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INEC: The Row Over New Polling Units

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About six months to the
2015 elections, politicians have began for a attention and relevance and in some cases exchanging political missiles designed to shut down their opponents’ using subtle and direct campaigns even when the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not officially flagged off campaigns. The INEC, which has not denied that there are mistakes and lessons to be learnt from previous conduct of elections especially the last three Anambra, Ekiti and Osun governorship polls, is however, hopeful that it would improve in its subsequent conduct of elections.
This dictates the commission’s decision for constant re-examination to see whether it is still on the path of reforming and improving the electoral process that will promote free, fair and credible elections.
The fallout of INEC’s strategy to reform the electoral process in line with international best practices is the creation of 30,000 polling units(PUs), bringing the total number to 150,000 nationwide from 119,973 that had existed since 1996. Out of the 30,000 PUs, the North got 70 per cent of the new units (more than 21,000 units) while the balance of a little more than 8,000 polling units were allocated to the South. The wide disparity int he collection has therefore sparked up a row.  The commission is accused of shortchanging other parts of the country in favour of the North in terms of the new polling units.
The South East region under the aegis of the South East Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party rejected the recent allocation of the new polling units, describing the allocation as “a gross injustice against Ndigbo.”
“We reject entirely the allocation of polling booths by INEC. We view it as a great disservice to the unity and progress of this country if the entre South will have 8,000 polling booths and the North gets 21,000. We demand that the issue be suspended forthwith. This is a prelude to undermine the interest of the zone in the 2015 elections. It is completely against the spirit of one Nigeria and progress of the country,” the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh declared while briefing the Press at the end of the zone’s meeting at Abia State Government House, Umuahia.
Ogun State PDP chairman, Bayo Dayo expressed similar dissatisfaction with the allocation of the additional PUs. He is worried about the lopsidedness in the allocation.
He said, “Professor Attahiru Jega is an intelligent and honest man but if his honesty is not in the best interest of the South West, we will react and if need be, we will seek redress in court.”
Though civil rights activist, Comrade Moshood Erubami said it would be premature to fault INEC’s wisdom in the distribution of the PUs when we don’t know the criteria used, Afenifere chieftain, Chief Supo Shonibare agreed that the distribution was lopsided.
“I am not aware that INEC is an authorized body on population census. If it is based on estimate, it is wrong to give a section of the country more polling units at the expense of the other,” Shonibare said.
Another body that did not spare INEC over the allocation of the additional PUs is the Electoral Integrity Network.
Apart from doubting the operations of the commission in the electoral process, the Network was categorical that the exercise was a calculated move to favour certain section of the country, and malign others in the electoral process. The Network which also accused the commission of playing the script of powerful political individuals, also insisted that INEC’s new move is capable of inducing acrimony and hatred in the system which if not properly managed could trigger off crisis before, during and after polls.
The Plateau State Leaders said the political interest of the State has been undermined by INEC’s new allocation of PUs. In their press statement, the leaders asked the commission to re-visit the exercise as a whole, saying that in the spirit of national unity, no section of the country should be short- changed in any socio-political and economic process.
However, Attahiru Jega-led INEC, while absolving itself of what it called “spurious allegations”, explained the rationale for the creation of the new polling units which it argued were meant to facilitate ease access of voters to polling units in the forthcoming elections. INEC also justified the current move from past exercise and structure.
How did it all start?
The defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON), in 1996, created the present structure of polling units. INEC, inherited this structure but in 2010 went further to verify them and their locations. It ascertained a total of 119,973 units. Quite revealing was the fact that substantial number of the identified PUs are located in public buildings (primary and secondary schools, recreation centres/packs, community halls etc). Yet, there are some other PUs located in public open spaces (village /town/market squares, community grounds) and the remaining ones located in the premises of traditional rulers, places of  worship, frontage of private houses, compounds etc).
The decision to align with global best practice, the electoral body argues, informed its plan to situate polling units within enclosures in public institutions and buildings, and where this is not possible, in places where tents / canopies’ can be erected for greater convenience of everyone involved in the electoral process.
When the current polling units were put to use in 1996, the estimated population of Nigeria was put at about 110 million, and by 2011, when INEC conducted the general voters registration exercise, the population was estimated at 160 million. Presently, this figure has grown to an estimate of 175 million.
Apart from the issue of population growth, INEC’s move may have been influenced by “severe demographic shifts”. According to INEC advertorial, there has been a notable growth in the number and sizes of new settlements across the country, especially in urban centres.
INEC argues that the reconfiguration of the PUs is apparently a strategy to break large polling units into manageable structures known as voting points and this increased the number from the present 119,973 units to 150,000 PUs. Under this arrangement, large polling units are disaggregated into multiples of 300 registered voters per voting point-with a polling unit having multiples of voting points, depending on the overall population of voters. The voting points are not autonomous units, per se; they remained integral to respective polling units.
The usage of these units may have elicited suspicions from interest groups and some political parties who accused the electoral body of secret agenda in the operations of the units. Whereas the electoral law provides for every political  party to have one polling agent each at a PUs, some parties demanded to have polling agents at every voting point.
Also significant is the decision of the INEC to increase the technology content of the electoral process. For the 2015 elections, the commission intends “to use chip-embedded smart-card (as voter cards)and companion smartcard readers. Using the voting points as presently constituted, the commission said it will “require some 250,000 units of the smartcard readers to operate.” This has high cost implication to the economy.
As far as addressing electoral challenges are concerned, INEC believes that reconfiguration of the polling units is the answer, and the guiding principles for the reconfiguration include that polling units will now be located as much as possible in enclosure such as classrooms and halls of public schools, institutions, community centre, town halls, and where they are to be situated in open spaces, tents or canopies will be erected.
Furthermore, a public institution that accommodates more than one polling unit will be designated as a polling station and polling units will be located within a reasonable distance to voters at least a maximum radius of one  kilometer in urban areas and two kilometers radius in rural areas. Each polling unit will have a maximum of  500 registered voters.
Proportional distribution of the newly created 150,000 polling units, however, shows that Lagos state has the highest number with 2,870 to bring the total number of its polling units to 11,565 to serve its 5,426,391 registered voters, while Kano State with 4,751,818 registered voters got additional 2,053 polling units to bring its total number to 9,809. Kaduna State, with registered voters of 3,743,815 benefitted additional 2,878 polling units to bring the total number of polling units in the state to 7,485. Bayelsa State, which has the lowest voting strength of 590,679 in the country got additional 121 polling units, making a total of 1,925 voting centres in the state.
The concern of the critics over of the allocation of additional 21,000 polling units to the North as against 8,000 allocated to the South may have been prompted by unsavory reports emanating from polling units during electoral activities.
A member of Delta PDP, Col Joseph Achuzia (rtd), described INEC’s allocation of the new PUs as illogical and wondered the rationale behind the move. The inference from the INEC move, he said, is that majority of the voters in the country are in the North, whereas the cleaning up of the voters register done recently by INEC has belied that notion.
He recalled that enumerators who registered voters in the North usually based their figures on estimates by virtue of their inability to get into certain areas to carry out the national assignment because of Islamic restriction. According to him, this Northerners always use the Islamic restriction as an excuse to stage-manage enumerations in their favour.
The decision of the electoral commission may sound logical especially when it is viewed against the background that the new polling units were previously known as voting points and were appendages of existing polling units. What this means is that INEC only acted from existing structures. But the people have the right to know the details of the reconfiguration so as to rebuild their confidence that were shattered overtimes by previous electoral mistakes.
On its part, the electoral body should consider it necessary to embark on massive sensitization and enlightenment programme for the citizens to allay their fears and educate them that its move has best intentions to ease the logistic challenges confronting electoral activities.
Another option of defence open to INEC in the creation of more polling units is the 2010 Electoral Act which provides that each polling units shall not have more that 500 voters. The need to comply with the provision of the Act, it would be argued, puts the commission on a sound footing for its action.

