Outcry against INEC’s move to create new voting point settlement
• There is nothing like that, says commission
OppositionN political parties are spoil for a showdown with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over plans by the body to create what it described as new ‘voting point settlements,’ ahead of the 2019 general elections.In similar vein, some socio-cultural organisations in the country also warned the commission to drop such idea otherwise it is tantamount to obliterating Section 133 A of the 1999 Constitution without amendment.
Some of the parties, which spoke with The Guardian off the record yesterday urged the commission to put the proposal on hold, saying that the timing and the motive are suspicious.According to the parties, INEC’s proposed voting point settlements and registration centres will confer an undue advantage to the North and boost its claim to numerical superiority, which the disputed census figures and skewed states and local government distributions have conferred on the region.
It was alleged that the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, was trying to build on the legacy of his predecessor, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who proposed 30,000 additional polling units, which provoked public outcry before the 2015 general elections. If implemented, it may create a disparity between the voting population in the North and South.
The Guardian also gathered that INEC has directed Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) across the states to increase polling units and the modalities for determining the number of the proposed voting centres are not known to the public. Some of the RECs are new and have no knowledge of their states of primary assignment. It is doubtful, if population is a determinant.”
In a letter of March 20, 2018 signed by the commission’s secretary, Augusta Ogakwu, and titled: “Guidelines for the creation of Voting Point Settlements (VPS) and recorded public agitations on Registration Areas and Polling Units,” INEC stated that it has set up a committee on the ‘Review of Registration Areas and Polling Units (CRRAPU) to make recommendations.
According to the circular, RECs were mandated to conduct enumeration and identification of the voting areas in their respective states that may require the creation of Voting Point Settlements (VPS).In doing so, the RECs were to consider new settlements that are not served or are inadequately served by existing polling units; areas with natural barriers that hinder access to polling unit; areas that are distant from existing polling units; and areas affected by communal and other conflicts that make voting in existing polling units unsafe for voters.
Also, the RECs were to be guided by ‘Guidelines and Methodology for creation of VPS, ‘Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on VPS and requests and agitations for polling units received at the INEC headquarters. Following the completion of the assignments, the RECs were mandated to submit their report to the INEC Secretary and the Director of Electoral Operations.
However, the move has provoked outcry among politicians who described it as a plot to bring back what Jega did that generated a serious controversy, following which he suspended its implementation. Meanwhile, the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere kicked against the plan as it also accused the commission of colluding with some powerful elements in the northern region to obliterate section 133 A of the Nigerian Constitution, which says: “A candidate for an election to the office of President shall be deemed to have been duly elected to such office where, being the only candidate nominated for the election – (a) he has a majority of YES votes over NO votes cast at the election; and (b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
The Spokesman of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin raised the alarm when contacted yesterday. He alleged that the commission and those colluding with it are trying to change Section 133 A, without amending the 1999 Constitution.While he called on Nigerians to reject the proposal, as it is tantamount to rigging the 2019 election ahead of the exercise in favour of a northern candidate, Odumakin said, “It is the reactivation of Jega’s project. For instance, if the idea succeeds the Northwest and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja alone will have more votes than the entire South while the vote that would be generated in Abuja will be more than the votes of the entire Southeast. This is rigging in advance.
Former President of Aka Ikenga and a lawyer, Chief Goddy Uwazurike also condemned the proposal as he warned the INEC chairman to drop it as quick as he can to avoid plunging the country into unprecedented crisis.According to him, “This is a planned technical rigging ahead of the 2019 elections. It is only in Nigeria that you discover higher population in the North than the South. It is also shocking that the north where Boko Haram insurgency and other terrorists’ acts have decimated could have more votes than the South. This is condemnable and must be dropped.”
But the Spokesman to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi said there was no plan by INEC to create new voting point settlement.According to him, “I am not aware of such plan. If there is anything like that INEC will definitely make it a public matter.”But some questions begging for an answer are, how is it possible to determine the new voting areas and polling units without the knowledge of their demographic data?
Is the process not susceptible to abuse by RECs who do not even know the areas very well?” asked a politician who craved for anonymity. Some southern politicians are already accusing INEC of surreptitious agenda to increase the voting centres and units in the North so that they can continue to claim superior electoral voting strength. State creation and local governments were lopsided. They claimed that the existing distribution of voting units is skewed in favour of the North.
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