In a strong rebuke against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, has accused the electoral body of compromising its role as a neutral umpire during the February 25 presidential polls. Obi alleges that INEC manipulated the election results to favor the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Obi’s response came after INEC presented preliminary objections and replies to his petition. He dismissed INEC’s claim that his petition and the reliefs sought were vague, imprecise, and ungrantable, deeming it wishful thinking on the Commission’s part. Instead, Obi urged the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) to exercise jurisdiction and proceed to determine his petition, asserting that it was properly brought before the tribunal with all necessary parties involved, as required by law.
Challenging the legitimacy of Tinubu’s victory, Obi stated that the APC candidate did not win a majority of the lawful votes cast in the election. He pointed out that Tinubu became the first candidate since 1999 to be declared the winner of the presidential election without securing 25 percent of the votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Obi urged the tribunal to declare him the rightful winner, arguing that the actual votes obtained at the polling units, as evidenced in the petition’s report, showed that he had won the majority of the lawful votes and met the constitutional requirements to be declared the election’s winner.
Obi also raised concerns about INEC’s reliance on manual documents to declare the winner of the disputed election. He argued that according to applicable laws and regulations, the proper method for resolving disputes during collation is to refer to the results uploaded on the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) using the Biometric Voter Authentication System (BVAS). He highlighted that, as of April 21, when he filed his reply, the information on INEC’s IReV portal indicated that out of the 176,846 polling units, results had been submitted for only 167,433 polling units, accounting for 94.68 percent of the uploaded results.
Obi emphasized that INEC had previously represented and assured the public that the use of BVAS for voter accreditation and online result upload was not only mandatory but also aimed at increasing transparency and public confidence in the electoral process. He accused INEC of manipulating and improperly computing the election results, stating that the uploaded results on the IReV were not properly verified or aligned with the candidates’ actual scores.
Obi further alleged that INEC’s failure to upload the presidential election results using BVAS on the IReV, as required by law, was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the actual outcome of the election. He criticized INEC for abandoning its duty of neutrality during the election, noting that global best practices dictate that electoral bodies must avoid creating the impression that they lack respect for neutrality in a contest between candidates. He pointed out that the appellate courts had repeatedly urged INEC to remain neutral in election proceedings and that INEC’s decision to raise preliminary objections against an election petition, effectively assuming the role of a contestant, was not only embarrassing but also a repudiation of its duties as an umpire.
The allegations put forth by Peter Obi are set to be addressed by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. As the proceedings unfold, the nation awaits the tribunal’s verdict on the matter, which will have significant implications for the outcome of the disputed presidential election.