INEC solicits NASS support on conversion of voting points to polling units

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By Emmanuel Oloniruha

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has solicited the National Assembly’s support to convert existing voting points in the country to polling units.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the appeal on Tuesday during a presentation on the state of voter access to Pulling Units (PUs)  in Nigeria, to the National Assembly  Joint Committee on INEC and Electoral Matters, in Abuja.

He said that some of the voting points when converted to polling units would be relocated to underserved areas.

Yakubu also urged the lawmakers and stakeholders to help de-politicise issues around the intention of the commission saying  that the situation affected all parts of the country.

He said the voter access to polling units across the country was presently in a state of crisis as the existing 119,973 polling units was established by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) 25 years ago.

He noted that the existing PUs were projected to serve 50 million registered voters, which increased to over 84 million in 2019 and still expected to increase before the next general elections.

Yakubu  said  the existing number of polling units were not only inadequate but not conducive for voters to exercise their rights to vote fairly, especially in the context of COVID-19.

He added that it had not also been suitable for INEC to properly manage election and ensure that rules and regulations were strictly adhered to.

The INEC boss said the commission had made several efforts in the past to address the problem but it was misunderstood by Nigerians due to lack of proper sensitisation and the decisions were made closed to elections.

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According to Yakubu, some of the  efforts by the commission to address the problem included the creation of baby units in 2007, voting points in 2011 and voting points settlements in FCT in 2016.

He said  the commission believed that by converting the existing voting points  in use since 2011 to polling units and relocating some of them to underserved areas, majority of the challenges faced by voters and INEC would be addressed.

Yakubu said apart from starting early this time around, the commission decided to engage with stakeholders to ensure that the lingering  problem was addressed.

He disclosed that already, the commission had received no fewer than 9,000 requests from communities and individuals for the creation of new polling units across the country.

“We received 5,747 requests in Oct. 2020 to establish new polling units. The commission did not tell citizens to apply or to request for the creation or whatever units.

“As at last week, Feb. 23, the number of requests has increased to 9,092, which is additional 4,300 requests since over a period of four months and the number keeps increasing,” he said.

He assured that in converting the voting points to polling units, the commission would take into consideration the number of registered voters in the polling units as well as the distance, to ensure that justice was done and the problem adequately addressed.

In his remarks, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, pledged the support of the National Assembly to INEC to provide better voting environment for Nigerians through creation of more polling units.

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“I want to assure the chairman of INEC and indeed Nigerians that the National Assembly will support INEC fully, completely and wholly in ensuring that we provide a better voting environment for our citizens.

“We will do whatever it takes, because democracy is about participation and voting is probably the most important thing,” Lawan said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Yakubu was accompanied by national commissioners and some of the management staff of the commission.(NAN)

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