INEC plans to create new polling units ahead of 2023 - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Saturday, February 6, 2021

INEC plans to create new polling units ahead of 2023

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that it plans to create new polling units in the country ahead of 2023 general elections.

This was disclosed by the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu at a stakeholders meeting with political parties’ leaders in Abuja, saying that expanding voters access to polling units in Nigeria was crucial to voters turnout in elections.

Mr. Yakubu stated that many countries expanded access to polling units with every fresh registration of voters while others do so routinely or before every general election.

“Increase in voter population, emergence of new settlements, urbanisation, distance to existing polling units, difficult terrain and other factors require constant review to give the voter a pleasant experience on election day,” Mr. Yakubu told the gathering.

“Above all, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to decongest polling units to minimise overcrowding and reduce the long distances voters travel.”

He also stated that the existing number of polling stations were created in 1996 and thus have become obsolete for today’s demand.

“Unfortunately, the last time new polling units were established was in 1996,that’s 25 years ago and this was done by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON).

“There were 120,000 polling units to serve a projected population of about 50 million voters in Nigeria at that time,” he said.

Today, the number of registered voters is 84,004,084 and it 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.”

He also disclosed that INEC tried unsuccessfully to expand voter access to polling units in 2007, 2014 and even before the 2019 general elections.

He said, however, that those made administratively, were too close to general elections adding that the intention was not properly communicated, therefore misunderstood and politicised.

Mr. Yakubu said learning from previous experience, INEC had decided to engage with Nigerians by consulting widely.

“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,” he said.

He said that INEC had worked hard in the last two months and produced a discussion paper entitled: “The State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria”.

The INEC boss said the commission had prepared satellite images 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.

INEC National Commissioner, Okechukwu Ibeanu, making a presentation said between 1999 and 2019, voter turnout in Nigeria dropped by 17 percent.

“But, compare that to Ghana, between 2019 and 2020 voter turnout actually rose by 17 percent. We think that this is strongly correlated with the number of voters per polling unit

“If you look at Nigeria’s situation during that same period, the number of voters per pulling unit increased by 217 Conversely, for Ghana, it decreased by 91 voters,’’ Mr. Ibeanu said.

Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) Leonard Nzenwa described the effort to expand polling units as timely.

Mr. Nzenwa said it was timely especially at a time the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC was almost completing work on the amendment of the Electoral Act, 2010.


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