NIGERIA: Why INEC Gave More Polling Units To North - Attahiru Jega

Far from pandering to any sectional agenda, the allocation of more polling units to the North is because there is no evidence of population drift from the region, according to Prof. Attahiru Jega. 

Jega who is the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) told journalists in Abuja Wednesday that the terrorism ravaging the North had not affected the population of the region. 

  His position came against the backdrop of the INEC’s recent approval of the creation of 30, 027 polling units to be added to the already existing 119, 973 units that brought the total number of polling units in the country to 150, 000.

From the figures that were made available to the media by the commission, while some states from the North got more polling units allocated to them after the initial 121 units that were evenly distributed to all states by the commission, some states like Anambra,  Bayelsa, Enugu, Ekiti and Osun were not allocated other units.

   Justifying the commission’s criteria to allocate more polling units to the North East, the INEC boss said that there had been no fact to prove that the voters who ran away from the affected states because of insurgency would not return to their communities before the 2015 election.

   The INEC chairman noted that the commission’s decision to reconfigure the structure of polling units as well as creating additional ones was driven by the collective aspirations of both the commission and Nigerians to improve upon the electoral process for free, fair and credible elections in 2015 and beyond, stressing that he had no sectional or parochial agenda as critics had claimed.

   He stated that the decision to create additional polling units was, among other things, aimed at decongesting overcrowded polling units, locating polling units in more effective places within commuting distances of voters as well as splitting large polling units to a minimum of 500 registered voters.

  He noted that from 1996 when the already existing polling units were created, there had been an exponential growth in the country’s population, adding that there had been severe demographic shift resulting from new settlements in major urban areas.

  “The rise in population with corresponding increase in the number of eligible voters was clearly manifested during the 2011 voter registration. At the end of the exercise, having subjected the data gathered in the field through the Automated Fingerprint Identification Software (AFIS) to detect and eliminate duplicate registrants, the commission (put) the total number of registered voters at 70, 383, 427,” Jega disclosed. 

   According to him, the development has given an average voter density of 590 persons per polling unit.

   The INEC chairman stated that the commission arrived at the units it distributed from the 150, 000 by dividing the total number of registered voters a state has by 500 which is the commission’s approved number of voters per unit.

  He stressed that the commission had already evenly distributed a total of 121 units to all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) before it employed other criteria to distribute the rest.

  “The simplest way to distribute the 150, 000 polling units is to divide the number of registered voters in each state to 500 which is the maximum number of registered voters per polling unit.

   “The commission took the view that no state should lose any polling unit as a result of this exercise as it would be unrealistic to reduce the number of polling units from any state. 

  “In fact, the commission went on to give further relief to such states by providing that 15 per cent of the 30, 027 additional polling units be distributed across all states that had already exceeded their numbers. As a result even the states that had exceeded their numbers received additional 121 units,” Jega explained.

   He noted that contrary to arguments by critics, the commission did not work on imaginary population sizes based on perceived patterns of migration by potential voters, stressing that INEC worked rather with documented registers of voters, adding that the ‘need factor’ rather than political and regional sentiments informed the pattern of distribution of the polling units.

  Meanwhile, some northern leaders have protested against the Southern Peoples Assembly (SPA)’s rejection of INEC’s additional polling units for the North. 

    They said yesterday that any attempt by the South to reduce the electoral power of the region would not affect it in determining the country’s leadership in 2015.

  The northern leaders expressed concern that the South was already scheming to curb the electoral power of the North in order to gain advantage during the 2015 general election.

  An Arewa chieftain and spokesperson of the Northern Delegates Forum (NDF) at the national conference, Mr. Anthony Sani, noted in a statement yesterday: “When one reads the reasons given by the Southern People’s Assembly for their rejection of INEC’s addition of polling units in the North, they are stunning and make one to be bewildered.”

   According to him, the protest by members of SPA against the additional polling units for the North would not affect the electoral fortune of the region in determining the political direction of the country and its leadership in 2015 polls.

  Sani who was also the former National Publicity Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said: “This is because there is no where in our statutes which supports the protests. More so that our census figures, figures for registered voters and also for identification have put the North ahead of the South for the past many decades now.

  “That the South protests such figures for the past many decades does not suggest the figures cannot be used. In addition, one wonders whether the South does not believe the huge land mass in the North encourages scattered settlements many kilometres apart that need polling units in order to reduce the level of long distant trek on election day.

  “Most of all, is the South saying the displaced persons in North East by the insurgents will not be encouraged by the authorities to return to their villages? That is to say, the military does not hope to put an end to the mindless killings in the North East and will encourage the displaced people to return to their villages as promised by those with the mandate to protect lives and property of Nigerians?”

  Sani continued: “So, while the motives for the protest against Prof.  Attahiru Jega by the Southern People’s Assembly may be understood, it is important to point out that Nigerian leaders at all levels (be they political, religious, ethnic or regional) should not give divisive colouration to everything under the sun, precisely because promotion of such cleavages by leaders Nigerians hold in high esteem is not helpful.”

Source: The Guardian
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