Across the country, there will be additional 30,000 new polling units before the 2015 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disclosed on Monday.
It said a review had commenced that would up the existing 120,000 polling units to 150,000, in order to reduce an average polling unit’s voting population to 500.
Speaking at a select media parley in Lagos, chairman of the commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, also revealed that the controversial Osun Sate Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Ambassador Toyin Akeju, would stay on at his duty post until the litigation against his assignment in the state would be resolved.
He also disclosed that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, had written to the commission over the alleged double registration case against Anambra State governor-elect, Mr Willy Obiano, adding that a response had also been generated to the letter.
The content of the correspondence was not, however, disclosed, as Jega also refrained from speaking further about the allegation, since it was subjudice.
Jega concurred that the commission was under intense pressure to exit Akeju from the Osun election assignment, but regretted that doing so would be in wilful disobedience of the ongoing litigation over his current duty-post.
He, however, challenged those with credible evidence that Akeju was a card-carrying member of any political party, in violation of the constitutional provisions guiding assignments like his, to present it and see if the commission would not even disregard the pending litigation to move him out of the state.
A source, however, told the Nigerian Tribune that plans were rife to move a new REC into the state on the eve of the governorship election in the state.
“We are reviewing our polling units. We are creating additional polling units. There are units where you have about 3,000 voters when, ideally, it should not be more than 500 voters in a polling unit.
“We currently have 120,000 polling units and by the time we finish with the review, we would have 150,000 polling units. This would mean more funds for logistics and allowances for electoral officers that would man the new units, among others,” Jega said.
Speaking further on the Osun REC, Jega said “before we were appointed, we went through security screening and even if we say that possibly the evidence against such REC was missed by security agencies, we are saying now, bring evidence.
“If we have evidence that RECs or others in INEC, who the constitution says should not be a card-carrying member of any political party is found to be, that person should be removed.”
The commission boss also indicted all the political parties of unconstitutional early campaign, saying “all parties are guilty of campaigning early, contrary to what the constitution says.
“You can’t come out now and say vote for me in 2015, because parties have not even done their primaries which must be about 90 days to the elections. We must, however, clarify that parties can hold rallies as long as what they talk about is not about vote for me.
“We have been engaging security agencies in the process of penalising them. Posters coming before 90 days to election as prescribed by the law is not correct. It is a wrong process and procedure. In some states now, we are identifying those who paste those posters to hand them over to security agencies.”
On the registration of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Jega disclosed that while the registration of SDP had been resolved, that of UPN had been knotty, because of internal wrangling among those who sought to register the party.
He disclosed that the commission had offered its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) machinery to the warring factions in the registration-seeking group.
“We have resolved the registration of SDP. The challenge with UPN is about leadership crisis among those who came for the registration and until that is resolved, there is little we can do,” he said.
The INEC boss also disclosed that the commission had cleaned up its voter register, while innovative chip-based permanent voters cards were being given out and would be used for Osun and Ekiti governorship elections this year.
This, according to him, was primed at eliminating double registration, while the commission was also planning to paste the list of double registrants at polling booth.
Chip-based voter’s card readers, powered by battery with another back-up, which Jega said was a success in Ghana, would also be deployed in Osun and Ekiti elections.
On the issue of printing of fake ballot papers, Jega disclosed that the ballot papers had a secret-code known only to him and the printers, adding that “if anyone successfully replicates the ballot papers, it is from either me or the printers, because the code is only known to us.”
He also said election materials were now kept with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), unlike the recent past when such were kept in INEC store.
The commission, according to him, was also planning inclusion of returning officers to join those from academia used for the 2011 elections, with the likes of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), others being reportedly considered.
Speaking on the clamour for the conduct of all elections in a day, Jega said “we are not there now. It would be more challenges. We have to keep developing our electoral processes until we get there, but right now, we would be honest to say we don’t have that capacity now.”
On whether election would hold in states under emergency rule, he said “we have capacity to conduct elections anywhere in the country.”
Speaking on his record-breaking assignment of conducting two general elections, he said he was lucky because no one had put pressure on him to do what was not right.