Ahead of the 2023 general election, Rivers State has demanded an additional 550 polling units, to scale up its number from 4, 442, to 4,992.
The state said that proving the new polling units would address the challenges faced by underserved communities in the democratic process.
Also, 12 northern states are demanding for 3,323 additional polling units (PUs) as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) begins the process of creating new PUs in an attempt to expand Nigerians’ access to elections.
From the southern part of the country, 14 states also want new 2, 424 PUs under the exercise.
The requests total 5, 747 and that was as of October, 2020.
Curiously, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Jigawa and Zamfara states, all from the North-West where voter populations are huge, are missing on the list of the requests for new PUs.
Also missing is Ekiti State on the South-West list, Gombe and Yobe on the North-East list while Enugu and Ebonyi are not on the South-East list.
The breakdown of the requests on geopolitical basis, according to the State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria Discussion Paper prepared by INEC, last week, shows that North-Central’s (seven states) demand is 1, 732 (30.1%); North-East (four states), 1,321 (23%); North-West (one state), 270 (4.7%); South-West (five states), 1, 073 (18.7%); South-South (six states), 1, 114 (19.4%); and South-East (three states), 237 (4.1%).
The current 119, 973 PUs, created by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) in 1999 (22 years ago), INEC believes, have become inadequate by the reason of the emergence of new settlements across the country, difficult terrain and increase in the number of registered voters.
For instance, whereas there were about 58million registered voters for the 1999 elections, there were around 84million for the 2019 polls.
And whereas the average voters per PU in 1999 were 482.9, the average voters per PU for the 2019 elections were 700.1.
Analysts said the figures could further rise for the 2023 elections as INEC embarks on Continuous Voters Registration to capture those who just attained the voting age of 18.
Justifying the case for new PUs across Nigeria for the 2023 polls, INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, in his preface to the Discussion Paper on the State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria, argued, “Over the years, voter access to Polling Units in Nigeria has been declining. For the 2019 general election, the average number of voters per Polling Unit was about 700 nationally, rising to over 2,000 in the Federal Capital Territory while a specific Polling Unit in Nasarawa State had over 15,000 voters.
“Furthermore, some Polling Units are located in very difficult places that do not encourage voters to participate in elections, particularly persons living with disability. Others are located in places experiencing conflicts or in places under the control of partisan actors.
“Moreover, because of inadequate Polling Units, many voters have to travel long distances to their Polling Units on Election Day.
“All these have contributed to low voter turnout at elections, egregious violation of election regulations and guidelines, violence and insecurity.
“Crowding at Polling Units also constitutes health and safety issues in this period of the global Covid-19 pandemic”.
Meanwhile, INEC has not disclosed the number of PUs it envisages would be sufficient to add to the current 119, 973 PUs to improve voters’ access on Election Day.
“The requests cut across the country. This clearly indicates that the dwindling voter access to Polling Units is a national problem, rather than a sectional”, INEC noted in the Discussion Paper.
“By implication, the establishment of more Polling Units will be beneficial to voters all over the country, contrary to the conspiracy theories that some parts would be favoured or disfavoured.
“Secondly, in the 5, 747 received from the 25 states and the FCT, population growth, difficult terrain and new settlements were the main reasons given for the requests.
“These point to the fact that perhaps the most important cause of declining access to Polling Units is the non-availability of Polling Units which leads to overcrowding in the few available ones”.
This is not the first time INEC is embarking on an exercise to expand voter access at PUs.
It narrated in the Discussion Paper, “In 2014, in the build-up to the 2015 general election, the commission proposed the ‘creation and distribution’ of ‘additional 30,027 new Polling Units’.
“This was with the objective of decongesting overcrowded Polling Units and dispersing voters as evenly as possible to prevent disruptions, delays and violence on Election Day.
“Furthermore, the exercise was aimed at a spatial distribution of voters, the relocation of Polling Units from unsuitable places to more suitable places and the location of Polling Units within reasonable commuting distances of voters.
“But the effort was jettisoned as a result of unfounded allegations by various political interest groups and the negative propaganda from some sections of the media.
“For instance, the commission was accused of engaging in a ‘disproportional distribution of Polling Units in Nigeria aimed at fostering the dominance of one section of the country over the others for political advantage.’
“Eventually, the commission reverted to the use of Voting Points for the 2015 general election”.
The INEC Discussion Paper shows that Borno tops the table of states demanding for new PUs.
