Ahead of the 2023 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has ruled out any possibilities of adopting an electronic voting system for the poll, rather, the commission said that plans were already been intensified towards the conversion of existing voting points to full-fledged polling units across the country.
INEC added that the move to create more full-fledge polling stations as against embracing the electronic mode of voting was to ensure that Nigerians have more easy access to cast their vote during the forthcoming elections in the country.
The commission disclosed the development on Friday in Abuja after the end of the workshop for Heads of Departments (HOD) Operation on expanding voter access to polling units in Nigeria held in Abuja.
According to INEC, the workshop is designed to boost the voters’ participants and reduce voter apathy during the next election particularly the 2023 election in Nigeria and not to prepare officials ahead the adoption of electronic voting.
The commission’s Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, stated that the aim of the commission was that after completing the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections in 2022, processes and other hurdles against electronic machines procurements would have been solved effectively and after 2023 election amend the law for its inclusion.
He said: “We believe that by the time we conduct Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, we would have finished all the mechanism and other issues around the procurement of the electronic voting machine and then amend the law to conform with the electronic process.
“So the issue of people voting from the comfort of their home or any location is the project that the commission is working on and at the appropriate time the commission will convey what it has been doing to the public. And for the 2023 election, we are sure that the people will vote from the places where they registered for the exercise”, the chairman added.
While assuring Nigerians that the electoral umpire was committed to bringing polling units closer to them, particularly to public places, Okoye admitted that availability and access to polling units have been dwindling over the years noted that existing polling units in overcrowded places are prone to violence.
He said: “We are not doing Continuous Voters Registration at the moment, this is because Nigerians have agreed and we have agreed that our polling units must be expanded.
“Our polling units due to their configuration are overcrowded and prone to violence. We want to move such polling units to public places like schools, courts, and maybe hospitals.”
He said polling units in private residences would also be relocated to public spaces, saying, we will relocate such polling units and check for underserved and unserved areas and take them there.
“New registrant for their continuous voter registration will be taken to the new polling units. This will create room for social distancing, security men will also manage the election well. We don’t want Nigerians to suffer during election day. We want Nigerians to have a good voting experience. We also want a situation where presiding officers including observers will have spaces to do their job, and we want to complete this process as soon as possible.”
Earlier, addressing the HOD from the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, the Chairman of INEC’s Electoral Operations and Logistics committee, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, stated that the vision of the commission presently was to address voter apathy through increasing accessibility to polling stations across the country.
Ibeanu said: “The idea behind what the commission is doing is actually to convert the voting points and voting points settlements into a full-fledge polling unit.
“And the methodology to increase voters’ access to polling stations is one of the key issues that the commission has agreed on with stakeholders’ in the country”, he added.
Ibeano, who admitted that the Commission failed in its previous attempts because the initiative was politicised by stakeholders, blamed poor communication on the aborted attempts.
The chairman, however, noted that INEC was has address all hindrance to the actualisation of the move, urging the heads of its Electoral Operations Department to ensure the guidelines were followed religiously for optimal result.