RESCHEDULED ELECTIONS: POLING UNITS NOW BATTLE GROUNDS

Polling units as battlegrounds

ONYEKACHI EZE 

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The battlegrounds for this weekend’s rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly elections are 176,996 polling units spread across the country, ONYEKACHI EZE reports

The votes that will produce the next president of Nigeria will come from 176,996 polling units and voting points across the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

A breakdown of the figure shows that that the number of constitutionally recognised polling units is 119,973, while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) added 57,023 voting points to raise the number to 176,996.

The voting points were created to address the large number of voters which now stands at 84 million. The number of registered voters had risen by 15 million since the 2015 general elections, so it was clear that the old arrangement was not feasible.

In 2015, there were 69 million registered voters, but for the 2019 general elections, there are 84 million registered voters. This accounts for the increase in the number of voting points.

The additional voting points will also ensure that voting is done in record time in order to allow for quick collation of results, which will be expected to take longer due to the high number of political parties which has since risen to 91.

Fourteen candidates contested the 2015 presidential election, but there are 73 candidates for the 2019 poll, though one of them, Oby Ezekwesili of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) has pulled out.
Findings revealed that a voting point was created when a polling unit has more than 500 registered voters.

“Once a polling unit has more than 750 voters, it is best to devolve a new voting point out of it because if the entire 750 turn up for election, they will not be able to complete accreditation and voting by 2.pm,” INEC explained.

The electoral commission has pegged the number of people to vote at a particular poling unit at 500, so that there will not be too much crowd at each of the polling units. But this may not be enough to accommodate the over 84 million registered voters.

This was the reason for the creation of voting points following the controversy that trailed the commission’s attempt to create additional polling units.

The commission had wanted to create additional 30,000 polling units in 2014, but the move was trailed by controversies. Political stakeholders and groups opposed the plan due to what they perceived as disproportionate allocation of the polling units between the northern and southern parts of the country.

For instance, the Chief Edwin Clark-led Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA), among other interest groups, then alleged that the number of the proposed polling units was skewed in favour of the North.

The group noted that while a whopping 21,615 out of the 30, 000 polling units were allocated to the North, the entire South got only 8,412 polling units.

Though, the then chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, attempted to give reasons while this was so, they appeared not convincing. And considering the fact that the move was close to the 2015 general elections, the commission decided to suspend the exercise.

Former Secretary to INEC, Augusta Ogakwu, in a statement, announcing the discontinuation of the exercise, said the commission “taking everything into consideration, especially the controversy over creation of additional polling units that has been overheating the polity, and the apparent inadequacy of time for the exercise, took a decision to suspend the exercise until after the 2015 elections.”

The present management of INEC under Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, also ruled out the creation on new polling units. Insisting that the commission has not changed the number of polling units and voting points used for the 2015 general elections and the 2016 Area Council elections in the FCT, Yakubu said in January that INEC has not created new polling units and would not create any polling unit for the 2019 general elections.

His words: “On polling units, the commission wishes to assure Nigerians that there is no change in the number of polling units and voting points used for the 2015 general elections and the 2016 Area Council elections in the FCT. Any insinuation that new polling units or voting points are being created by the commission is utterly baseless and should be disregarded.

The commission said it would, however, continue with the use of voting points, where necessary, to mitigate population pressure in overcrowded polling units. In addition to the use of voting points, INEC also increased the number of voters per polling unit/voting point from 500 to a maximum of 750.

From the list released by the commission for the 2019 general elections, Lagos State with a total voter population of 6,570, 291, has the highest number of polling units/voting points with a total of 13,438.

A breakdown of the figure shows that the state was allocated 8,462 polling units and 4,976 voting points.

Kano State came second with 11,222, representing 8,074 polling units and 3, 148 voting points. The state has a total of 5,457,747 voters.

Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has least allocated polling units. FCT which has 1,344,856 voters, was allocated only 2,823 polling centres made up of 562 polling units and 2,261 voting points.

Katsina State, where President Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) comes from was allocated 6,652, made up of 4,901 polling units and 1,751 voting points. The state has a total of 3,230,230 voters.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is from Adamawa State, will be among the 1,973,083 voters, who will vote in the 4,104 polling centres made up of 2,608 polling units and 1,496 voting points.