Why we’re giving more Polling Units to the North – Jega
The Chairman of the Independent National
Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega on
Wednesday explained why the commission has
allocated more polling units to the geo-political
zones in the North, than those in the South,
saying the plan is based on the existing number of
registered voters in the country, which he put at
Ahead of the 2015 election, the electoral body has
proposed to allocate more than 21,000 new
polling units to the north, while the south will
receive about 8,000. The plan is not yet finalized.
But the ratio has angered the three geopolitical
zones in the south, with some calling for Mr.
Jega’s resignation, accusing him of bias.
At a press conference Wednesday, Mr. Jega vowed
not to resign, and said those asking him to quit
lack adequate information on the exercise and
are being mischievous.
The Commission had last month announced its
plan to create additional PUs before the general
elections next year to bring the number of units in
the country to 150,000 from the original 119,973.
According to the proposal, the three geo-political
zones in the North will have about 21, 000, which
is 70% of the new units, while the three zones in
the south got about 8,000 units.
The state-by-state analysis shows that while Lagos
will have the highest number of the PUs with
3,159 PUs, while Imo State will have the least with
However, fierce criticisms have trailed the
exercise with some groups alleging that it was
aimed at foisting the dominance of one section of
the country over the others for political
The South-South Peoples Assembly, SSPA, went a
step further by demanding the resignation of the
INEC Chairman and should not be allowed to
conduct the 2015 general elections.
Mr. Jega, an indigene of Kebbi State in the North
West zone, said the Commission’s plan is “sincere
and well-intentioned,” and not designed to confer
any political advantage on any individual, political
party or region.
He said though the outcry was understandable,
but regrettable given the low level of public trust
in governance institutions in Nigeria, the decision
of the Commission to re-configure the structure
of the PUs and create additional ones was “driven
by our collective aspirations as Nigerians to
reform and improve upon the electoral process
for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections in
2015 and beyond”.
Stating that there was no sectional or parochial
agenda in this decision, the INEC chairman
stressed that it was aimed at easing the access of
voters to the ballot box by decongesting over
crowded PUs and dispersing voters as evenly as
possible among all the PUs.
The “need factor” more than political sentiments,
informed the patterns of distribution of the PUs
being proposed,” Mr Jega added.
“Still, the Commission has not been unmindful of
the political nature of the exercise; and that is
why it took the decision that (1) no state will lose
any PUs from its stock of existing units, no matter
the statistical outlook when voter population is
exaggerated into units of 500 persons; and (ii)
every state will get some additional polling units
from 15% of the total being newly created on the
basis of ‘equality principle’ regardless of the
number of PUs already existing in each state in
comparison to the voter population,” he said.
“We have already made the computed figures in
this regard public. Contrary to the argument by
critics, the Commission is not working on
imaginary population sizes based on perceived
patterns of migration by potential voters, rather,
it is working with the documented register of
voters as we have it at the moment.”
He expressed worry that critics seemed to focus
on the allocation of the proposed units and urged
them to compare the total allocations state by
Explaining further the methodology used in
arriving at the new arrangement, Mr. Jega said
since PUs are created to service registered voters,
“the fairest and most logical criterion to use in
distributing the 150,000 PUs nationwide is the
number of registered voters.”
He stressed, “At present the post-AFIS (i.e. after
removing duplicate registrants) figure of
registered voters is the most appropriate figure of
registered voters that is available nationwide, to
use; hence the decision to use post-AFIS figures,
as the basis for distributing the 150,000 polling
“The simplest way to distribute the 150,000 polling
units is to divide the number of registered voters
in each state by 500 (maximum of registered per
He explained that the present structure of PUs
was created in 1996 by the defunct National
Electoral Commission of Nigeria, NECOM, which
created 120,000 PUs and 8,809 wards (registration
According to him, the structure of the polling units
had been used for the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011
general elections and that there had been
exponential growth in Nigeria’s populations as
well as severe demographic shifts resulting from
new settlements in major urban areas since 1996.
Mr. Jega further explained that the rise in
population with corresponding increase in the
number of eligible voters was clearly manifested
during the 2011 fresh voter registration exercise.
According to him, in order to ameliorate the
challenges of managing polling units with large
number of voters, INEC introduced the concept of
“Voting Points’ where polling units with large
numbers of voters were subdivided into multiple
of manageable numbers of about 300, with a
maximum of 450 registered voters.
“About 150,000 polling units are required to
ensure right-sizing of our polling units based on
the number of registered voters,” he said.
The INEC chairman said the Commission had no
plan to reverse the decision, stressing “We have
taken a decision; we have not yet implemented
that decision. People, because they don’t have
enough information misunderstood it, some
perhaps mischievously. But we are hoping that
the information we are providing will make
“I cannot sit down here and tell you whether we
will reverse or we will not reverse. What is clear is
that many people are taking hard position on the
issue when they are ill-informed and they are very
passionate and emotive about it.”
On how the Commission would manage the
creation of polling units in the areas of the
country ravaged by insurgency, he said though
the development was “unfortunate and
regrettable” the situation would soon be
addressed and that those displaced would return.
He said, “The hope of everybody is that normalcy
will return and people will come back to their
places. So the displacement of people in any of
these places is a temporary phenomenon. You
cannot say we should create polling units when
we have information that people have registered
in that area because they are temporary
dislocated. The displacement is temporary.”
Mr. Jega said he was not bothered about the calls
for his resignation over the proposed creation of
the PUs because he and the Commission’s staff
were convinced of what they were doing.
He said, “Anybody can say anything and they are
entitled to do so. This is not the first time people
are calling for my removal or resigning or being
fired. That doesn’t bother me. I do my best and all
the commissioners are doing their best.
“Forget about removal. Any of us here can fall and
die tomorrow. So long as we are here we will do
what we believe is right. We did not lobby
anybody to come here. We were brought here
because people knew we will do the right thing
and we will continue to do it as long as we have
the opportunity to continue to do it.
“So, don’t worry. I myself I won’t wait until I am
fired. The day I know myself I can’t do this job to
satisfy my conscience I will leave. I am here in
INEC to do national service and I believe I am
making sacrifices, not only myself but also the
You must log in to post a comment.