that if a petitioner alleges manipulation of results in 1,000 polling units, the petitioner must produce 1,000 BVAS machines, one for each PU.
He said, “Those expecting some form of magic from Nigeria's judiciary in election dispute resolution should read this judgment in the Osun State governorship case. The Supreme Court says to prove results have been manipulated, you need to produce each BVAS machine for the affected PU.
“So, if you are alleging manipulation of results in 1,000 PUs, you must produce 1,000 BVAS machines, 1 for each PU. Meanwhile, these cases are decided in courthouses not warehouses. The court may just have pre-determined the outcome of the major cases through an unrealistic standard of proof.
“Think of it this way: to prove I have sent you an SMS, it is not enough for you to get the network provider to certify what transpired, you must produce the phone from which the SMS was sent. The quality of judicial decision-making in election disputes is utterly diabolical.”
The Supreme Court had in its judgment on the Osun State governorship election petition held that the “BVAS devices for each of the 744 polling units which the appellants solely relied on as the basis for grounds 2 and 3 of their petition were not produced and tendered by them as evidence in support of their case.
“Rather they sought to prove the record of accredited voters in the BVAS devices for each of the 744 polling units by means of a report of the examination of the INEC database or backend server (exhibit BVR) said to contain the information on the number of accredited voters and number of votes cast in a polling unit transmitted by the BVAS to the said INEC database during the election on election day.
“The record in the BVAS machine for each polling unit is the direct and primary record of the number of voters accredited in that polling unit on the election day in the process of the election.
“It is not in dispute that the disputed polling units results were collated in their respective wards by their Ward Collation Officers. The collation by virtue of Regulation 48(a) of INEC Regulations and Guidelines (supra), a presumption arises from the collation of the polling units results that the number of accredited voters recorded in the result in Form EC8A agrees with the record of accredited voters in the BVAS.
“The petitioners cannot rebut this presumption without producing the BVAS machines in evidence Regulation 48(0) INEC Regulations and Guidelines (supra) states what the number of accredited voters in the result should agree with as "the number recorded in the BVAS.
“So it is the number of accredited voters recorded in the BVAS that the number of accredited voters recorded in the result in Form EC8A must be compared with or verified from, to determine if there was manipulation.”
Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared the winner of the presidential election held on February 25 after polling 8,794,726 votes.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party and their presidential candidates, Atiku Abubakar, and Peter Obi respectively are challenging Tinubu’s victory at the election petition tribunal.