 

Samuel  Eleonu

INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega

INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega

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End Poverty, Okowa Urges Political Appointees

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Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has urged political appointees to be repository of ideas that will end poverty and social vices in the country.
The governor stated this yesterday, while inaugurating eight newly appointed Special Advisers at Government House, Asaba.
He noted that the times were difficult for Nigerians and that this was not the time for them to be lazy in their duties.
Okowa urged political appointees to commit themselves to more work to revive the economy and create opportunities for the younger generation.
He decried the high rate of youth unemployment which, he said, had driven many into self-help, leading to the current social vices in the country.
The governor said that his administration had created jobs through various empowerment programmes, which had greatly impacted many, with its great multiplier effect.
“Available records indicate that we have so far trained and resourced over 100,000 persons to become successful entrepreneurs.
“Yet, our cities and communities continue to brim with many youths who have yet to find succor, while some, regrettably, have chosen the path of infamy by embracing underhand methods to personal success that now pose danger to the rest of us.
“The signs are ominous and we cannot afford to play the ostrich or even be deluded into thinking that all is well. All is not well,’’ he said.
Okowa urged leaders to work with the consciousness that leadership was service.
“Service to the people for whom we hold our positions in trust. Thus, it is incumbent on appointees to devise means and methods of discharging their callings and responsibilities.
“Leaders and political appointees, at whatever level, should be repository of ideas that will proffer solutions to the problems of unemployment, poverty, anti-social vices, suspicion and distrust that breed inter-ethnic feuds in our communities,’’ he said.
 The governor stressed the urgent need for mindset reorientation among the people.
While congratulating the appointees, Okowa urged them to consider it their duties to connect with their communities and engage in regular advocacy that would remold the youth and set them on the right path.
“Where there is a will, there must be a way.
“This administration is of the belief that the stability, peaceful coexistence and prosperity of the state depend on ability to run an all-inclusive government, powered by men and women of competence, capacity and character.
“Hence the new Special Advisers are additional key resources in our governance team, painstakingly assembled to be architects and builders of a stronger Delta.
Responding on behalf of his colleagues, Mr Johnson Erijo, thanked God for the opportunity given them to serve the state.
He expressed appreciation to the governor for finding them worthy of the appointment, while pledging to work and sustain the Okowa-led administration’s agenda of service of the people.
The Tide  reports that the new Special Advisers are: Messrs Ignatius Ziakegha, Matthew Tsekiri, Chukwudi  Dafe,  Martins Okonta,  Dan Yingi, Ernest Ogwuezzy,  Johnson Erijo and Edward Ekpoko.
The Tide also reports that the appointment brings the number of special advisers in government to 16, following the devolution of the State Executive Council on May 18.
Meanwhile, the Delta House of Assembly has screened and confirmed additional 11 nominees as Commissioners in the state.
Those confirmed are Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, former Commissioner for Higher Education; Mr Chika Ossai, former Commissioner for Trade and Investment and Mr Basil Ganagana, former Commissioner for Energy.
Also confirmed is Mr Emmanuel Amgbaduba, former Commissioner for Oil and Gas. The others are Dr Mordi Ononye, former Commissioner for Health; Mr Ovie Oghoore; Mrs Bridget Anyafulu; Mr Solomon Golley; Mr Isaiah Bozimo; Mr Henry Dakota; and Mrs Jennifer Anderson.
The motion for the confirmation of the nominees was unanimously adopted yesterday, by the Assembly when the Speaker, Chief Sheriff Oborevwori put it to a voice vote and seconded by the Minority Leader, Mr Innocent Anidi.
The Tide reports that Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa on July 1, sworn in 18 confirmed nominees as commissioners.
The governor dissolved the state Executive Council on May 18.

