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Potential threat to 2019 elections: Fresh fears over the allocation of Polling Units by INEC


Potential threat to 2019 elections: Fresh fears over the allocation of Polling Units by INEC

On the march again! Whereas Professor Attahiru Jega, immediate past National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, brought some reforms of significant reckoning to the processes and procedures of Nigeria’s electoral system, his controversial allocation of 30,000 Polling Units, PUs, which was shot down in 2015, may be on its way to being surreptitiously re-introduced by the new leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

Disguised as Voting Points Settlements, VPS, the cat was let out of the bag recently by the former chairman when he openly congratulated the new leadership on its reforms in the area of voting points, a revelation that was strange to insiders at the Commission.

This report will show why the new move may not different from the failed lopsided allocation, which saw the North handed over 21,000, while the South had less than 9,000 PUs. In addition, it will show the inappropriateness of the hasty move less than 10 months to next year’s general elections. Finally, just as it is with the presently unchangeable lopsided 774 LGAs, on which revenue sharing is based, the push to discriminately share out this so called VPS comes with the potential of rendering useless and discombobulate, the provisions of Section 133 (b) which deals with the issue of spread in voting to determine wide acceptability of a President. Conversely, the tokenism of attempting to solve a few instances of far-flung PUs and ease voter participation, which is the usual position of INEC, is negligible in the face of the potential universal consequence for the South specifically, and for the future of Nigeria’s integrity in general, within the context of democratic best practices.

 Fool’s Errand Just a day after Fools’ Day, on April 2, 2011, journalists asked President Goodluck Jonathan for his thoughts about the voting process of that day. An anxious Jonathan expressed joy that “so far, everything is going smoothly”. But, had Jonathan chosen to cross-check from the man in whose hands the destiny of a guesstimated 73.5million voters laid, Professor Attahiru Jega, then National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Nigeria’s President would have discovered, rather embarrassingly, that what he had engaged in was a fool’s errand – the election of that day (National Assembly) had just been postponed without his knowledge.

 Before that fateful day, Sunday Vanguard had made some revelations about the contract award for voting materials in context, content and volume per figures, and why Nigerians needed to pay more attention, especially in the light of the tens of billions of tax payers’ money involved – N30, 000 (that figure of 30,000), for instance, was paid to each of the about 360,000 registration agents, 8, 000 of whom were INEC staff, for the exercise. This newspaper had also published exclusive reports on the late release of funds and the lack of preparedness of INEC, particularly because some election materials were yet to arrive in the country some 24/36hours to the polls.   Yet, imbued with a sense of false optimism, INEC’s leadership went ahead only to postpone after barely three hours into the election.  

That was in 2011. Yet, much earlier on Saturday, December 5, 1987, the LG polls of that year, which was on zero party basis, suffered a similar fate when then chairman of the National Electoral Commission, NEC, late Professor Eme Onuoha Awa, got the shock of his life when, despite meticulous planning, politicians almost marred the election with their shenanigans, causing the commission to extend voting hours.   In this case, for no fault of the commission, something pragmatic needed to be done – and was done – to save the situation.   Therefore, try as the commission may, arrangements meant to engender positive reforms can become a vehicle to carry out crooked intentions when in the hands of unpatriotic elements. Reforms Now, due to several electoral reforms made by INEC since 2011, the credit of which must, of necessity, go to Jega, election rigging, although not eliminated, has become more costly and challenging. 

Take, for instance, stealing of ballot papers: this has been rendered redundant as ballot papers are now customized to Polling Units, PUs.   Also, the snatching of ballot boxes may only postpone an election in the affected area, costing political players more resources while the changing of election results during collation may be more difficult where voters have pictures or videos of results from PUs.  

 These are laudable steps. In addition, the widely perceived passion with which Jega pursued the independence of the election management body appeared good, as it kept the Jonathan-led presidency at bay – even though this also created its challenge of submissiveness by the latter in the face of manifest and verifiable blackmail on the part of INEC. Corruption and Stealing; Polling Units and INEC Voting Points Settlements! However, there are fresh fears – just as was the case and it was ignored pre and during the 2015 general elections – that some powerful individuals are determined to use the instrumentality of INEC to introduce a crafty pre-election bias, with a view to egregiously pre-determine the outcome of the 2019 general elections.

This fresh plan, which Sunday Vanguard has been able to verify and confirm, is being surreptitiously effectuated by masking the insanely lopsided, though abortive, allocation of 30,000 PUs, as Voting Points Settlement, VPS, by INEC to favour the incumbent President, who, so far, has not tried to use his position to stir electoral victory to his party, given the outcome of the elections conducted under his watch. But there appears to be some determined forces behind this move and, so far, investigations have revealed that persons, within and outside the Commission, are working behind the scenes, with a view to influencing the current Chairman to re-introduce the lopsided PUs, now deceptively called VPS. 

Given the diverse security challenges the country is already facing, INEC will have to be very careful and avoid controversial and shoddy attempts to create more tension in the country through the re-introduction of the new PUs now called VPS   Sunday Vanguard discovered that the plans started since last year when, in November, a communication between those behind the move was intercepted, showing that some states in the northern part of the country – except a few states of the Middle Belt – were put on notice quietly and Acting Administrative Secretaries/Commissioners of INEC in those states have been working on the plan, whereas the entire southern states have been put in the dark until about the end of last month (March). Officially, information pieced together suggests that a memo on this matter, dated March 20, 2018, was sent to Acting Administrative Secretaries and Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, all of whom were mandated to submit the identified new settlements in their various states on or before April 3, 2018. 

This post first appeared on Ephraim Solution, please read the originial post: here

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Potential threat to 2019 elections: Fresh fears over the allocation of Polling Units by INEC


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