The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to teach its Malawian electoral commission counterpart the tricks it used in the delineation of constituencies and creation of polling units.
Speaking when his Malawian counterpart, Justice Chifundo Kachale, led a delegation on a courtesy visit on him in Abuja on Thursday, National Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said he understand that the Southern African country is also faced similar challenges Nigeria had previously.
He announced to the delegation that the Commission is currently undergoing a historic voter registration exercise, emphasizing: “We are also doing the voter pre-registration online, which will now be completed physically in person at designated centres nationwide. So you are coming at the right time.
“In Malawi, I know that you have been trying to delineate constituencies since 1998, more or less for the same reasons that Nigeria has not succeeded in delineating constituencies, but most especially the polling units. So, we will share experiences with you, particularly over what we did with regards to the polling units.
“The major ingredient for success is the fact that we consulted very widely. First, there was a document, so we asked citizens not to judge us on the basis of what they think INEC is trying to do but on the basis of what we are actually trying to do.
“There was a publication that we called a discussion paper, and we engaged very widely with all categories of stakeholders, and at the end of the day, it was seamless. We have succeeded in expanding voter access from the 119,974 polling units we had to 176, 872 polling units today. We’ll share this happy experience with you.
“We are a huge country, in terms of voters register, we have the largest database of registered voters in Africa. It is now over 84 million and our hope is that from the ongoing registration of voters, we’ll register at least 20 million more Nigerians, and that will take our register to over a 100 million by the time we go into the next general elections, which is less than two years away.
“We have studied your concept note and we tried as much as possible to respond by providing you the kind of information and interaction that you will require. Immediately after this session, there will be a demonstration on the delimitation of constituencies by our department of Electoral Operations, then thereafter, you will have the opportunity to visit our Electoral Institute where again there will be presentations and discussions.
“The chairman said the visiting team will be introduced to the Chairmen and members of the two committees dealing with electoral matters at the National Assembly tomorrow.
“The reason is that the delimitation of constituencies is not solely the responsibility of the Electoral Commission, it is a joint responsibility between the electoral commission and the National Assembly. so it is also good to engage with the members of the national assembly,” he added.
Seeking collaboration of INEC on the need to share insights and experience on management of elections matters, the Malawi Electoral Commission, (MEC) said there was a lot of commonality it shared with INEC.
“Just like in Nigeria, the issue of delineation of the district is quite a sensitive issue. In our context, the last time we were able to do this successfully was in 1998. A similar attempt in 2004 was thwarted because of the political sensitivity of the process.
“Part of the challenge was that the activity was being conducted too close to the poll. And you know the sensitivity that arises. And that is why this time around we are trying to do this because our next general election has been scheduled for 2025.
“So we as a commission, are mandated to undertake this process. We have been delayed in our calendar implementing this because of the Covid-19 pandemic as you are aware.
“And in our concept, we shared with the commission and outlined some of the thoughts that have gone into identifying where we should go and learn. One of the issues we would love to learn from Nigeria as a commission is an issue of managing the voter distribution, ethnicity, legitimacy of the proportion of voters that you require to constitute a valid constituency.
“In our law, the constitution mandates the commission to ensure that constituencies contained an equal number of voters in order obviously promote the concept of one voter or one man one vote.
“However, because of demography and other geographic issues, it is always not easy to attain that ideal. We always know that in the urban settings, we always have higher population density and rural settings. And also issues of the general topography of the land can affect the accessibility of certain areas compared to others,” he said.