Failed rigging plot and 30,000 polling units: Jega threatens southern commissioners
By Jide Ajani
CAVEAT: The expose on INEC is not about personalities; but about the need to ensure that an enduring process based on equity and fairness is bestowed on the nation.
At a time when Nigerians were just heaving a sigh of relief that, at last, Professor Attahiru Jega, National Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yielded to the voice of reason by suspending the controversial allocation of the additional 30,000 Polling Units, PUs, there are strong indications that there is yet no retreat no surrender on the part of those pushing an agenda to use INEC as an instrument of rigging next year's general elections. This fresh discovery by Sunday Vanguard is going to the wrought through the instrumentality of the distribution and allocation of voting materials on the day of election (read logistics). That is not all. The main drivers of the Commission are also set to redeploy Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, of northern origin to the South to handle the 2015 elections because of the belief that some RECs in the South did not go along with the disguised rigging plot based on the lopsided allocation of the PUs. Already, Jega has sent out a threat to the RECs in the South.
Professor Attahiru Jega, National Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has issued a query laden with an ultimatum to Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, in some southern states of Nigeria. This is not unconnected with the failed attempt by some individuals at the Commission, who misled its Chairman, to create additional 30,000 Polling Units, PUs, which were then shared in a most bizarre manner, giving the North over 21,000 and allocating a little over 8,000 to the entire South of Nigeria. A copy of the query, in the possession of Sunday Vanguard, is seething with rage. Issued on November 11, 2014 – the day the Commission bowed to national pressure on the lopsided allocation of the PUs – it was signed by Jega himself.
Dependable sources at the INEC Zambezi Street headquarters in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, disclosed that “shortly after Tuesday's stormy meeting, the Turks who have remained adamant in their own vision and mission of how next year's election should be determined, made the Chairman understand that he needed to demonstrate that he was in charge”. How the man believed to be cerebral, energetic and visionary as well as integrity-filled allowed himself to become a tool in this unfolding drama may be a mystery psychologists would have to conduct a research into.
The query was titled, 'QUERY FOR REFUSAL TO SUBMIT REPORTS ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF RECONFIGURATION OF POLLING UNIT STRUCTURE AND CREATION OF ADDITIONAL POLLING UNITS'.
It read: “The Commission, by letter dated 16th October 2014, directed all Resident Electoral Commissioners to submit your respective reports on the reconfiguration of Polling Units structure and creation of Polling Units on or before 30th October, 2014. “At the Commission Meeting today, 11th November 2014, it was observed that you have refused, failed or neglected to comply with the above directive within the deadline given or since then”. That was not all. The query then set an ultimatum as follows:
“The Commission has directed that you explain, in writing, the reasons for your conduct within 7 days from the date of this letter.
“Professor Attahiru M. Jega, OFR Chairman.”
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For those who may not have been following the reported hidden agenda in INEC, the “reports on the reconfiguration of Polling Units structure and creation of Polling Units”, which Jega referred to in his query are nothing more than the warped allocation that an INEC Commissioner in Abuja described to Sunday Vanguard as “meaningless and ungodly”. Indeed, the said memo was issued after an inconclusive meeting on how to proceed. The memo itself, sources further disclosed, did not set out any particular criteria on how to establish the PUs but, rather curiously, expected the RECs to fashion out the execution of an agenda they are not a part of. Interestingly, the RECs in the North carried out “their master's wish”. However, because the agenda was meant to peddle false altruism hinged on a supposed need to get PUs closer to the electorate, daylight came upon Jega's magic.
HOW INEC BROKE THE LAW
INEC is in breach of the law. Section 42 of the Electoral Act is the legal basis for the creation/allocation of units. The Section specifically refers to Registration Areas (RAs) as the basis for creating PUs. The creation of new PUs on state basis is faulty and contrary to the law. For the purpose of clarity, Section 42 states: – “The Commission shall establish sufficient number of Polling Units in each registration area and shall allot voters to such Polling Units”. Therefore, INEC has no legal basis for proposing to use criteria such as the unexplainable ratio of 85%,15% as well as additional 121 polling units to all states on the basis of equality of state because where the Constitution stipulated equality of state such as three senatorial districts, it was clearly written.
