2015: North VS South (1): INEC gives North fresh advantage

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70% of new polling units to North; South gets less than 30%
Stormy meeting of federal commissioners

By JIDE AJANI

In what many are describing as a gambit with the potential for dangerous and unimaginable consequences, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, led by Professor Attahiru Jega, may have set itself up for opprobrium from a section of the Nigerian nation.  Its recently announced 30,000 new Polling Units, PUs, has been distributed across the country. Yet, in a curious twist of logic, the cleaning of the Voter Register, VR, which has seen many states in the northern part of Nigeria lose ‘GHOST VOTERS’ in their millions, have been allocated a whopping 21,615 (twenty one thousand, six hundred and fifteen) PUs, as against a meagrely 8,412 (eight thousand, four hundred and twelve).

Cross section of voters during the Ondo Governorship election, yesterday.

Cross section of voters

This exclusive report brings out the dangerous game of political conspiracy that has been on at INEC and which Sunday Vanguard has carefully followed in the last two years. The findings are mind-boggling as there are cogent and verifiable reasons to suggest that the ever acrimonious North/South dichotomy may have become a guiding principle of administrative philosophy at INEC, a philosophy that may at once pour cold water on the hard-earned integrity of Jega.  Therefore, how this academic of international repute got himself into this bind remains confounding.

GENERALLY
The devil is in the details.  On paper, the provision and allocation of new Polling Units, PUs numbering over 30,000, may be desirable – at least in the light of the congestion at polling stations during the 2011 general elections.  But this provision is only desirable in so far as it reflects the realities on ground.

What has happened, however, is that Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, led by Professor Attahiru Jega, has insinuated itself into a dangerous political game which defies simple logic.  After carrying out a cleaning exercise to sanitise the Voter Register, VR, an exercise which has reduced the total number of validly registered voters in the country, the selfsame INEC has gone ahead to allocate its new 30,000 PUs in such a manner that some states that had already lost so much to ghost registration still ended up getting more PUs.

A STORMY SESSION
First, the meeting!
At a meeting of the federal commissioners of INEC on Tuesday, August 12, 2014, a very important matter was tabled.  The matter had to do with the creation of additional 30,000 new PUs.  INEC, in its wisdom, decided to, as it claimed, ease voting procedure because of the perceived congestion of voting centres.
But the meeting, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand, ran into a storm when commissioners were told of the distribution of the PUs.
In the document, in possession of Sunday Vanguard (see next page), which relates to the distribution of the PUs, there is a clear lopsidedness.

What got some of the commissioners miffed was the preponderance of the allocation to the North as against what the South got. The commissioners were told that the sharing formular would be 85% proportional-based and 121 PUs per state on the basis of equality.
Sources at the meeting said tempers flared; as commissioners from the South wanted to know the rationale behind the sharing.
Some of the commissioners, it was gathered, “wanted to know what was meant by 85% proportional distribution and 121 additional polling units for equality of states that were deemed to have excess!”

QUESTIONS INEC MUST ANSWER
There were many questions: What was the basis for arriving at 85% and not 50 or 60 % proportion distribution? If as INEC indicated on the chart that some states were having excess polling units and not deserving of more polling units in relation to registered  voters, why and where was the objectivity in allocating additional 121 polling units on the basis of equality to states ?

How can INEC convince the public that this new polling units are not for the northern region when suddenly it abandoned its post business rule register that gave a more credible and more realistic total number of register used for the production of its Permanent Voters Card, PVC, the same used in Ekiti and Osun election and has now decided to use post Automated Finger Identification System, AFIS, register of voters data that has more unreliable data when it decided to create polling units?
Was it meant to disguise or mask the disproportionate allocation to a section of the country as shown by the allotted figures?

If you have on paper polling units that should be populated with maximum of 500 voters and there is usually a presumption that all would turn up on Election Day on the basis of which INEC normally produces ballot papers, would this not be a smart way of returning votes based on these polling units that are physically on ground but do not have these voters?

Is this proposal or decision an outcome of an agreement or consensus between the INEC decision management made up of the National Commissioners?
That may not have been the case because, at the time of this report, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that moves are still on at the Commission to get the commissioners on the same page.

OH! INEC
Whatever spiritual, political or ethno-religious force, that influenced the decision of INEC to seemingly surreptitiously engage in a twist of logic, would be difficult for many to understand.

votersregFor over two years, Sunday Vanguard has consistently and doggedly pointed out some perceptibly less than par political engineering module of administration that the Commission’s leadership was employing.  In a few instances, the Commission applies the brakes, re-assesses its operations and, where necessary, makes the necessary changes; and, at other times, pooh-poohs this medium’s intervention.

However, because in the last couple of months, Sunday Vanguard had exclusively gotten and published the outcome of INEC’s seemingly altruistic effort at ensuring that a clean Voter Register, VR, is provided for Nigerians and, in the process, coming to terms with the realities of the exercise, there is a basis to pontificate on the intricacies of the voter population, the creation of new polling units and the architecture of the process that is expected to give Nigerians better, freer and fairer elections as the years go by.
Already, the true registered voters are about 57million and not 70.3 million that INEC declared in 2011 (examples of states like Zamfara with 49.3 % reduction after AFIS now to be given additional proposed over 1,000 polling units).

The question to ask INEC is: Where are the human beings that would populate these polling units?
Has INEC given a thought about the clear dangers of election rigging that this would lead to when you create on paper a maximum of 500 per polling units whereas physically on ground you do not have such human beings in existence in those polling units; but exist only on paper in which case it is easy for politicians to rig election by conniving with election officials to make  returns of votes based on those polling units; this, given that INEC normally produces ballot paper for every voter on the register as well as result sheets for all polling units?
NEXT WEEK
Details of the implications of what |NEC has set in motion and the implications for the polity. And reactions

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