It currently has 3, 932 and is asking for additional 1, 235 units.
This is followed by Niger which currently has 3, 185 PUs but is asking for 1, 042 more.
Kebbi has 2, 398 but is requesting for additional 270, while Lagos has 8, 462 but is asking for 29 more.
Abia which is asking for 79 PUs already has 2, 675, Adamawa has 2, 609, wants 14 extra; Anambra has 4, 608, wants 56 extra; Akwa Ibom has 2, 980, wants 15 more; Bauchi has 4, 074, wants 2 more; Bayelsa has 1, 804, wants 51 more; Benue has 3, 688, wants 108 more; Cross River has 2, 283, wants 356 more; Delta has 3, 624, wants 138 more; and Edo has 2, 627, wants 4 more.
Also, Imo has 3, 523, wants 102 more; Kogi has 2, 548, wants 180 more; Kwara has 1, 872, wants 151 more; Nasarawa has 1, 495, wants 63 more; Ogun has 3, 213, wants 239 more; Ondo has 3, 009, wants 101 more; Osun has 3, 010, wants 358 more; Oyo has 4, 783, wants 346 more; Plateau has 2, 631, wants 114 more; Rivers has 4, 442, wants 550 more; Taraba has 1, 912, wants 70 more while FCT has 562, wants 74 more.
The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) defines a Polling Unit (PU) as “the place, enclosure, booth, shade or house at which voting takes place under this Act” (Section 156 – Interpretation). Consequently, Polling Units (PUs) constitute the basic structure of Nigeria’s electoral system and democracy.
“They are the nerve centres at which voters make contact with the commission during elections. As such, it is exceedingly important that Polling Units are not only ready and conducive to receive voters, but that they are also well-organized and secure for the beehive of activities that occur in them on Election Day. Indeed, well-organized and efficiently run Polling Units are emblematic of the quality of the entire election ecosystem. Voter access to Polling Units is therefore fundamental to our elections and democracy at large.
“Over the years, several challenges have confronted INEC with Polling Units. First, there is the problem of inadequate number of Polling Units available to voters. As a result of population growth, demographic shifts and establishment of new settlements and residential areas, existing Polling Units have become inadequate. Since the law ties registration of voters and voting to specific Polling Units, it means that voters have to walk long distances on Election Day to vote. Often, they are not able to do so because of restrictions on movement.
“Second, inadequacy of Polling Units implies that many of them are overcrowded during elections, which is a recipe for delays, disruptions, violence and apathy. To be sure, overcrowding varies from one area to another due to uneven growth in population. Still, practically all Polling Units have experienced increased population of voters.
“Thus, during the 2011 elections, most of the Polling Units saw turnouts exceeding the 500 voters designated per Polling Unit. In fact, a review carried out by the commission in 2014 revealed that many Polling Units recorded very large number of voters. Some had exceeded the designated figure of 500 voters per Polling Unit by a couple of thousands while some had over 4,000 registered voters. These huge numbers pointed to the urgency of reorganizing Polling Units.
“Third, the location of some of the Polling Units makes access very difficult. For instance, some are located in very physically inaccessible locations, particularly for persons living with disability. And, at least, until recently, some were even located in the homes of important people and religious groups, who often have political leanings capable of discouraging some voters from voting. Also, some Polling Units are located in highly charged and contested areas, including areas experiencing communal conflicts.
“Fourth, there is the problem of organization of Polling Units. This is related to location. Many of them are in the open, with little cover. Others have inadequate space to cater for the official schema for organizing Polling Units. As a result, arrangement of Polling Units during elections to facilitate voting is difficult to achieve. For example, this has been conducive to vote-buying whereby voters are able to reveal their choices to “party agents” to enable them to consummate the buying and selling of votes.
“This particular problem has become even more serious in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic because the constricted spaces available at Polling Units do not support the necessary social distancing recommended by health authorities.
“Finally, even the actual number and exact locations of Polling Units were unknown for a long time. The Jega Commission (2010 – 2015) had to embark on a verification exercise to enumerate and locate the Polling Units. In fact, it was only after this verification that the number of Polling Units was established as 119,973, instead of the round figure of 120,000 that was assumed for many years”.
NDLEA Intercepts 100,000 Bottles Of Codeine Syrup At Onne Port
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA), has intercepted and seized no fewer than 100,000 bottles of codeine syrup with a total weight of 15,325 kgs at the Onne seaport, Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
NDLEA Director, Media and Advocacy, Mr Femi Babafemi disclosed this in a statement issued at the weekend in Abuja.