Not using the RAs as prescribed by law led to the now suspended inequitable and arbitrary allocation of PUs. There are 8,809 RAs in Nigeria, of which 4,611 (52%) are in the North and FCT, and 4,198 (48%) are in the South. If 30,027 PUs are to be created, using the appropriate legal requirement, RAs, it follows that 15,614 of these PUs i.e approximately 52%, should be allocated to the North and 14,413, i.e approximately 48%, should be in the 17 states of the South. This is the only legal, fair, just and equitable distribution that will be acceptable, using RAs as stipulated by law.
IN JEGA'S OWN WORDS
It would be recalled that shortly after his assumption of office, one of the early steps taken that started the process of restoration of public confidence in INEC, before the nationwide voters registration, was Jega's declaration that it had commenced the process of verification and relocation of PUs nationwide to ensure that PUs in the homes, compounds, places like Okija Shrine, traditional rulers/emirs palaces, and places of worship were relocated to open and accessible public places. This was commended by Nigerians who know that truly PUs were located in the premises of powerful politicians and these were used to rig elections.
After the 2011 elections, the Chairman of INEC, in his keynote address on the role of editors during elections, at the 7th All Nigerian Editors Conference (ANEC, Benin 2011), on Thursday, September 22, 2011, further confirmed what his Commission had told Nigerians when he said: “Before embarking on the registration of voters, the Commission established the exact location of PUs throughout the country and verified the number to be 199, 976 – which is 24 short of the 120,000 that was on record”.
What should be of serious concern to Nigerians is the revelation from the meeting of last Tuesday where the PUs' proposal was suspended. At the meeting to consider reports from the states, almost all the states from the North each presented reports of relocation of over 1,000 PUs from inappropriate locations to accessible and open places whereas the states in the South did not have such reports. There are questions Jega must, therefore, answer, in the light of this revelation:
*How do Nigerians reconcile this revelation of this new relocation of inappropriate location of PUs in the northern states if it had been done in 2011 as publicly declared by INEC as noted previously?
*Does this mean that these states did not carry out this directive prior to the 2011 elections and voting took place in those places?
*Could it be that after the 2011 elections, these thousands of PUs were returned to these inappropriate locations warranting this relocation now?
*Does the absence of such reports from the South indicate that it was carried out as at that time and there was nothing to relocate again?
*What does INEC intend to do with these revealed and identified PUs that hitherto had been in secret or inappropriate places given the suspension of the PUs creation exercise?
To now properly situate the malady in INEC's northern flank, please read carefully Jega's announcement of the suspension of the allocation of the 30,000 PUs: “The Commission met today and reviewed reports from the State Offices on Reconfiguration and Creation of Additional PUs. The Commission decided, in view of time constraint and the controversy over the matter that is overheating the polity, to: 1) suspend the creation of new PUs until after the 2015 general elections; 2) continue with the existing practice of using Voting Points to decongest PUs; 3) as much as possible relocate all PUs in unsuitable locations to more suitable locations and 4) ensure that as much as possible PUs in open spaces are moved to classrooms or suitable enclosures, such as tents. Formal communication will follow asap. Best regards.” Now these posers:
*If the directive to move PUs to another location is carried out just two months to election, what name shall it bear now?
*How would this change to another location be reflected on the register of voters that bears the old names?
*What happens to the PVC that bears the codes of the locations already given to voters? *What happens to those Guides to Polling Units that INEC normally gives to journalists and
election observers – would these sudden changes be reflected?
*How would voters know that their PUs have been re-located when these same apathetic voters, despite INEC's publicity, have not responded impressively to the collection of PVC?
*Above all, except for inappropriate location of PUs, has INEC thought of the reaction of stakeholders (political parties, election monitors, journalists, et al) to this idea?
