*Insists on controversial PUs allocation
*Affected Nigerians to  re-register
*How manual registration of voters by INEC was foiled last year
*Why North must have more PUs but…

By Jide Ajani

OH PROF. JEGA!

Fresh information available to Sunday Vanguard suggests that, barring any last-minute change of plans, the advisory by the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that it should not proceed with the allocation of the new 30,000 Polling Units, PUs, for sundry reasons, may be ignored – and this is authoritative.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Jega
INEC Chairman, Prof. Jega

In fact, a source at the INEC headquarters, Abuja, disclosed that its National Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, summoned all 36 state heads of operation, and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, to INEC headquarters for implementation briefing.

It was learnt that the content of the letter of invitation of the operation staff exposed the deception in the earlier statement of the INEC chair as indicated by the title of the  letter.

It would be recalled that while defending the Commission’s decision to unwisely allocate the new PUs in a lopsided manner across the country, Jega had suggested that INEC had not allocated PUs but was merely preparing an advisory, a possible template that was yet to be agreed upon and, therefore, could not be accused of allocating PUs in a lopsided manner.

A MOVE TO DEFY SENATE

Penultimate week, however, the selfsame INEC boss put a lie to his earlier statement when, in a letter for the meeting titled it ‘IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSION ON RE-LOCATION AND CREATION OF NEW POLLING UNITS NATIONWIDE’.

Sunday Vanguard was told by those in attendance that “even though the Chairman’s welcome address read by the Director of Operation Department suggested a review calling for a dispassionate approach to the issue of the controversial PUs, the entire proceedings were on how to go on to implement the decision”.

Worse still, the source went on, “Even the meeting of the Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, which ought to have held sometime last month, was shifted to October 2, and again postponed to October 15”.

It was discovered that there are efforts to carry on with the creation of the controversial PUs as evidenced by the invitation of all Heads of Department of Operation in the 36 states and the FCT for the three-day implementation meeting (Wednesday, September 24 – Friday, September 26).

Operationally, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that “this meeting ought to have been convened long time ago to enable the HODs  make inputs on how to create the polling units before the   Electoral Operation Committee of  INEC at its head office went ahead to create and announce the 30,000 polling units by it.

This meeting was never called to allow for inputs.

But at the penultimate week’s meeting, the HODs raised issues concerning implementation difficulties such as but not limited to the following:

*Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, already produced and being distributed nationwide bearing names and code of existing Pus, did not and has not taken cognizance of the new PUs scenario.   *Problems of asking people who have registered in existing PU to apply for transfer to new PU when INEC is still contending with current inter/intra state transfer would further magnify the spectre of gloom that may attend next year’s elections.

That was not all.

Then, there was the very critical issue of time.

As pointed out by the Senate Committee Chairman, Andy Uba, time is already too short to begin to tinker with existing PUs for an election that would hold in less than four months.

Therefore, at that meeting, fears were raised over limited time to go through with the exercise and the possibility of hurried creation of PUs causing confusion that may affect smooth conduct of the 2015 elections.

A PROCESS COMPROMISED FROM SOURCE

Sunday Vanguard has been informed that one of the possible plans underway is to withdraw already distributed PVCs from Nigerians who would fall in the proposed new PUs; this, in apparent response to one of the numerous questions being raised as to what INEC intends to do with the PVCs already distributed.

Stemming from this, there will be another re-registration of the category of Nigerians whose PVCs would be withdrawn for another registration in the new PUs even when the third phase of PVC/CVR in the remaining 12 states have not been conducted; and even when the outcome of those conducted in the first  and second phases are yet to be concluded and PVC distributed to potential voters.

That is not all.

Whereas INEC had promised Nigerians that the Card Reader and PVC for the 2015 elections are  to be configured and made Polling-Units-specific and not transferable (which is very commendable); however, in apparent desperation to create new PUs, the Card Readers for the additional new PUs would not be configured and specific to the units.

