The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has advanced reasons why it embarked on creation of additional polling units across the country ahead the 2023 general elections, saying its creation was to allow for expansion of voters access to voting points.
It explained that the move became necessary as party of the electoral umpire commitment to the enhancement of voters turnout in elections, adding that incidence of voters apathy being recorded every election cycle was impeding the beauty of democracy in Nigeria.
As stated, the increase in voter population among othe developments including emergence of new settlements, urbanisation, distance to existing polling units necessitated the additional polling units to give the voter a pleasant experience on election day.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said that other considerations include the outbreak of coronavirus in the country, and that such would help in decongestinf polling units to minimise overcrowding and reduce the long distances voters travel during elections.
Speaking at during a consultative meeting with political parties in Abuja on Friday, the electoral umpire boss maintained that the last time polling units were established was 25 years ago in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON).
He stated that the commission had tried multiple times to create additional polling units but were met with different challenges and thus jetissioned the idea before now.
According to him,the number of registered voters is 84,004,084 and is set to rise after we 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 database (aged 18 to 25 years) was not even born when the current polling units were established a quarter of a century ago.
“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 are 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 a 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. I am confident that by working together we will make history by finally solving this 25-year old problem of enhancing access to polling units in Nigeria. The Nigerian voter in particular and our democracy, in general, will be the biggest beneficiaries of increased access to polling units.”