By Dominic James
25th September 2021
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said that the delimitation of constituencies cannot take place without accurate population data.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by top officials of the National Population Commission (NPC), led by their Chairman, Alhaji Nasir Isa Kwarra to the INEC headquarters in Abuja at the weekend, Prof Yakubu explained that while it was the Commission’s responsibility to review the division of the States into Senatorial Districts, Federal and State Constituencies as well as Wards in the Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the absence of accurate population data had been partly responsible for its inability to delimit constituencies in Nigeria since 1996.
According to him, INEC has the mandate to undertake the activity at an interval of not less than 10 years,when States are created through an Act of the National Assembly or when a population census is conducted. He noted that the NPC is required to, among others, periodically undertake the enumeration of Nigeriansthrough census and provide information and data on the country’s population to facilitate national planning and economic development.
His words: I am glad to report that over the years, the two Commissions have embarked on one of the most imaginative and extensive inter-agency collaborations in Nigeria in the area of delimitation of boundaries of electoral constituencies. Over the years, the two Commissions undertook a joint project to demarcate the boundaries of INEC’s Registration Area/Wards (RAs) with NPC’s Enumeration Areas (EAs). This initiative is known as the RA/EAD Project.”
He continued: “The idea is to enable INEC to easily delimit and periodically review Electoral Constituencies based on NPC’s figures whenever there is a new population census. This cannot be achieved without accurate population data. This is partly why no constituencies have been delimited in Nigeria since the last exercise was carried out 25 years ago in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON). Working together with the Population Commission, we are determined to make a difference this time around, just as we solved the problem of voter access to Polling Units in Nigeria. We have already prepared and produced a Discussion Paper on Electoral Constituencies in Nigeria, looking at the issues more broadly, including the imperative of a new population census. We will share copies of the Paper with the NPC at this meeting”.
Prof. Yakubu observed that so far, both Commissions have jointly covered 261 LGAs within the framework of the RA/EAD, while the NPC has covered more LGAs. “Going forward, we are finalising a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will be signed very soon,” he said. “In the MoU, we have clearly defined the scope and duration of our collaboration as well as the responsibilities of the two Commissions. I want to reassure the NPC that we shall continue to strengthen our existing collaborations.”
The INEC Chairman also told the visitors that the Commission had been periodically cleaning up the National Register of Voters. However, he said INEC was interested in how the NPC could provide it with data to enhance the register’s credibility further.
His words: “Of immediate interest to INEC is how the NPC can provide data that will assist us in further enhancing the credibility of the National Register of Voters. We are happy that today, INEC has the largest biometric register of citizens in Nigeria, complete with photographs and fingerprint information for voter authentication. We have also introduced facial biometric authentication of voters, successfully piloted in the recent bye-election in Isoko South 1 State Constituency in Delta State.
“To make the voters’ register more robust, we have been periodically cleaning it up by removing ineligible persons or multiple registrants from it using a combination of technology, i.e. the Automatic Biometric Identification System (ABIS) and information provided by citizens during the display of the register for claims and objections as required by law. However, we need to do more. At present, technology cannot help us identify and remove dead persons from the voters’ register.”
Prof. Yakubu appealed to the NPC Chairman to use his capacity as the registrar of births and deaths in Nigeria to periodically avail INEC of the data of deceased Nigerians to enable the Commission to use the information to clean up the voters’ register further.
He said, “Perhaps you may wish to start by availing us with the list of prominent Nigerians who have passed on, civil and public servants compiled from the official records of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies and other Nigerians from hospital and funeral records across the country. We appreciate that this is a Herculean task, but that is partly why we have a National Population Commission. We are confident that NPC has the capacity to do so. This information is critical for INEC to enhance the credibility of the National Register of Voters.”
Speaking earlier, Alhaji Kwara said the team’s visit was in continuation of NPC’s engagements with sister agencies performing similar functions and to appraise INEC of the developments taking place.
He said the NPC had been unable to conduct a national census for over 16 years but recently got the President’s nod to conduct one. He said the NPC had been working towards the objective by demarcating the entire landscape.
He averred: “We started in 2014, and by October (2021) ending, we will complete the demarcation of all the local government areas in the country.” He acknowledged the joint operations between INEC and NPC, which he described as successful. He also revealed that the NPC had established a national framework for conducting the next census and continuous registration of births and deaths. He hinted that the next census might take place in 2022. He commended the INEC Chairman and staff of the Commission for deepening democracy by providing Nigerians with efficient electoral services.