Babafemi said that the 100mg illicit cough syrup with codeine packed in 500 cartons and concealed in a container marked MRKU 1565305, bearing made in India imported face masks, was discovered on Thursday, 10th June.
The syrup was found in a warehouse at the Onne port complex during a joint examination by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service, (NCS) State Security Service and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, (NAFDAC), among others, he added.
He said that the seizure followed intelligence received by the NDLEA, as a result of which the container was detained and moved to the Customs’ government warehouse within the port complex.
The NDLEA spokesman added that no importer or agent had, however, come forward to claim the container, but that efforts were ongoing to track the owner for further investigation and prosecution.
Babafemi quoted the Chairman, (NDLEA) retired Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa as hailing the synergy between various government agencies at the Onne port.
He charged them not to rest on their oars as they continued working hard daily, to keep Nigeria safe.
In particular, he commended the Commander, officers and men of the Port Command in the Rivers capital, and their Abuja airport Command counterparts, for their vigilance and commitment to the task of ridding Nigeria of illicit drugs.
“The damage 100,000 bottles of codeine could have done to our youths, if they had slipped through the port to our villages, towns and cities, is unimaginable. 146.95 kgs of khat could have done the same damage if allowed to go unto our streets.
“We’ll continue to motivate our officers and men so that they can give their best in the discharge of their responsibilities across the country,” he said
“We will ultimately, with the support of all our stakeholders and partners, win the battle against illicit drug trafficking and abuse”, he said.
21st Century Business: Company Harps On Digital, Smart Office Technology
The General Manager, Sales and Marketing, Xerox H.S. Nigeria Limited, Mr Femi Abidoye, has stressed the need for digital printing press as well as Smart Office operations in order to adjust properly in the 21st century office documentation system.
Abidoye, said this during the company’s business exhibition titled “ Digital Printing Press, Smart Office Technology Products And Electronic Document Management System ‘EDMS’ held in Port Harcourt recently.
He noted that the company has made the issue of work from home a reality.
According to him, the Covid-19 pandemic had actually challenged the people on the need to consider work from home a better business option, which he said the company was handy to provide solution.
The Xerox’s General Manager, Sales and Marketing, further said that his company has been in the forefront of sermonising against analogue system to the digital system.
By: King Onunwor
Finima Seeks Host Community Rights From NLNG
Finima community has decried neglect and poor corporate social responsibility by the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas(NLNG), insisting that the gas multinational has failed to recognise them as host community.
The protest staged by the community was peaceful until some youths alleged to be from Bonny attacked the protesters, unleashing violence and vandalising properties worth millions of naira in the area.
As at the time of writing the report, nine persons were wounded in the attack and were hospitalised.
Speaking on why the community held the protest, an elder of Finima Community, Mr Dagogo Lambeth Brown said for over 30 years the community was relocated for the LNG plant in the early 90s, the community had been sided in terms of hosting rights.
Brown stated that despite having signed an MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) with the community, NLNG has reneged on what he called legacy issues. Some of the legacy issues include resettlement of indigenes from their ancestral land now used as site for NLNG, environmental, health, education and employment.
He said, “as at today there is nothing to show for hosting LNG on our land…even we have internally displaced persons in Finima.”
Woman Leader in the community, Mrs.Victoria Brown recalled that the community gave land to the federal government to build the multinational gas firm but today the firm has failed to honour and rexognise their host.
Another community woman leader, Mrs Kabaka Brown said many youths are not employed as part of the MOU.
“ We have master and doctoral degree holders who have no jobs. The jobs they give us is cleaners and security men,” she said.
On his part, Youth Leader and former Chairman of FinimaYouth , Ala Hart decried that NLNG has made billions from it soil while the community suffers.
Mr. Hart explained that the major issues of contention forms part of the Community Content Guidelines, which NLNG do not implement.
He noted that the Community Content Guidelines is part of the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board established by law.
The guidelines covers employment, environment, health and general welfare of host communities which the gas giant does not implement.
Reacting to the development, the NLNG General Manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development, Eyono Fatayi- Williams said the multinational gas firm had always considered all stakeholders in the community as partners.
“ NLNG remains full committed to sustainable development in the kingdom, hinged on active community participation to drive initiatives and projects that positively impact the lives of the community,” he added.
By: Kevin Nengia
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