THE SUPER COMMISSIONERS INSIDE INEC
There are three National Commissioners at INEC who can be described as operating like Nigeria's post-civil war Super Perm Secs. These three people were the ones who pushed, last Tuesday, for a hard line against RECs from the South. Their offence was that they failed to go along with and be complicit in the lopsided allocation of PUs. The suggestion was first put forward by Hajia Amina Zakari. But you need to understand these individuals:
*Engr. Nuru Yakubu
This very intelligent individual hails from Yobe State in Nigeria's North-East. He is at the head of the team that provides the intellectual content. However, starting from failed delimitation and review of wards to the controversial lopsided allocation of the 30,000 PUs, using invidious criteria of an unexplainable ration of 85% and 15% that gave the North more, there seems to be a driving force. He is reputed to be very ambitious – there is no crime in that. But there is said to be mutual suspicion between him and Jega. INEC insiders disclosed last week to Sunday Vanguard that as close as both men are, this ambitious disposition made the Chairman not to allow him act on his behalf whenever he is not on seat. Again, it was revealed that some elders had to call both Jega and Yakubu to quench what was being perceived as a rivalry in view of the power game ahead of 2015. So far, Yakubu has done well in advancing the cause of the job he appears to be set out for at INEC.
Last Tuesday, Jega empowered him with the headship of the Committee of Logistics in addition to the Operations Committee that he heads. By this development, Yakubu is now effectively in charge of the heart and soul of the 2015 elections.
This even becomes more egregious because if a man has tried to set a template of PUs distribution in a manner that presents the impression that the North must by all means lord it over the South of Nigeria, to now hand him the responsibility of logistics, election materials and staff deployment, what guarantees are there that the same South of Nigeria would not be de-supplied election materials on election day? Worse still, the Nigerian Constitution mentions “substantial compliance” and not full compliance when issues of election disputes are taken to court. All these are happening despite the fact that Jega has no executive power but his colleagues have all surrendered to him and are treated like mere staff of INEC and not equals wherein the Chairman is just the first.
Hajia Amina Zakari
She once worked with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari at the PTF and is referred to at INEC as “Madam Know All”.
She is described as a National Commissioner who wants to do the job of everybody. This is a complement in a situation where things may appear not to be moving in the right direction. But determining the right direction in the light of a shambling and shambolic election management body may itself be foggy. Even though she was the chair of election and political monitoring committee until last Tuesday when she was reassigned, she took charge of the recruitment exercise carried out last year whereas she was not the head of the Human Resources Committee that led previously by Mrs. Thelma lremiren who was removed by Jega ahead of the recruitment exercise to pave the way for alleged northern control of the recruitment of new staff into INEC.
*Amb. Mohammed Wali
An ardent promoter of the previous allocation of the PUs, he never gave up until the policy was reversed last Tuesday.
JOB FOR HIRE
The further empowerment of the northern Turks to organize and control the 2015 elections creates the anxiety that this may be another phase of the project which motivated the lopsided PUs creation that has polarized the Commission along regional lines because it allocated to the North-West 7,906, the North-East 5,291, and the North-Central 6,318, while it allotted to the South-West 4,160, South-South 3,087 and South-East 1,167 and the FCT 1,120 which led to the following clear disparities:
* 11 out of the 12 states which got over 1,000 new PUs were in the North
* States such as Katsina, Kano, Niger, Kaduna and Zamfara, just like the FCT Abuja, EACH got more new PUs than the entire South-East.
* INEC prepared new facilities for over 500,000 new voters in 11 states in the North and only Lagos in the South
* Borno and Yobe States, with over 400,000 internally displaced persons who have moved to several states in the Middle Belt and South, got 1,333 and 790 new PUs allocations, respectively, when peaceful states with larger numbers of eligible voters in the South from data used by INEC got nothing. The clear inequities, which the issue raised, led to several actions to stop the creation of the new polling units by prominent leaders in the South-West, South-East and South-South including a challenge in court brought forward by the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, led by Chief Fredrick Fasheun.
Currently, it is doubtful if INEC has actually put the matter to rest to concentrate on the important issues of the Permanent Voter Cards distribution and Continuous Voters Registration process which have been bedeviled by scheduling failures.
As at the time the Commission suspended the creation of the new PUs, Jega had indicated in a national newspaper interview that the new PUs had not been created and there was no evidence to show that INEC used the reports submitted by some RECs to any effect. Today's INEC, courtesy of Jega leadership attitude and the northern Turks around him, has become so polarized that the fairness of next year's general election may suffer integrity discount. National Commissioners are polarized along North/South faultlines and this goes all the way to RECs, the staff, National Assembly members, and even the Senate Committee on INEC. When the Committee sent the INEC boss a letter suggesting that the PUs allocation should be suspended, it was a few northern senators who counselled Jega to ignore the suggestion.
Culled from Vauguard on Sunday
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