The Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly (SNPA) has called for the sack of the chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, for allegedly manipulating polling units to give undue political advantage to the North.
Also, prominent leaders from the South-West zone across the various registered political parties, under the umbrella of “Iyipade Agba Yoruba,” in the early hours of Wednesday, rose from a meeting in Abuja and kicked against the delineation exercise carried out by INEC.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, leaders of the Southern Assembly, Chief Edwin Clark (South-South), coordinating chairman; former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, co-chair (South East) and Senator Femi Okurounmu, leader of the South-West delegation, said Jega had lost his credibility as the chairman of the electoral body.
Reacting to the development, Professor Jega said there was no hidden agenda with the creation of additional 30,000 polling units across the country by the commission.
Jega maintained that he would not hesitate to resign his position as INEC chairman if the situation became necessary.
According to Clark, “Jega has failed woefully in his decrepit mission. May we hastily remind him that he has lost his credibility, if there was indeed any and he has lost the trust, confidence and respect of Nigerians.”
He held that Jega had overstayed his welcome as the INEC boss, having shown tendencies for “ethnic bigotry, partisan parochialism and primordial chauvinism.”
The Assembly said the INEC boss could not exculpate himself from being a proponent of ethnic agenda, adding that he (Jega) was allegedly recruited to perfect the ploy of some persons to truncate the nation’s nascent democracy.
“Professor Jega decided not to equilibrate but to marginalise the entire Southern Nigeria by arbitrarily and capriciously allocating 21,615 polling units to the North, as against 8,412 polling units to Southern Nigeria.
“Creating a phantom 30,000 polling units and whimsically allocating them to favour the North is the height of insult to the people of Southern Nigeria,” the Assembly noted.
The Southern Assembly further said Jega had to convince Nigerians of his degree of altruism and broad mindedness by taking what it described as “inconsiderate decision” that defies global best practices.
The leaders called on President Goodluck Jonathan to reorganise the composition and structure of INEC, to provide platform for free and fair elections.
Reacting, Jega, at a press briefingJega in Abuja, said “for the avoidance of doubt, the commission has not yet created the additional polling units,” adding that it had simply approved the framework and guidelines to facilitate the creation by Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and the state offices of INEC.”
Professor Jega, who could not hide his annoyance over the criticism generated by the exercise, lamented that “some mischief makers want to turn it (creation of new polling units) into ethnic contest,” adding that “I am not an ethnic or religion jigoist and no one in this commission is like that.”
While declaring that he was out to do his best as INEC boss, he stressed that “the day I know I can’t do this job to satisfy my conscience, I will resign. I do my best and all the commissioners here do their best also, so far that we are here, we’ll do our best, nobody lobby to be here.”
Speaking further, he said “INEC’s decision to re-configure the structure of polling units as well as create additional ones is 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.
“There is no sectional or parochial agenda in this decision and there will never be any such agenda under this commission.”
He said the basic aim of the exercise was to ease the access of voters to the ballot box in the 2015 general election and beyond.
On the methodology for re-configuring and creating new polling units, Professor Jega said the commission used the “2011 post-Automated Fingerprint Identification Software (AFIS) voter register figure of about 70,383,427 and, based on a figure of 500 voters per polling unit, there should be, at least 140,000 polling units in the country.”
He added that from the exercise, “there is no political advantage to any individual or any party or any region,” while he cautioned that “electoral duties should not be over-politicised.”
However, the Iyipade Agba Yoruba, in a communique issued at the end of its meeting held at NICON Luxury Hotel, Abuja, cautioned Jega on the lopsidedness of the exercise in favour a particular region, warning that it would not hesitate to force the INEC chairman out of office should he continue with the exercise.
The meeting also dismissed the suspension of Chief Ishola Filani as the South-West zonal chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by some members of the party, insisting that the action was illegal.
Some of those in the meeting were Chief Olabode George, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Dr Jimoh Ibrahim, Professor Wale Oladipo, Alhaji Adewole Adeyanju, Honourable Dimeji Bankole, among others.