THE recent decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to increase the number of polling units across the country was conveyed as an attempt to ease the voting procedure. It was aimed to shorten the queue of voters during accreditation and voting on election days.
That decision and the reason as given, ordinarily should be applauded by all stakeholders, especially given the crave by most Nigerians for free, fair and credible procedures on polling days.
Given the accolades the Commission has received on account of relatively undisputed gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun States, Nigerians expected INEC to build on its positive rating.
However, on the issue of the increase of the number of polling units recently decided by the Commission, there are many questions begging to be answered.
That the decision was taken after the application of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, (AFIS) when the number on the voters’ roll has been significantly reduced calls the creation of new polling units to question.
Following the application of AFIS, the Commission was expected to revise or redistribute the polling units across the country based on the new number of voters. However, in a move that put logic on its head, the Commission proceeded to award new polling units to states that were clearly shown to have diminished number of voters.
Shockingly, states that have experienced mass exodus of people on account of insurgency have had their number of polling units increased over those with assimilating populations.
Unnecessary suspicion was created by the confirmation that majority of the newly 30,000 new polling units were carved out disproportionately in one part of the country, leaving other parts protesting.
That has soured the upbeat mood in the Commission and the nation at large, creating the impression of a devious agenda.
Another fact that the Commission may not have factored into its planned creation of additional polling units is the extra cost that would go into the exercise. The creation of the 30,000 extra polling units would require additional 30,000 policemen, 60,000 polling officers and the 30,000 additional observers each of the political parties would have to provide.
INEC has sought to counter issues raised by concerned stakeholders but the response has failed to soothe frayed nerves.
The suspicion that this exercise has raised calls for its suspension until a thorough and acceptable reassessment is carried out.
We believe that the creation of additional polling units should wait until next year’s general elections have come and gone. The INEC should commit all its efforts towards ensuring a hitch-free poll in 2015.