The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has dismissed as false the allegation that it plans to collude with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to compromise the 2019 general elections by creating 30,000 new polling units.
The main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had alleged last Friday that INEC and the APC were plotting to rig the next general election using the creation of 30,000 new polling units as an alibi.
However, the commission said in a statement issued Saturday night by Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, that the commission would always be guided by the provisions of the extant laws in carrying out such activity.
It was reported last Friday that the ghost of the creation of 30,000 new polling units in the run up to the 2015 elections had resurfaced, with the move by the commission to re-introduce the new polling units, but this time disguised as Voting Point Settlements (VPS’).
A memo sighted by newsmen showed that the secretary of INEC, Ngozi Ogakwu, had written a letter to all Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on March 18, 2018, directing them to conduct enumeration and identify areas in their states that may require VPS’.
The memo provided guidelines, a form and frequently asked questions that would assist the RECs in determining where new VPS’ will be established.
But the memo and supporting documents, which was obtained from APC sources, have raised concerns that the commission might adopt the format used in 2014 when it attempted to create precisely 30,062 new polling units, with more units allocated to the states in Northern Nigeria than the South, thus compromising the integrity of the 2019 elections.
In the run up to the 2015 elections, the then INEC chairman, Prof. Attahihu Jega, many believed at the time, had unduly favoured the North because the North-east which was heavily under siege by Boko Haram terrorists was allocated more new polling units than the South-west which was peaceful and had two heavily populated states – Lagos and Oyo States in the zone.
Also, the South-east, made up of five states, had almost the same allocation of new polling units as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The allotment of polling units then by the Jega-led INEC was as follows: North-west – 7,906, North-east – 5,291, and the North-central – 6,318.
However, INEC under Jega allotted the South-west 4,160 polling units, the South-south – 3,087 and South-east – 1,167 while the FCT got 1,200 new polling units.
At the time, Jega had argued that the additional polling units would bring the total to 150,000 polling units nationwide with 500 voters per unit.
But the commission, in its statement at the weekend, said though there were requests for the creation of additional polling units in the states, the commission had directed its RECs to thoroughly assess and provide it with information on the credibility of such requests.
According the INEC spokesman, the reports were still being awaited and when the commission was ready to act on it, it would do so in collaboration with stakeholders.
“The attention of INEC has been drawn to some newspaper reports alleging that the commission had perfected plans to re-introduce 30,000 new polling units in order to compromise the 2019 general elections.
“The fact of the matter is that in response to 3,789 requests so far received nationwide for the creation of new polling units, the commission directed its Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) to thoroughly assess and provide it with information on: new settlements that are not served or inadequately served by existing polling units; areas with natural barriers that hinder access to existing polling units, 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.”
Oyekanmi said that the reports were still being awaited from the states, adding that it is these reports and the information they contain that will be collated and carefully examined by the commission in order to determine what changes may be necessary in the current polling units profile of the country.
“Therefore, the insinuation that the commission intends to create 30,000 new polling units to compromise the 2019 general elections is false, misleading, unfounded and should be disregarded.
“We assure the public that our decisions and actions shall always be guided by the provisions of the extant laws and our determination to respond to requests by Nigerians to serve them better. Even so, this will be done only after full consultation with all stakeholders,” he said.