Ahead of the 2023 General Elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has commenced the processes to create additional polling units (PUs) across the country.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Festus Okoye, said this on Tuesday in Abuja at the end of the management meeting of the commission.
Daily Trust reports that INEC had in August 2014 proposed to create additional 30, 027 polling units, with the northern region getting 21,615 while the southern region was to get 8,412 units.
The development led to controversy thus forcing INEC to jettison the plan.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had said in an interview that Nigeria is currently underserved with its 119,973 PUs and over 57,000 voting points (VPs).
Okoye, however said on Tuesday that the commission would engage stakeholders on the planned expansion of voter access to the PUs.
According to him, for several weeks, the commission has been preparing for these national engagements to address the inadequacies of PUs in Nigeria and the challenges they pose to election management.
He said that some of these challenges include overcrowding, numerous unserved populations and poor locations, which are potentially disenfranchising millions of Nigerians, and also pose health risks in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a national problem that calls for national consensus. For several years the commission has tried to address this fundamental challenge to democratic consolidation and election administration with minimal success. This has been mainly due to inadequate engagement between the commission and stakeholders.
Voting Point Settlements in the FCT
“Consequently, the commission has had to resort to interim measures such as creating Voting Points at Polling Units nationwide and establishing Voting Point Settlements in the FCT,” Okoye said.
He that these engagements will afford an opportunity for the commission to consult with stakeholders in order to build a genuine national consensus to address the problem of declining voter access to PUs.
He added that the commission, in the next few weeks, plans to engage with diverse stakeholders including political parties, civil society organizations, religious leaders, traditional institutions, labour unions, socio-cultural organizations, various arms of the federal government, and also state governments.
He said that among the burning issues to be addressed at these consultations are the challenges that declining access to PUs pose to democracy and election management in Nigeria.
He therefore urged all stakeholders in the electoral process and Nigerians at large to work with INEC us to address this issue.