By: Mayen Etim
KADUNA, North-West, Nigeria – The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), on Tuesday in Kaduna engaged the Arewa Consultative Forum,(ACF) on the need to expand voters’ access to polling units by creating more units across the country.
Speaking during the sensitization, Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said, the move is part of the commission’s preparation towards the 2023 general elections.
He said the commission seized the opportunity of the meeting of an organ of the ACF to brief them on its policy of expanding access to polling units in Nigeria.
The INEC boss expressed serious concerns about the worsening challenge of voters’ access to polling units, and outlined some indicative issues to be addressed by the engagements and the commission’s thinking on how to solve the challenge.
“As a Commission, we do not take the important contributions of stakeholders to electoral process for granted. This engagement is indeed a continuation of the commitment of the commission to always listen to stakeholders and to do our best to carry them along in all cardinal issues of election management in Nigeria.
“We started this process last week. We met with political parties, civil society organizations, security agencies. We had a meeting with the media and we are expanding the conversation to socio-cultural associations, religious organizations and constitutional bodies such as the National Assembly, (NASS), Federal Executive Council and the National Council of States.
“We contacted all groups nationwide and some have started giving us dates, and one of such groups that have given us a date is the ACF. So we just seize the opportunity of the meeting of its organ to come and brief them. But going forward we will also interact with all other socio-cultural associations as they give us dates nationwide,” he added.
According to the INEC boss, the Commission established 119,973 polling units in 1996, saying for 25 years the Commission did not create additional polling units.
“This is a national problem, we have 119, 973 polling units static since 1996. The number has not change. It was projected in 1996 to serve 50 million registered voters. By 1999 we had 84 million registered voters and the number of polling units remained the same. There is congestion, they are not giving voters pleasant experience on Election Day and we also believe that this is related to the question of low voters’ turnout during elections.
“We want to build a broad national concensus in the interest of our democracy. This is only one of the first steps. We are also going to engage with all other socio-cultural associations, religious and traditional bodies, and we are waiting for them to give us time.
“In fact, some constitutional bodies have given us time. The NASS has indicated when we should come to make our presentation to the two committees dealing with electoral matters in both the Senate and the House.
“I am also happy to say that the National Economic Council made up of all the Governors of Nigeria has invited us for next Thursday to make a presentation to all the governors of Nigeria. So the consultation will continue,” he said.
Responding, the National Chairman of the ACF, Audu Ogbeh, noted that from the presentation made by the Commission’s Chairman the message is very clear.
Represented by the National Secretary, Murtala Aliyu, Ogbeh said we should not politicize the issue but give Nigerians want they want; adding that ACF will reach out to the people of the region and educate them about it.