CONSTITUENCY DELIMITATION: A RECURRING DECIMAL
The question of constituency delimitation is so critical in a democracy but we, in Nigeria, seem to shy away from delimiting our constituencies as provided in the various Nigerian Constitutions. Modern democracies are based essentially on indirect representation. Where the representation is not carried out constitutionally and equitably, injustice will be done to the affected group or persons.
From the Richards Constitution of 1946 to the 1999 Constitution (as amended)1, provisions have been made for constituencies and their delimitation in Nigeria. Despite these ample provisions, the last constituency delimitation in Nigeria was carried out in 1996 by the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) under the chairmanship of Chief Sumner Dagogo Jack! This constituency delimitation was used for 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 general elections. As will be shown shortly, successive Constitutions have provided that the last census figures should be used for constituency delimitation.
The last census figure was that of 2006 and yet the 2007, 2011 and 2015 general elections were based on the census figures of 1991. Thus there are several unanswered questions in Nigeria relating to constituency delimitation. There is also inaction on the part of government functionaries to carry out their constitutional and statutory responsibilities in this regard.
In this Chapter, we would like to interrogate the importance of representative government, trace the constitutional developments in relation to constituency delimitation, draw attention to the unanswered questions, and use case law to answer some of the question posed above, that is, whether constituency delimitation is a recurring decimal or not.
We will also inquire whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Assembly, the National Population Commission, the National Boundaries Commission, the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation, the National Bureau of Statistics and the National Identity Management Commission have played their constitutional and statutory roles in this regard.
Lastly, one issue that should be interrogated in this Chapter is whether all the elections conducted by the INEC since 1999 have complied with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution especially in relation to the population quota, number of seats in each House of Assembly and number of State Constituencies.
The Importance of Representative Government The word “democracy” literally means “rule by the people”, taken from the Greek terms, demos (meaning “people”), and kratos (meaning “rule”). It is a political concept and form of government, where all people are supposed to have equal voices in shaping policy (typically expressed through a vote for representatives). Thus democracy (“rule by the people” when translated from its Greek meaning) is seen as one of the ultimate ideals that modern civilizations strive to create, or preserve. Democracy as a system of governance is supposed to allow extensive representation and inclusiveness of as many people and views as possible to feed into the functioning of a fair and just society.2 Representation can be direct or indirect. In the Greek city states, it was direct representation. However, the Ancient Roman Republic planted the seeds of representative government.
Representative Government has historically denoted a system in which people elect their lawmakers (representatives), who are then held accountable to them for their activity within government. Representative government, or the “republican form,” as it is also known, has been widely accepted as the only practicable form of democracy. In America, the acceptance of representative government as a legitimate democratic form has long-standing roots.
The argument can be traced back to the English philosopher John Locke (1632–1704), whose Second Treatise of Government (1690) was widely read by the founders of America. Locke called for consent to government rather than direct consent to the laws. Thomas Jefferson reflected on this in the Declaration of Independence (1776), writing that governments, rather than laws, derived their “just powers from the consent of the governed.”3