Why We Couldn’t Create New Polling Units Since 1996 – INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Friday, gave reasons why previous attempts by the Commission to create more Polling Units failed.

It said the genuine intention to expand voter access to Polling Units in 2007, 2014 and shortly before the 2019 general election was misunderstood and politicised.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who stated this during Consultative meeting with media organizations, noted that, “as you are probably aware, 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.

“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 politicised.”

Continuing, Yakubu, stressed that the issue of expansion of voter access to Polling Units is at the heart of electoral democracy, adding that “every eligible citizen has the right to register and vote in democratic elections.”

According to him, “I am glad to note that today’s meeting focuses on the expansion of voter access to Polling Units. 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.

“Unfortunately, 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.

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“The voters’ register increased to 84,004,084 by 2019. We envisage that by the next General Election in 2023, the population of registered voter 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.

“As you are probably aware, 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. 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 politicised.

“Learning from experience, the Commission has now decided to start early and to engage with Nigerians by consulting widely. Our intention is also articulated in a Discussion Paper entitled ‘The State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria’. We have also prepared satellite imageries of the location of Polling Units across the country and produced still pictures and videos to demonstrate the difficulties faced by voters on Election Day. The hard copies of the Discussion Paper are being widely shared while the soft copy, including links to the videos, has been uploaded on the Commission’s website and social Media platforms.

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