by David Cyril
The National Electoral Commission (INEC) has put the current total number of registered voters in Nigeria at 70,383,427, of which Lagos with 5,426,391 has the highest number of registered voters in the country.
Kano is said to have about 4,751,818, which makes it the second highest of registered voters in Nigeria, 2010 Electoral Act,
Releasing the list of registered voters yesterday in Abuja, INEC also created 30,027 new polling units in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), as part of efforts to de-congest polling units (PUs) across the country, bringing the total number of units nationwide to 150,000.
According to an INEC bulletin circulated to the press and signed by the director in charge of the commission’s secretariat, Ishiaku A. Gali, the commission said the decision to create the additional polling units was taken at the INEC meeting on Tuesday, August 12, 2014. Before the decision to create more polling units, there were 119,973 of them across the 774 local governments.
The 2010 Electoral Act, has stated that each PU is expected to have not more than 500 voters, but during elections there are PUs that have more than 500 voters. a glance at the approved re-allocation of 150,000 PUs nationwide showed that Lagos is leading in terms of proportional distribution.
An additional 2,870 PUs, was added to Lagos, being the highest in registered voters, bringing its total to 11,565 polling units. It is followed by Kano with the second highest, which was allocated 2,053 new PUs, bringing the total number to 9,809. INEC, in the stated that Kano State, which has 10,127 PUs based on proportional distribution of 150,000 and 9,809 based on approved new PU allocation.
Kaduna State has registered voters of 3,743,815 and got 2,878 new PUs, increasing its total number of units to 7,485.
Katsina State with 2,928,046 voters got 1,339 PUs more to bring the total number of PUs in the state to 3,818. In the same vein, Jigawa State with a voting strength of 1,817,087 got additional 346 PUs, making a total of 3,677 units in the state.
Ogun State with 1,796,024 registered voters was allocated 569 new PUs, increasing its total to 3,818.
Baylsa State, with the lowest number of registered voters of 590,679, got 121 new units, increasing its total to 1,925. Also, the commission yesterday ruled out the possibility of Nigerians in the Diaspora voting during the 2015 elections, just as it indicated that it is making preparations to ensure that security officials on election duty are not disenfranchised during the exercise.
Chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, admonished federal lawmakers at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters to amend the Electoral Act. This is just as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, said next year’s general election would be a historical landmark in Nigeria’s history, thus urging politicians to be cautious.
Prof. Jega, added that in as much as the Electoral Act is amended to allow Nigerians overseas to vote, the commission still lacks the logistics to involve them in the exercise in 2015, but Nigerians who are abroad might be considered to participate in future elections.
He said “electronic voting would also not be possible in 2015; I must be sincere with you. Even if the constitution is amended now, it will be practically impossible for Nigerians in the Diaspora to vote in 2015. It is practically impossible for us to commence that next year, but the amendment should be done before the 2015 elections for future elections”
“The issue of electronic voting should also be accommodated before the 2015 elections, but we cannot conduct elections electronically next year. It will be for future elections.”
An extension of the seven days set aside for run-off elections for the offices of the president and governors as provided in the Electoral Act to at least 21 days, was again requested by Prof. jega.
He also asked for an extension of the days for the transfer of voters from the approved 45 days by the lawmakers to 60 days due to the technicalities involved, even though the Electoral Act provides for 35 days. To him, the amendment of Section 25, which provides for a by-election whenever there is vacancy in a position would be appropriate so that all by-elections would be conducted twice every year instead of once.
He endorsed the amendment to Section 29 (8) on the deployment of “the Nigerian Armed Forces only for the purpose of securing the distribution and delivery of election materials”. On his part, Tambuwal admonished all stakeholders, especially members of the National Assembly to tidy up every aspect of the regulations governing the conduct of elections, saying: “If our electoral law is technically and morally sound, it will go a long way in ensuring that we have free and fair elections in 2015 and beyond.”
Prof Jega, added that it is the desire of lawmakers to ensure a level playing field for all participants in the electoral process and for a more transparent process of conducting elections in Nigeria and the 2015 elections will no doubt mark a watershed in our nation’s history.