Nigerians Kick Against New Polling Units

Nigerians mostly from the Southern part of the country are not relenting in their bashing of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for creating additional polling units that seem to favour the× North in the build up to the 2015 general elections.

Nearly every respondent to Independent inquiry at the weekend took exception to the exercise.

While some see it as a political fraud, others described the greater number of new polling units allocated to the North as "a coup against the Southern part of the country".

INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, recently defended the plan of his commission to create more than 31,000 new polling units for the country, saying the framework for the exercise was scientifically based rather than the sentiments that some Nigerians attach to it.

Commenting on the exercise, Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, noted that INEC raised the polling units in Ekiti from 2,195 to over 2,800 based on the request of the state government to allow the citizens perform their civic responsibility.

Speaking on the general outcries against the creation of the additional polling units across the country, Fayemi justified the criticisms by Nigerians against the policy, saying it was a result of the fraud that had characterised elections since the advent of the current democracy in 1999.

The Governor spoke at the weekend while collecting his 64-page e-passport with his wife, Bisi, at the Nigeria Immigration Service headquarters in Ado Ekiti.

Fayemi added that the Jega-led INEC may not have committed any offence if the policy was targeted at making voting points closer and easier for Nigerians rather than to give any party or region undue advantage.

"INEC is in the eyes of the ×storm. INEC must not just be fair, it must be seen to be fair because it has a duty to communicate what it has been doing to ordinary Nigerians, in a very clear, concise and in a way that cannot be controverted.

"At a first glance, if you hear that of about 30,000 units, 20,000 upward will go up North, and 8,000 upward will go down South, you will feel what is going on, let's try and get a sense of what is going on here.

"INEC has a duty to demonstrate to Nigerians that this is not meant to give advantage to any region or any political party or to any individual.

"But, if it is to give advantage to any region, to any political party or to any individual in the 2015 race, we must query INEC and Nigerians have raised alarm about that to know precisely what it is all about.

"We are at a critical position of our nation's political development and it is important that INEC is not just seen to be fair because there is a lot of manipulations that INEC gets involved in.

"Nigerians have a legitimate right to query everything that happens within that institution," the Governor said.

In its reaction, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) described INEC's allocation of 21,000 polling units to the North and 8,000 to the entire South as a "political coup against Southern Nigeria".

IYC, in a statement at the weekend by its spokesman, Eric Omare, said Jega and his commission were on a mission to perpetually give Northern Nigeria a political advantage over Southern Nigeria in national elections with the 2015 elections in mind.

The Ijaw youth body argued that there was no justification for the huge disparity in the creation of additional polling units between the North and the South as demonstrated by the INEC.

In fact, the IYC called on President Goodluck Jonathan and the Senate President, David Mark, to sack Jega "for gross misconduct in compliance with Section 157 of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended)."

"It is common knowledge that in Nigeria, the more polling units that is allocated to a particular area automatically results in more voting population whether the population exists or not.

"The IYC, having studied the arguments against the lopsided allocation of polling units between the South and North and the feeble explanations offered by the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Jega, has come to the inescapable conclusion that there is no justification for the so much disparity in the number of additional polling units between the South and North other than a hidden agenda to politically empower Northern Nigeria.

"The case of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with less voting population having more polling units than the whole of South East is a clear case in point.

"Also, is Professor Jega telling Nigerians that the North West has more or equal voting population with the whole of Southern Nigeria?

"Furthermore, the arrogant posture of Prof. Jega in responding to the call for his resignation by the leaders of Southern Nigeria clearly shows that he is carrying out an orchestrated agenda by vested interest in the North to destabilise the country and the Jonathan administration ahead of the 2015 elections," the Ijaw youths added.

Also speaking, a political science teacher at the Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University (NDU),Wilberforce Island, Philips Okolo, said INEC's proposal for more polling units was "lopsided in favour of the North".

Okolo, who reacted to the development at the weekend in Yenagoa, pointed out that the INEC boss could hardly justify the wide margins in the distribution of the additional 30,000 polling units across the country.

He alleged that it was an attempt by Jega to use the creation of more polling units as a platform for North's comparative advantage in voting strength over the South.

On his part, Osun State Deputy Speaker, Akintunde Adegboye, described the lopsided nature of creation of the additional polling units as one of the steps to make the prediction that Nigeria may break up after 2015 general elections come to pass.

The lawmaker, who is representing Osogbo State Constituency in the state House of Assembly, said INEC chairman must be probed to explain how he arrived at the ratio of the North and the South in the number of the new polling units.

Adegboye believes that the commission has failed to take into consideration the population of the zones before arriving at the new polling units.

He said the step could lead to destabilisation of the country and the nation's polity.

Adegboye warned against lackadaisical attitude of Nigerians to this new trend, which could cause disintegration of the country.

"I am of the opinion that every institution must be scrutinised whereby their affairs should be checked periodically to save this nation the embarrassment.

