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INEC reveals new polling units

by Salami Azeez

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced the successful expansion of the existing Polling Units across the country from 176,846 Polling Units.

Consequently, 749 Polling Units were relocated from inappropriate locations to appropriate public facilities or open spaces in line with “our policy to guarantee unencumbered access to Polling Units for all voters.”

Out of this figure, “232 were removed from private properties, 145 royal palaces, 6 Mosques, 21 Churches and 9 Shrines.”

As a result of the expansion, the Commission disclosed that, “for subsequent elections, beginning from the Anambra State Governorship election holding on 6th November 2021, there will be no Voting Points any more in Nigeria.”

In his remarks at the unveiling ceremony, INEC Commissioner, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said; “the history of creating and expanding Polling Units in Nigeria has been long and complex. Their adequacy and accessibility in terms of number and location across the country were some of the challenges that had to be addressed in the interest of credible elections.”

According to him, “before 2010, the Commission operated on a round figure of approximately 120,000 Polling Units. However, a census undertaken by the Commission before the 2011 General Election arrived at the precise figure of 119,973 Polling Units. The Commission also made efforts to relocate many Polling Units from inappropriate places such as private residences and properties, palaces of traditional rulers and places of worship to public buildings accessible to voters, polling agents, observers and the media during elections.”

He continued that, “following several unsuccessful attempts to create additional Polling Units despite the obvious pressure from increased number of registered voters, the Commission established Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements across the States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as a pragmatic response to necessity. The voting points were tied to the existing Polling Units and Voting Point Settlements.

“The number of registered voters in a Polling Unit and the Voting Point Settlement in the FCT was used to determine their Voting Points, based on the upper and lower thresholds of 500 and 750 voters respectively. These were also the limits used for the 2019 General Election. The number of new Polling Units in a State is the number of Voting Points aggregated from those Polling Units having Voting Points.

“Furthermore, it was discovered that one Polling Unit in Lagos State had been wrongly categorized as a Voting Point and the error was corrected. With this adjustment, the actual number of approved Polling Units came to 119,974. As a result, the Commission arrived at the exact figure of 56,563 Voting Points in addition to 309 Voting Point Settlements in the FCT, making a total of 56,872 Voting Points.”

He added further that, “after wide ranging consultations with stakeholders and fieldwork by our officials, the 56,872 Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements were converted and added to the existing 119,974 Polling Units. Consequently, the Commission is glad to report that 25 years since the current Polling Units were created in 1996; the hard nut is finally and successfully cracked after several unsuccessful attempts. Nigeria now has 176,846 full-fledged Polling Units.

“Similarly, after consultation with stakeholders, the Commission has successfully removed 749 Polling Units from inappropriate locations to appropriate public facilities or open spaces in line with our policy to guarantee unencumbered access to Polling Units for all voters. Of this figure, 232 were removed from private properties, 145 royal palaces, 6 Mosques, 21 Churches and 9 Shrines. The remaining 336 Polling Units were relocated for various reasons which include distance, difficult terrain, congestion, communal conflict, new settlements and general insecurity.”

In view of the advanced preparations already made by the Commission, four pending bye-elections in Kaduna, Jigawa and Plateau States will be the last to be conducted using a combination of Polling Units and Voting Points. Two of these elections in Sabon Gari State Constituency in Kaduna State and Gwaram Federal Constituency in Jigawa State are holding this weekend while the Commission awaits the formal declaration of vacancies by the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives in respect of Lere Federal Constituency of Kaduna State and Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency of Plateau State.

“The Resident Electoral Commissioners and staff of the Commission nationwide spared no effort to ensure the success of the exercise. Above all, this historic accomplishment would not have been possible without the support and understanding of all Nigerians.

“On behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission, I would like to express our profound appreciation to the leadership of political parties, civil society organizations, the media, security agencies, religious leaders, socio-cultural associations, the labour unions, professional bodies, persons with disabilities, women and youth groups, students’ unions, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the State Governors under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC) and the National Assembly. We also acknowledge the invaluable support of the development partners for facilitating some of the stakeholder engagements and the publication of advocacy documents.

“Looking to the near future, the Commission is preparing to conduct the remaining off-season end of tenure elections ahead of the 2023 General Election. Already, activities listed in the timetable for the Anambra State Governorship election are being implemented. So are those of the FCT Area Council election holding on 12th February, 2022.

“In the sequence of off-season elections, the Ekiti and Osun State Governorship elections are holding next year. In keeping with our policy of announcing the dates of elections in advance to enable early and effective preparations by all concerned, the Commission has approved that the Ekiti State Governorship election will hold on Saturday 18th June 2022 while the Osun State Governorship election will hold one month later on Saturday 16th July 2022. The detailed Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the two elections have been uploaded on the Commission’s website and social media platforms. We implore political parties and aspirants to ensure rancour-free primaries and thereafter conduct peaceful electioneering campaigns.”

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