Ahead of the 2019 general election, there are indications that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has ruled out constituency delineation despite increasing population and the establishment of new settlements.
This, LEADERSHIP Friday gathered is to enable the electoral body focus on the conduct of 1,585 constituency elections in 2019.
Before the 2015 general election, INEC under Prof Attahiru Jega announced plans for constituency delineation, creation of polling units and wards but later dropped the idea.
With the increasing population and the establishment of new settlements, many Nigerians are now clamouring for constituency delineation, creation of more wards and more polling units.
Speaking on the issue, the national chairman, Grassroots Development Party Of Nigeria (GDPN) Ambassador Odion Cedrack Okpebholo said embarking on constituency delineation would distract INEC from the 2019 election conduct.
“Our view is that INEC should not embark on this constituency delineation. Instead, those resources should be channeled towards the conduct of the elections starting from 2018 and 2019,” Okpebholo said.
Also, the national chairman of New Progressive Movement (NPM), Alhaji Mustapha Bala Getso said if the delineation exercise wouldn’t be to the advantage of the nation, INEC should drop the idea.
Getso said the commission should focus on what is possible ahead of the 2019 general election.
“I think the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) will meet with all the political parties to see areas we can advice INEC,” he said.
But while releasing the 2019 elections timetable and schedule of activities, the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu could not mention whether the commission will carry out constituency delineation exercise as advocated by some Nigerians.
While issuing certificates to 21 newly registered political parties, Yakubu, who said their registration came at the heat of the 2019 general election preparations, did not speak on constituency delineation ahead of 2019 elections.
Mahmood, said later this year, two governorship elections are scheduled in Ekiti State on 14th July and Osun State on 22nd September.
“It is of utmost importance for political parties to ensure that their respective activities are not only open and democratic but also based on compliance with relevant provisions of your respective constitutions.
“Internal party democracy is critical to free, fair, credible and cost-effective elections. Where misunderstandings occur, use your Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism to resolve them. Alternatively, you can avail yourselves of the commission’s robust dispute resolution mechanism.
“Conflicts within political parties affect the commission’s preparations for elections just as disputes among political parties on candidature for election sometimes results in endless litigation that deprive citizens of representation and consequently a voice in national and local affairs,” he said.
The INEC chairman who said the growing number of political parties is good for Nigeria’s plural democracy, however, urged political parties to cooperate with the commission for successful elections.
“If each of the 68 political parties in Nigeria today fields candidates for all the 1,558 constituencies to be contested in the 2019 general elections, the commission will grapple with 105,944 candidates.
“If you consider the management and logistics of providing ballot papers for a projected 80 million registered voters, ad-hoc staff and the requirements for forward and reverse logistics, monitoring of political party primaries, electioneering campaign, campaign finance, voter education, accreditation of national/ international observers and the media, the task is enormous.
“ I wish to assure Nigerians that we are aware of the challenges. We are also up to the task. The key to success is forward planning and that is why we took the unprecedented step of releasing the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Election in good time. The commission appeals to political parties to adhere strictly to the 2019 election timelines. The commission will not hesitate to reject the submission by any party that violated the timelines,” Mahmood added.
But the INEC spokesman who could not comment on the issue of constituency delineation when contacted, acknowledged that there is an increasing population and the establishment of new settlements.
“You are right. The country’s population is increasing and more settlements are emerging. There are about 120,000 polling units nationwide and when you add that to the existing voting points, the total comes to about 150,000.
“Don’t forget that the voting points were created in order to give more Nigerians the opportunity to vote. The commission is not unmindful of the concerns being expressed. But to the best of my knowledge, there is no final decision on it yet,” he said.
He called on Nigerians to be hopeful adding that INEC will continue to try its best to address their concerns.