The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has intensified consultations with stakeholders on the creation of new Polling Units (Pus), across the country.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, who held a meeting with the media in Abuja, yesterday, said that existing 119, 973 PUs, created 25 years ago had become grossly inadequate, leading to crisis situations during elections.
He said, “Nigeria has a critical problem of voter access to Polling Units. The country currently has 119,973 Polling Units established a quarter of a Century ago in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON). At that time, the voter population was projected at 50 million.
“The voters’ register increased to 84,004,084 by 2019. We envisage that by the next General Election in 2023, the population of registered voters may be twice the number projected in 1996. Yet, the number of Polling Units remains the same. This is a national problem. It must be addressed in earnest.
“This matter is at the heart of electoral democracy. Every eligible citizen has the right to register and vote in democratic elections. However, the right to vote cannot be effectively exercised without a place to vote. Citizens’ right to vote must be exercised in a conducive and safe environment, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”
According to him, many voters would be denied the opportunity of exercising their rights to votes if the situation was not immediately addressed.
Prof. Yakubu regretted that although the electoral body made three earlier attempts to create more Pus in order to solve the problem, but that there were resisted by political interests, who misconstrued the attempts.
He said, “The Commission has reviewed the previous efforts at expanding voter access to Polling Units in 2007, 2014 and just before the 2019 General Election and why they were unsuccessful.”
He observed that the resistance could be due to inadequate communication and consultations with stakeholders before those failed attempts.
The INEC boss said, “We came to the conclusion that our genuine intention may not have been properly communicated for input by Nigerians. We also tried to solve the problem too close to General Elections. The exercise was therefore misunderstood and politicized,” he said.
“Learning from experience, the Commission has now decided to start early and to engage with Nigerians by consulting widely.
“Today’s meeting with the Media is in furtherance of our consultations with stakeholders. There will be a presentation followed by discussion. We hope that by doing so, we will better communicate the Commission’s intention to Nigerians and invite input across the board on how to address this problem in the immediate term and hopefully establish the framework for future adjustments as the need arises as is the case in virtually all democracies around the world. Let us work together to finally solve the 25-year old problem of access to Polling Units in Nigeria.”
INEC had met with leaders of Political Parties, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), earlier in the week.
It would meet with socio-cultural associations, traditional and religious organisations, labour unions, professional and constitutional bodies, in the weeks ahead, according to Prof. Yakubu.
Three options are being considered by INEC on the methodology of increasing the PUs, with the conversion of Polling Points and Polling Points Settlements into Pus, topping the option, in the short-term.
It is also working with the National Population Commission with a view to using population from Enumeration Areas as input for the creation of Pus in the future.