INEC To Convert VP, VPS To Polling Units

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would convert all Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements into polling units to give greater access to voters.

This is part of resolution reached at the 2021 maiden Consultative meeting with chairmen of registered political parties held virtually today in Abuja.

The meeting, which deliberated on a proposal presented by INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, entitled ‘The State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria’ unanimously endorsed the proposal.

The meeting also agreed that given the current state of voter access to polling units in Nigeria, expanding access to Polling Units is fundamental to the
exercise of the right to vote and to free, fair and credible elections.

The party chairmen commended the Prof Mahmood Yakubu for deeming it neccesary to consult with the chairman before taking the decision .

According to them, “there is merit in the INEC proposal of converting the existing and well-known Voting Points (VPs) and Voting Point settlements (VPS) nationwide into full-iledged Polling Units to address the problem of voter access”.

The meeting urged the commission to proceed without delay toward implementation of the decision while calling for more consultation in ensuring voter access to polling units.

They also called for the support of
Stakeholders for lNEC’s efforts to expand voter access to Polling Units and avoid politicizing the issues involved.

Prof Yakubu noted regrettably that the last time polling units was delianated was twenty five years ago. He observed that while the number of voters have since increased from 50million to over 84million and counting, the polling units have remained static at 1,200.

He said : “the last time polling units were established was 25 years ago in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON). There were 120,000 polling units to serve a projected population of about 50 million voters. Today, the number of registered voters is 84,004,084 and is set to rise after we resume Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ahead of the 2023 General Election. Yet, the number of polling units remains static.

“The Commission tried unsuccessfully to expand voter access to polling units in 2007, 2014 and before the 2019 General Election. However, these attempts were handled administratively. They also came too close to General Elections. Consequently, the Commission’s intention was not properly communicated and therefore misunderstood and politicised.

“Learning from previous experience, the Commission has now decided to engage with Nigerians by consulting widely. We have worked hard in the last two months and produced a Discussion Paper entitled “The State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria”,

He pointed out that the commission has “prepared satellite imageries of the location of polling units across the country as well as pictures and videos to demonstrate the difficulties faced by voters on Election Day.”

He observed that “Many countries expand access to polling units with every fresh registration of voters while others do so routinely or before every general election. Increase in voter population, emergence of new settlements, urbanisation, distance to existing polling units, difficult terrain and other factors require constant review to give the voter a pleasant experience on Election Day.

“Above all, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to decongest polling units to minimise overcrowding and reduce the long distances voters travel often in overcrowded means of transport in order to vote during elections”.