MIXED reactions have continued to trail the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s recent creation of additional 30,000 polling units (PUs) ahead of 2015 polls.
First to raise the alarm over the creation of the polling units and its timing was the Southeast Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under the aegis of the South East Leaders of the PDP, which rejected the allocation of the new polling units, describing it as a gross injustice against Ndigbo.
“We reject entirely the allocation of polling booths by INEC. We view it as a great disservice to the unity and progress of this country if the entre South will have 8,000 polling booths and the North gets 21,000.
“We demand that the issue be suspended forthwith. This is a prelude to undermine the interest of the zone in the 2015 elections. It is completely against the spirit of one Nigeria and progress of the country,” the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh declared while briefing the Press at the end of the zone’s meeting at Abia State Government House, Umuahia recently.
Apart from these people, several other stakeholders in the polity have expressed divergent views on the development, depending on understanding and where interest lies.
The Commission has explained that the creation is to ensure that no polling unit has more than 500 voters. With the new polling units, the country now has 150,000 voting centres.
According to the Commission, the decision to align with global best practice, informed its plan to situate polling units within enclosures in public institutions and buildings, and where this is not possible, in places where tents / canopies’ can be erected for greater convenience of everyone involved in the electoral process.
When the current polling units were put to use in 1996, the estimated population of Nigeria was put at about 110 million, and by 2011, when INEC conducted the general voters registration exercise, the population was estimated at 160 million.
Presently, this figure has grown to an estimate of 175 million. Apart from the issue of population growth, INEC’s move may have been influenced by “severe demographic shifts.”
There has been notable growth in the number and sizes of new settlements across the country, especially in urban centres.
INEC argues that the reconfiguration of the PUs is apparently a strategy to break large polling units into manageable structures known as voting points and this increased the number from the present 119,973 units to 150,000 PUs.
As laudable as the reasons may sound, the implementation has now become a huge threat to the acceptability of the proposal.
Former governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife has called for the immediate sack of Prof. Jega from INEC. He accused him of nursing a dangerous intention to rig the general election next year. Dr. Ezeife cited the lopsided distribution of the new polling units as a threat to the unity of the country.
Anyanwu Igbo, a socio-cultural organisation through its leader, Uche Lucas Onuh has urged all sons and daughters of Igbo land to reject the proposal by INEC and condemn any step that will deprive the region of its rights or further subject its people to marginalization. The group threatened to mobilize mass protest within the provisions of the law if INEC goes ahead to cheat the people through the proposed new polling units.
– culled from the Guardian newspapers