HUMAN rights activist and lawyer Clement Nwankwo has said that there will always be controversy surrounding the voters’ register in Nigeria.
Evaluating the distribution of the newly created polling units in Nigeria in an interview with The ICIR, Nwankwo observed that he did not “think the allegations of padding of the voters’ register has disappeared.”
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mahmood Yakubu has announced the creation of 56,827 new polling units.
The development brought the total number of polling units in Nigeria to 176,846 from the existing 119,974.
The distribution of the polling units
Lagos and Kano have been reported as states with the highest number of new polling units. Both states received 4,861 and 3,148 new polling units respectively.
The ICIR noted that from the regional distribution of the new polling units, the North West (12,117), North Central (11,533) and South West (10,227) regions had the highest numbers.
They were followed by South-South (9,367) North-East (7,546) and the South-East (6,082).
When the old and new polling units are added, the North-West (41,671) has the most voting units.
The North-West is followed by the South+ West (34,898), North-Central (27,514), South-South (27,126), North-East (24,006) and South-East (21,631).
Number of registered voters determine the distribution – INEC
The INEC chairman stated in his address to the resident electoral commissioners (RECs) on June 16 that the number of registered voters in a polling unit and the voting point settlement were used to determine the polling units “based on the upper and lower thresholds of 500 and 750 voters respectively.”
Commenting on the system used to determine the distribution of polling units, the human rights lawyer, Nwankwo, said the units were allocated on the basis of the number of voters in the existing register.
He added that he did not think “INEC carried out fresh registration of voters” and since certain regions had, for a very long time, “had a spill-over of voters on the register, they will have more polling units than other parts of the country.”
Earlier in 2020, a report showed that INEC already had plans of increasing the number of polling units.
Political parties need to ask INEC questions over number of polling units
Reacting to the situation whereby some regions have fewer polling units, Nwankwo said political parties needed to get involved and ask INEC questions.
“Political parties need to get serious and ask INEC questions about the allocation of polling units especially where some regions have over-populated themselves with fictitious names, voters that are underage and unverifiable numbers,” he said.
He added that political parties must ask themselves what they should be doing differently to help in checking the poor voter registration system.
Reflecting on voter registration in the country, Nwankwo observed that Nigeria “as a country today will not pass the rigorous test of strict credibility.”
But he added that he was not saying that the INEC voters’ register was not credible.
The INEC Electoral Act 2010 Part III, Item 1, states: “The Commission shall compile, maintain, and update on a continuous basis, a National Register of Voters, in this Act referred to as the ― Register of Voters which shall include the names of all persons entitled to vote in any Federal, State or Local Government or Area Council elections.”