Nigeria faces ‘acute problem’ of voter access to polling units, says INEC

With only 119,973 Polling Units serving a voter population of 84,004,084, which will increase with fresh registration exercise, Nigeria faces an acute problem of voter access to Polling Units, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has alerted.

The Commission noted that the current Polling Units in Nigeria were established in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) to serve a projected population of about 50 million voters.

It lamented that previous attempts by the Commission to expand voter access to Polling Units in 2007, 2014 and just before the 2019 General Election were unsuccessful, “this is mainly because the Commission’s genuine intention may not have been properly communicated for input by Nigerians and therefore misunderstood and politicised”.

INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who made the statement in his remarks during the quarterly meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), noted that “over the last 25 years, the voter population has increased. New settlements have also emerged. However, in spite of these demographic and spatial changes, the number of Polling Units has remained the same as it was a quarter of a century ago. This problem must be addressed.”

According to him, “as you are aware, the success of elections is largely a reflection of what happens at polling unit level. It is the only point at which votes are cast by eligible citizens. What follows thereafter is the collation process leading to the declaration of results.

“However, the large crowds at some of our Polling Units on Election Day remain a challenge to the orderly management of elections. In your reports to the Commission, some members of ICCES have alluded to this problem.

“With only 119,973 Polling Units serving a voter population of 84,004,084 which will certainly increase by the time the Commission resumes the mandatory fresh registration of voters; Nigeria faces an acute problem of voter access to Polling Units.

“The truth is that the current Polling Units in Nigeria were established in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) to serve a projected population of about 50 million voters. Over the last 25 years, the voter population has increased. New settlements have also emerged. However, in spite of these demographic and spatial changes, the number of Polling Units has remained the same as it was a quarter of a century ago. This problem must be addressed.”

He continued that, “previous attempts by the Commission to expand voter access to Polling Units in 2007, 2014 and just before the 2019 General Election were unsuccessful. This is mainly because the Commission’s genuine intention may not have been properly communicated for input by Nigerians and therefore misunderstood and politicised.

“Learning from experience, the Commission has now decided to start early and to engage with Nigerians by consulting widely. We have produced 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.

“This meeting is a continuation of our consultations towards building a national consensus on the need to expand voter access to Polling Units. There will be a presentation followed by a 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.

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