Creation Of New Polling Units: Why Nigeria’s Roguish Electoral Demography Must Be Reviewed
1. His Excellency
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria & Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Secretary to the Government of the Federation
The SGF Office, Shehu Shagari Complex
Three Arms Zone, FCT, Abuja, Nigeria
2. Senator David Mark, President of the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria
The Senate Chambers, National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zones, FCT, Abuja, Nigeria
3. Honourable Aminu Tambuwal
Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria
The House of Reps Chambers, National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zone, FCT, Abuja, Nigeria
4. Professor Attahiru Jega
Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission
The INEC Headquarters, Plot 436, Zambezi Crescent
Maitama District, FCT, Abuja, Nigeria
Creation Of New Polling Units: Why Nigeria's Roguish Electoral Demography Must Be Reviewed & Evenly Re-Distributed
(Democracy & Good Governance, Onitsha Nigeria, September 11, 2014)-It has come to the notice of the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has concluded plans to embark on the creation of additional polling units of 30,029 for Nigerian electorates. Using the existing six geopolitical zonal arrangement, the Commission says it would allocate 21, 615 polling units to the north and 8, 414 to the south. The total figures were further broken down per geopolitical zone as follows: Northwest 7,909 polling units, North-central 6, 318 polling units, Northeast 5, 291 polling units, Southwest 4, 160 polling units, South/south 3,087 polling units and Southeast 1, 167 polling units. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is to be given 1, 120 polling units. The Commission has gone further to give reasons why the creation of the additional polling units is necessary as well as
justification of its distribution formula.
Having carefully listened to the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega and critically analyzed the contents of his Press Conference in response to wide criticisms trailing the proposed exercise, we write to your important public offices to reject in its entirety the said proposed exercise. Our rejection of the exercise under reference hugely has to do with its timing, modality and distribution formula. The electoral demographic need for such exercise in the country is hugely incontestable owing to a number of genuine factors including voting accessibility and convenience, population growth, poll transparency, credibility and popularity. But timing it less than sixty days to the official commencement of the all-important electioneering for the early 2015 general polls is highly suspicious. The planned exercise is more political than demographic. It is violence-prone and has the capacity of overheating the already charged political season in the country.
Apart from the fact that such important exercise is best suited during administrative and non-election seasons or times, there is important need to critically and evenly review the existing 120,000 polling units and 8,809 electoral wards in the country before thinking of creating additional ones. As revealed by the INEC Chairman, the existing polling units and electoral wards were created by the worst electoral regime in the history of Nigeria: called “National Electoral Commission of Nigeria” (NECON) under one “Chief Dagogo Jack”. They were also created during the worst military regime in the country under maximum dictator, late General Sani Abacha. The five existing political parties then were called “five fingers of a leprous hand” (apologies to late Chief Bola Ige). They were also grossly lopsided and prone to systematic poll rigging.
Today in Anambra State, for instance, the river-line areas of the State still have the highest concentration of polling units designed then for massive polling rigging. This is because the area's road network then was horrible making the area prone for poll rigging and very difficult for credible poll stakeholders to access polling units and other electoral facilities in the area. Similar sharp practices also marred the National Register of Voters particularly between 1996 and 2010. Before then, over half of the names contained in the Register were non living objects given human names and demographic codes. The same patterns were adopted during the pre-2011 national voters' registration and revalidation exercises, which were responsible for the roguish outcomes of 2003 and 2007 general polls.
Therefore, we are shocked that the INEC did not see anything wrong in the existing polling units and electoral wards especially their composition and demographic distribution patterns. The existing polling units and electoral wards under reference have also followed the age-long roguish pattern of population counting and distribution criminally and abominably designed to de-populate some parts of the country including the Southeast and over-populate others including the core-north. Pieces of evidence available to us also showed that the present INEC leadership appears to have adopted a more advanced and technical approach since the 2011 national voters' registration and subsequent revalidation exercises with a view to maintaining the roguish electoral demographic status quo.