The danger in this is that it would be possible to move Card Readers about freely, thereby compromising gravely this otherwise laudable innovation to the electoral process.

Consequently, both in the North and the South where the new PUs would be created with non-specific and movable Card Readers, it opens those PUs to massive electoral manipulation.

Those areas that have more new Polling Units with Card Readers that can be moved and used freely would have an egregious upper hand in this free for all invitation for election rigging.   Interestingly, after three days of meeting, the HODs were told that the communique was not ready and would be sent to them with   assurances that their views on the proposed additional PUs would be reflected and given to management. Typical of public civil servants who should be seen only and not heard, they departed from Abuja and may not hear again until further directive.

SETTING THE STAGE FOR ELECTORAL MANIPULATION

Perhaps, the present scenario may have all been pre-arranged to fit a particular agenda.  Depending on how Jega handles the pre-2015 elections activities, he would either be vindicated or charged as alleged.

Sometime in the second quarter of last year, Sunday Vanguard raised the alarm that The INEC boss, through a memo, was planning to carry out a comprehensive voter registration exercise.

A manual registration of voters comes with the capacity to over-bloat the register – and this is an indisputable fact.  Therefore, when the alarm was raised pointing out the attendant implications as well as consequences, Jega and his INEC beat a retreat.

In the memo sent out by INEC’s Human Resources Department titled, APPROVED JOB DESCRIPTION OF REGISTRATION AREA OFFICERS (RAOs), which Sunday Vanguard sighted, the schedule of activities of the ROAs were well enumerated.

The Schedule of Duties, as enunciated by the memo, states:

“1). To visit voters and prospective voters in their homes with a view to:

“a) MANUALLY REGISTERING THOSE WHO REACH THE AGE OF 18, SIX MONTHS BEFORE ANY GENERAL ELECTION (REGISTRATION VOTERS)

The Senate
The Senate

“b) Taking note of voters who died with a view to delisting their names from the voters roll

“c) To process transfer of voters from one state to another

“d) To identify and verify voters who lost their cards with a view to process replacement

“e) TO COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST WITH A VIEW TO CAPTURE THEIR BIOMETRIC DATA AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME, AT LEAST TWICE A YEAR….”

This memo was underhandedly sent out between March and April last year to the RAOs.

It was gathered that when some National Commissioners and RECs saw the memo, they were shocked.

“It was something unexpected”, a very senior official of the Commission told Sunday Vanguard.

“In fact”, the source continued, “you would not believe that the National Chairman did not run this memo by the appropriate officers of the Commission”.

The ‘appropriate officers of the Commission’ are represented by National Commissioners and, to a larger extent, RECs.

The source said that “just as Professor Jega constituted a kitchen cabinet, and sub-cabinet which usurped most of the functions of National Commissioners and some Heads of Department in the Commission”, leading to the shambolic April 2, 2011 episode, “the situation on ground today is not different.  That is why a memo like that, directing RAOs to “MANUALLY REGISTER” and “COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST”, would be issued without the input of relevant officers of the Commission.”

According to our findings, there are grave implications for an engagement that seeks to “MANUALLY REGISTER” and “COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST”.

IMPLICATIONS OF HOUSE TO HOUSE MANUAL REGISTRATION

There were many implications for such an exercise.

During the 2011 general elections, there were reports – and INEC acknowledged this – that the register, even with the use of biometrics data, had not been able to eliminate the issue of under-aged registration of voters.  Biometrics has not produced a very clean register.  It is being proved globally that with technology, incidents of fraud can be checked and reduced maximally.  The Direct Data Capture, DDC, system brought daylight into that fraud of voter register. What has been achieved so far with biometric registration in 2010/2011, minimal as they were, were on their way to the gallows with that arrangement had Jega gone ahead with it!

One of the benefits of the biometric registration was the emergence of Lagos State as the state with the largest number of registered voters.  It also shattered old myths about voting figures.

