INEC moves to expand voter access to polling units

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has taken steps to solve the problem of enhancing access to Polling Units (PUs) in Nigeria which has lingered in the past 25 years.

To achieve this goal, INEC on Friday held first stakeholders’ consultative meeting with political parties in Abuja.

In his opening remarks before the technical session of the meeting, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, recalled that the last time Polling Units were established was 25 years ago in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON).

Yakubu said there were 120,000 polling units to serve a projected population of about 50 million voters but today, the number of registered voters is 84 million and is set to rise after INEC resume Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ahead of the 2023 General Election.

“Yet, the number of polling units remains static. In fact, the biggest category of registered voters on our data base (aged 18 to 25 years) were not even born when the current polling units were established a quarter of a century ago.

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“Certainly, the Commission tried unsuccessfully to expand voter access to polling units in 2007, 2014 and before the 2019 General Election. However, these attempts were handled administratively. They also came too close to General Elections. Consequently, the Commission’s intention was not properly communicated and therefore misunderstood and politicised.

“Learning from previous experience, the Commission has now decided to engage with Nigerians by consulting widely. We have worked hard in the last two months and produced a Discussion Paper entitled ‘The State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria’, prepared satellite imageries of the location of polling units across the country as well as pictures and videos to demonstrate the difficulties faced by voters on Election Day. The hard and soft copies of the Discussion Paper is being widely shared and will be uploaded on the Commission’s website and social media platforms latest by Monday 8th February 2021.

“It is significant that we are commencing the series of engagements today with leaders of political parties. At each engagement, there will be a presentation followed by discussion. We hope that by doing so, we will communicate the Commission’s intention to Nigerians and invite input from citizens across the board on how we can tackle the problem of voter access to polling units in our country and hopefully establish the framework for subsequent seamless adjustments as the need arises. This is how it is done in virtually all democracies around the world,” he said.

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