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2023: Group Insists On S’ South Presidency

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A non-partisan advocacy group, South-South Presidency 2023 (SSP2023), has given reasons for insisting on the return of power to the zone in 2023.
The group, which ended its three-day delegates conference in Calabar, said there was need for a President of the South-South extraction to complete the zone’s tenure of eight years since it was truncated by massive gang up and that a South-South Presidency would stabilise the Nigerian polity.
In a 10-point communique signed by the National Protem Chairman of the group, Chief Diekivie Ikiogha, the Cross River State coordinator, Hon Ekpenyong Eyamba and others, the group said the South – South was blessed with competent and qualified human resource to take the country to another height and so should be given a chance.
They observed with nostalgia the deplorable state of the Calabar-Itu road and requested that the Federal Government should urgently fix it.
The group also frowned at what they described as the continuous intimidation, blackmail and harassment of politicians of South – South extraction.
The three-day conference climaxed with a visit to the Chairman of the State Council of Chiefs, His Royal Majesty Etinyin Etim Okon Edet at the Council of Chiefs Chambers.
At the Chamber, Chief Ikiogha called on the traditional institution to support the agitation of South – South people to produce the next president that would do four more years to complete the zone’s turn.
“By this arithmetic, South will do 18 years and when it goes to the north they will do eight years to add up to their tenure of 10 years which will be completed by President
“The South – South has an already constitutional four years which its ex president, Goodluck Jonathan can readily fit in,” he stated.
In his response, HRM Etim Okon Edet , who doubles as Paramount Ruler of Bakassi Local Government Area, said there was nothing wrong with a South – South producing the next president, saying the former president Goodluck Jonathan would be best fit to complete his tenure but feared whether the Bayelsa-born leader would be willing to throw his hat into the ring.
The Monarch said, “Yes, he is best fit to go and complete the four years remaining for South South regardless of any party. I will take the message to His Excellency, Governor Ben Ayade for his opinion.”
Among delegates who attended the Conference were Dr Princewill .W. Igbagara (Bayelsa), Engr. Ini Charles Udonwa (Akwa Ibom), Dr Didi Opiuyo (Rivers), High Chief (Major) A.O.Oputa (Bayelsa), Hon. Barr. Oyemah-Iwe Jahswill (Delta), Dr. Uwamose Amadasun (Edo), and Comrade Francis Etang of Cross River state , among others.

By: Friday Nwagbara, Calabar

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INEC Commences Physical CVR In Rivers

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Rivers State has commenced the physical aspect of the Continuous Voter’s Registration (CVR) at the state office and in the local government offices.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity, Mark Usulor and made available to The Tide last Monday, July 26, 2021.
The statement however, regretted that due to the blockade on a stretch of the East-West Road by some persons, reportedly protesting about the poor state of the road yesterday, movement had been impeded along the route.
{As a result, some of our personnel and materials have been unable to arrive some of the local government offices of INEC to commence the exercise”, he said.
He listed the affected local government areas as follows: Andoni; Bonny; Eleme; Gokana; Khana; Ogu/Bolo; Okrika; Opobo/Nkoro and Tai.
“INEC Rivers State wishes to assure potential registrants in such local government areas that the exercise will commence in their locations later in the day and as soon as the situation permits.
“It also hopes that registrants in the affected areas avail themselves the opportunity to key into the physical Continuous Voters’ Registration as soon as normalcy returns back to the area.
It is worthy to note that INEC in line with keeping to its promises to ensure no one of age is disenfranchised introduced the CVR for all as well as those who wishes to change their voters’ card due to their present location as such it is pertinent for those concerned to take full advantage of this window of opportunity”, he added.

By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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