"Do we have to say that Mallam Lamido Sanusi Lamido of the CBN committed any special offence grievous than what Professor Jega is perpetrating at the INEC?

"But he is still going away with it each time, may be for the fear that he is more powerful than even the Presidency or because the Presidency is enjoying any favour or she is expecting one.

"It is only God that is uniting Nigeria with all the efforts of saboteurs here and there that is using one way or there to perpetrate evils.

"Professor Jega must be probed how he arrived at that ratio of the North and the South in the number of those polling units?"

A delegate to the just concluded National Conference, Aniete Okon from Akwa Ibom State, also faulted INEC on the new polling units, arguing that the commission's action has given undue political advantage to the North.

Okon, in an interview with Daily Independent, alleged that by creating more polling units in the North, INEC was playing an ethnic card that could unwittingly polarise the country.

He accused the commission of deliberately "creating a bank of votes" that would enable the North have an electoral advantage over the South, especially in the 2015 Presidential election.

Okon, who has served as National Publicity and Organising Secretary of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), insisted that INEC's new polling units "can not stand".

He said the commission should be compelled to reverse the decision in order not put the unity of the country into peril.

He accused the INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, of being part of an alleged plot by some unnamed group in the North to derail the second term bid of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.

Okon, a one time Senator, argued that a cursory look at the new polling booth structure reveals a curious but obvious increase in the voting population of areas that had witnessed a large exodus of people notably the North East, North Central and the North West zones of the country, while the whole of the three Southern zones (South East, South West and South South) with the exception of Lagos, have witnessed marginal growth.

"It is instructive that Kano State which has witnessed a huge exodus of persons arising from the prevailing insecurity is placed second after Lagos which with its 5,426,391 registered voters got additional 2,870 polling units, bringing its total to 11,565.

"Kano with its stated voting strength of 4,751,818 was allocated 2,053 new polling units, bringing its total number of polling units to 9,809".

Senator representing Ogun East of Ogun State, Adegbenga Kaka, and a chieftain of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Babatunde Jooda, also faulted the timing of the creation of additional 30,000 polling units by the INEC.

Kaka stated that the action would confuse voters and lead to technical disenfranchisement, just as he added that the claim that spurious names would be eliminated in the Northern parts of the country was equally spurious.

"My candid take has not departed from the position adopted by Afenifere during the last Akure meeting wherein we said no to the creation; the creation will give room for bad elements manipulate and disenfranchise the people," the Senator stated.

In his reaction, Jooda, who is also a water engineer, said the creation of more polling units was a welcome development, as it would reduce the number of registered voters in areas where they are in excess of 500 as stipulated by the Electoral Act.

"However, the timing of this exercise leaves much to be desired. Some states have already gotten their permanent voter cards from specific polling units that might be entirely different from where they will eventually vote in 2015.

"The issue here is that confusion might arise since voters' names will have to be scattered into the new centres which the voters might not be familiar with.

"The issue of 22,000 new units in the north while the entire south has 8,000 brings to fore certain questions.

Ads By softonic×"If the motive is to cater for over 70 million voters through 15,0000 polling units, it is either the Northern states had more units with a large population of voters thus requiring additional units to reduce the voters number to 500 or 300 as the case may be or the Southern states presently have more polling units with 500 or less voters thereby needing less units to cater for the few centres where voters population exceed 500.

"Personally I don't want to believe that INEC has any ulterior motive," the former ACN chieftain said.

A constitutional lawyer and social critic, Uwemedimo Nwoko, said the INEC boss has betrayed the collective confidence of Nigerians with the concentration of more polling units in the North.

Nwoko regretted that Northerners have on every occasion demonstrated a lack of regard for the oneness of Nigeria, a situation that could be seen in the reservation of over 80 per cent of directorate positions in INEC for the Northerners.

He, therefore, called for immediate removal of Jega and a complete restructuring of INEC.

"My opinion is that Jega should reverse such ugly development as it has the potential of destroying the nation or resign.

"Jega has unwittingly let out of the bag the Northern agenda which has been hidden. Such attitude is making nonsense of the oneness of the country.

"This is another proof that this whole one nation thing is not working out," he said.

Also reacting, a former Akwa Ibom State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Victor Iyanam, said the negative implication of the development even beyond 2015 is that Northerners would use such trick to duplicate more political wards and even local government areas, hence fraudulently drawing more from the national purse.

"Funny enough, the additional polling units are not even spread across the nation, they are just for North East. These are people who are fighting Boko Haram, is that what is populating them?

"Nigerians should rise and challenge Jega to provide justification for such action or immediately reverse it because it could aggravate the already unjustified imbalance between the North and South."

Delta State Commissioner for Information, Chike Ogeah, said the onus is on INEC chairman to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that there is no clandestine motive behind it all.

According to Ogeah, failure to do so would not only cause great injury to Jega's earned reputation as an unbiased umpire but would also more importantly cause friction and instability in Nigeria's fragile polity.