But with the memo issued last year to ROAs, they were expected to “MANUALLY REGISTER” and “COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST”.

Some commissioners and senior officers of INEC were shocked when they saw the memo as issued by the Human Resources Department on the orders of Jega.

The memo pointed out that the biometrics would be captured at an appropriate time.

What this suggested, at that time, was that another round of exercise where biometrics would be captured was going to be arranged.

How did the Commission intend to do that then?

How much personnel were to be required for the two rounds of compilation?

It would not have taken divination to see through it that the “visit (to) voters and prospective voters in their homes” for the purpose of “MANUALLY REGISTERING THOSE WHO REACH THE AGE OF 18, SIX MONTHS BEFORE ANY GENERAL ELECTION” as well as “TO COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST WITH A VIEW TO CAPTURE THEIR BIOMETRIC DATA AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME, AT LEAST TWICE A YEAR” constituted a recipe for electoral fraud.

In retrospect, the question needs answering:  Were INEC to have carried out its manual, house-to-house registration of voters, wouldn’t the process have been compromised by the ROAs who could just as well have padded the register and fill the space for PUs that are now being created for areas without the population?

 GENUINE POLLING UNITS DISTRIBUTION

If INEC was sincere in trying to create PUs without sectional bias, the simple calculation will be to add the Post-Business Rule figure to the CVR figures in each state of the federation and divide by 500 (PBR + CVR =TOTAL VOTERS (based on the simple expectation that a maximum of 500 voters = 1PU) .

If this was done, even using its less credible Post-AFIS figures, the proportion of PUs in each zone of the federation will be as shown in the table below and the disparity between North and South will be 81:52 excluding Abuja.

But this appears unsatisfactory to the powers-that-be at INEC, hence they introduced the abracadabra of 85% proportion which has allowed 11 states in the North to benefit from over 1,000 new polling units each while five states in the South got virtually nothing.

The critical question is, where is the objectivity when states that are said to be having excess polling units are awarded 121 additional polling units each just to deceptively mask the predetermined subjective lopsided allocation of new PUs in favour of a section of the country?

The worst and most shocking defense by Jega, as pointed out earlier, was that lopsided polling units do not confer electoral advantage on any group. Perish the thought!

Can that be true and is this defense not tragic coming from an electoral umpire having regard to the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in  Ajasin vs Omoboriowho’s case on January 8, 1984.  In that judgment, the apex court as per Mohhammed Bello (JSC) declared that “polling booths are the base of the pyramid which forms the electoral process under the provisions of the Electoral Act….the booths are the roots which nourish the whole electoral process…” for fidelity or infidelity.

The highest court in the land dwelt extensively on what it called the “manipulation” and “rigging” that PUs can be used for in determining the outcome of election. So, Jega’s statement that PUs do not confer electoral advantage needs to be further interrogated whether it was a sincere statement borne out of ignorance of the Supreme Court pronouncement or a deliberate attempt to deceive Nigerians.

In fact, why defend it spending millions in just one day adverts in several newspapers instead of simply suspending it or review it ?

Technically, time is one of the most critical resources and major factor and constraint that plays significant consideration in election planning and implementation. In looking at the time left for INEC’s planning and execution of activities like the proposed new PUs and many other activities that the Commission has to implement, both months of October and February next year are out leaving INEC technically with only three months of November, December and January. What time then is left for INEC pursuing controversial new PUs creation that has polarised the entire country?

Despite public criticism and the Senate letter that INEC should suspended the creation of the lopsided proposed additional 30,000 P.Us of 21,000 North and 8,000 South, and, despite the Chairman’s press conference wherein he declared that, “for the avoidance of doubt, the additional PUs have not yet been created but approval of framework and guidelines to be used by the Resident Electoral Commissioners who would propose to the Commission the creation of new polling units before creation”, why is he going ahead?

That is a question only he, Jega, can answer.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.