The widened gap between the number of registered voters and those who voted in the 2011 presidential poll is a clear case in point. During the said crucial poll, the level of voter apathy was only high in the Southwest particularly in Lagos State, where out of a total registered voting population of 6, 108, 069, only 1, 945, 044 voted in the presidential poll. This is because the zone felt it was not in the contest for the presidency of the country having not fielded any major candidate. But in the three sub-regions of the north (northwest, northeast and north-central and the FCT), the voter participation was huge because of their insistence on producing the next president then. In the Southeast and the South/south, the voter participation was also very high because of the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan, who hails from the area.
However, the failure of the so called “higher number of registered voters” in the north to fairly measure up their polling units voting capacities clearly raised a number of critical questions and cast a serious doubt on the credibility and genuineness of the figures allocated to them in the National Register of Voters. For instance, according to information on the official website of the Nigerian Elections Coalition with respect to the official results of the 2011 presidential poll, out of 9, 474,404 registered voters in the six States of the South/south zone, 6, 339,216 voted. Out of 19, 803, 699 registered voters in the seven States of the Northwest zone, only 10, 790,085 voted. In the North-central zone with six States, out of 10, 584, 017 registered voters, only 5, 149, 057 voted in the said crucial presidential poll.
Further, out of 10, 749,059 registered voters in the Northeast, which has six States, only 5, 826, 645 voted. In the Southeast zone with only five States, out of 7, 577, 212 registered voters, 5, 082, 321 voted. But in the Southwest zone with six States, which was technically out of the 2011 presidential contest, out of 14, 296, 163 registered voters, only 4,613,712 voted in the said crucial poll. In Lagos State alone, out of 6, 108, 069 registered voters, only 1, 945, 044 voted. This means that 4,163, 025 registered voters did not turn up in the State during the presidential poll of 2011. In its 2011 governorship poll, only 1, 863, 513 voted. Even in the FCT, out of 943, 474 registered voters, only 398,094 voted. In the entire north, out of 41, 136, 775 registered voters, only 21, 765, 797 voted in the crucial presidential poll in which they fielded Mr. Mohammed Buhari.
Following the foregoing, therefore, we regard the explanations offered by the Chairman of INEC during his Press Conference held in Abuja on September 10, 2014 as watery, unsatisfactory and grossly unsubstantiated. The Commission also messed up its ongoing continuous voters' registration and revalidation exercises by its reliance on the 2011 post AFIS (automated finger print identification software) figure of 70, 383, 247 for its planned additional creation of the controversial polling units. It is a public knowledge that the Commission's continuous voters registration and revalidation exercises are meant to capture more registered voting population including those that relocated from or fled the troubled zones and got settled in new areas either in their ancestral or host zones or communities. Part of this includes the voter's card transfer exercise.
On the other hand, they are to capture those that have died naturally or unnaturally and get them deleted from the National Register of Voters. At the end of these exercises, the Commission is expected to announce to Nigerians the new total number of living registered voters including the deleted number of dead and fictitious voters. Part of the INEC's expected announcement is the fate of the voting populations who are still in the troubled zones (areas affected by the ongoing insurgency violence) as in the eligibility of their areas in participating in the forthcoming general polls. Any creation of additional polling units and wards must come after these and certainly not periods close to the national polls. It is sad and shocking that instead of toeing these defined and noble paths, the Commission turned around to organize a phantom and pro-rigging exercise in the context of ethno-religious lopsidedness. This includes bogus allocation of 5,291
polling units to the violence prone Northeast zone, which populations are unsettled and scattered outside the zone.
Finally, our purpose of writing your important public offices is to bring this unpopular and widely condemned exercise to your attentions and demand its immediate cancellation. By this singular despicable act, INEC's readiness to conduct free, fair and popular polls in 2015 is seriously in doubt and under threat. We foresee situations whereby results for troubled areas in Adamawa, Borno, Taraba, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe Kaduna and Plateau States will be written in places of public politics and worship in Yola, Maiduguri, Dutse, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna and Jos. Should the INEC Chairman go ahead with the controversial polling units creation against the outcries of Nigerians and grounded criticisms from respected Nigerians and bodies, the Presidency is called upon to direct him to resign.
For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Esq., Head, Campaign & Publicity Department
Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Chiugo Onwuatuegwu, Esq., Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program