Ogeah argued that Jega must be advised like Ceasar's wife to be seen to be above board in the handling of all electoral matters.

A retired civil servant based in Benin City, Edo State capital, Paul Ogbeide, said INEC chairman is yet to tell Nigerians his agenda for the country.

Ogbeide said he based his opinion on the fact that with the present security situation caused by Boko Haram, it will be unwise for the INEC boss to be embarking on any experiment that would further heighten tension in the country.

In fact, Ogbeide warned that "if this is the way they plan to break up the country it will be too unfortunate".

"I am very sure that Prof. Jega is not alone in this project and the plan may not have been that of yesterday and to save the country from degenerating into chaos and confusion over the proposed additional polling units, I am calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to send the INEC boss on suspension if the refused to drop the proposal.

"While I quite appreciate the stand of organisations and elder statesmen from the South, including Aka Ikenga, Yoruba elders, Alex Ekwueme, Chief E.K. Clark, among others, I will want to call on other organisations and leaders from the South to join in the crusade of stopping Jega from carrying out his plan."

Ogbeide also recalled the action of late General Sani Abacha who split Kano State into two and increased the local governments from 20 to over 70 with Kano having over 40 and Jigawa State having over 36, while Lagos State with a higher population figure than Kano and the same number of local governments before Abacha became Head of State was left with the same 20 local governments till today.

"If it is true that Zamfara State alone had 119,000 units while the entire South West had only 30,000 units then Jega's action is actually a drum of war to split the country and the people of the South should be ready to take part in the 'rofor, rofor fight', according to Fela of blessed memory," Ogbeide added.

A Warri based politician and activist, Eyitemi Brown-Dibofun, described creation of more polling units for the Northern states to the detriment of the entire South as a fraud.

He believes that the exercise was intended to politically reduce the voting strength of the South South, South East and South West regions.

Brown-Dibofun, who is the PDP leader in Otovwodo Ward in Warri, Delta State, said: "If Jega had earlier revealed that there was massive dual registration in some states of the North, it means that their population was fraudulently inflated and should naturally be reduced.

"And to create more polling units means there must be more than 500 people in that units. With the Boko Haram killings, how come there are more people now?" he queried.

According to Brown-Dibofun, "The exercise is a fraud. It is a calculated attempt to give the North numerical advantage over the entire South that does not tally with reality".

Though the INEC chairman said the action was to unbundled over-populated units, another politician, PDP Warri South Chairman, Amah Agbajor, said the decision of INEC cannot stand the test of time.

"INEC alone cannot create additional polling units in the country without the inputs from the National Assembly.

"He (Jega) has to prove through the number of registered voters in those areas that more polling units are needed and why the exercise did not go round the entire country," Agbajor stated.

A legal practitioner and aspirant for Delta State House of Assembly seat on the platform of the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Warri, Fabius Jemide Atie, believes that the creation of new polling units in the country with majority in the North, particularly Zamfara State, is laughable, noting that it is not supported by any indices.

"The constant bombings and attacks on the people which culminated into huge loss of lives and properties do not automatically lead to birth. This is an assured route to political crisis," Atie said.

An Osogbo based social critics and human right crusader, Waheed Lawal, described the exercise as an attempt by INEC to change the rules in the middle of a game.

He said the timing, modalities and the criteria for the distribution of the new polling units were completely wrong and have political undertone.

Lawal noted that such creation should have come long before now and not when 2015 electioneering processes are two months away.

He said serious criticism must be mounted on the electoral body so as not to give unfair advantage to a particular party and region of the country.

While calling on Nigerians to raise their voice to discourage INEC from going ahead with its plans, Lawal noted that electioneering process should not only be transparent but must also be seen to be transparent and acceptable to all.

According to him, "that Nigeria needs more polling units is incontestable as this will ensure voting convenience; what is worrisome however is that the timing, modalities and the criteria used for the distribution is completely wrong and unacceptable to all?

"This is akin to changing the rules in the middle of the game and even the commencement of 2015 electioneering process is less than two months away.

"It is also inconceivable that INEC will allocate 21,615 polling units to the North and a mere 8,412 to the whole of South (almost equal to North West allocation alone).

"This is nothing short of gerrymandering where electoral body manipulates electoral boundaries in a way that gives unfair advantage to a party/region over its rivals," Lawal added.

An Asaba based Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Peter Okocha, blamed the whole problem on Nigeria's controversial census.

Speaking to Daily Independent in an interview, Okocha said the problem did not start, but instead traced the matter to the military administration of Ibrahim Babangida when the population of the North went up to be more than that of the South.

Okocha argued that the solution to the whole controversy is not the sack of Jega but a good census.

He insisted that the INEC chairman only worked on the statistics given to him and that there are no way people given such population could take lesser polling units.

Source: Daily Independent
Polling Units 7917926518653209454

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  1. prof. 5,000 per each Geo political zone or resign now



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