Con­stituency de­lin­eation

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -

he In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) re­cently an­nounced that it has sus­pended plan for con­stituency de­lin­eation. INEC Chair­man Pro­fes­sor At­tahiru Jega noted that in the light of doubts over the com­mence­ment and con­clu­sion of the ex­er­cise be­fore the 2015 polls, it had de­cided not to go ahead with it. This change of heart on the part of INEC came af­ter Jega as­sured the na­tion at an ear­lier fo­rum that INEC had made all ar­range­ments to en­sure a hitch free de­lin­eation ex­er­cise be­fore the forth­com­ing polls.

Ex­pect­edly, this re­ver­sal of pol­icy has opened up sev­eral as­pects to the mat­ter of elec­tion man­age­ment in Nigeria. Or­di­nar­ily, by pro­vi­sions of both the Con­sti­tu­tion and the Elec­toral Act, the re­view of the elec­toral con­stituen­cies for the var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal of­fices in the coun­try is to be car­ried out af­ter ev­ery na­tional head­count, or ev­ery ten years. Con­stituency de­lin­eation is in­tended to pro­vide a level play­ing ground for all po­lit­i­cal ac­tors, and also deepen the demo­cratic process. It en­tails the reap­praisal of their defin­ing cri­te­ria such as in­crease or de­crease in pop­u­la­tion as well as boundary shits, among other fac­tors.

The jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the ex­er­cise is that there is im­bal­ance in the present sizes and weights of the elec­toral con­stituen­cies in the coun­try. For in­stance, whereas each of the 360 Federal Con­stituen­cies should have a no­tional pop­u­la­tion of 388,000, there is one with a pop­u­la­tion of 122,000, while an­other has a pop­u­la­tion of 1.3 mil­lion. Mean­while, the present con­stituency struc­ture was cre­ated 18 years ago, in 1996, and un­der the mil­i­tary era. It is not sur­pris­ing that wide dis­par­i­ties now fea­ture among them, which can hardly pro­vide for a fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion in any elec­toral process.

Pro­fes­sor Jega blamed the Na­tional As­sem­bly for not pass­ing the en­abling law for the de­lin­eation ex­er­cise to take place. He also cited con­tro­versy sur­round­ing cur­rent cen­sus fig­ures.

The abrupt sus­pen­sion of the ex­er­cise be­trays in­her­ent weak­nesses in INEC’s or­ga­ni­za­tional ca­pac­ity, given the wide op­er­a­tional lat­i­tude that the Con­sti­tu­tion grants it. The Com­mis­sion should have been proac­tive in pro­vid­ing in­sights on its ef­forts with re­spect to chal­lenges mil­i­tat­ing against im­ple­men­ta­tion of the joint res­o­lu­tion of the Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to em­power the Com­mis­sion to carry out the ex­er­cise. This is im­por­tant when viewed against INEC’s claim that prepa­ra­tion for the 2015 elec­tions, prob­a­bly with the de­lin­eation ex­er­cise as part of it, ac­tu­ally started as soon as the 2011 polls were over.

As for the cen­sus fig­ures, INEC’s fix­a­tion on one set of fig­ures, even in the face of al­leged con­tro­versy, is not help­ful. Cen­sus fig­ures all over the world are hardly pre­cise em­pir­i­cal data that must en­joy orac­u­lar author­ity. Rather, the fig­ures are usu­ally sub­jected to pe­ri­odic multi-phase and multi-stage re­views that tend to mit­i­gate ob­vi­ous er­rors in their cap­ture and pro­cess­ing. INEC’s stated rea­sons for fail­ure to move for­ward on con­stituency de­lin­eation since 2011 are there­fore in­ad­mis­si­ble.

How­ever, INEC should con­tinue with the prepa­ra­tions for the de­lin­eation ex­er­cise to en­sure that it ac­ti­vates it im­me­di­ately af­ter the con­clu­sion of the 2015 gen­eral elec­tions. It is sig­nif­i­cant that the Com­mis­sion high­lighted the ger­ry­man­der­ing role of the Na­tional As­sem­bly in the mat­ter. Be­cause of the im­por­tance of the ex­er­cise, it is un­help­ful that the Na­tional As­sem­bly would be the stum­bling block to re­al­is­ing fairer con­stituency de­lin­eation than what is cur­rently on ground.

As the na­tion pre­pares for the forth­com­ing elec­tions, it is es­pe­cially cru­cial that the pro­cesses that lead to them are in place to en­sure not only their cred­i­bil­ity, but also that a sound foun­da­tion is laid through them for fu­ture polls. INEC’s con­stituency de­lin­eation ex­er­cise is a fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing their suc­cess in this re­gard.

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