Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has urged National Assembly to assist in its plan to convert polling points into polling units to overcome the hiccups in voters’ access to polling units.
He made the call, yesterday, at a meeting of the Joint Committee of National Assembly on INEC and Electoral Matters on the move to convert polling points into polling units.
“The commission has in the last three electoral cycles made use of voting points and voting point settlements as interim solutions for the declining voters’ access to polling units.
“These are well known by stakeholders and accepted by voters. Consequently, converting them to full-fledged polling units is a cost-effective and timely way of addressing the problem.
“As the commission prepares to recommence the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), as required by the Electoral Act, it is important to conclude the issue of expanding voters’ access to polling units in order to assign voters to new polling units during the CVR,” Yakubu said.
According to the INEC boss, the issue has become so critical that it must be addressed urgently if the credibility of the country’s electoral system is not to be profoundly damaged.
Yakubu reiterated the fact that voters’ access to polling units is at the heart of the voting rights of Nigerians and, therefore, democracy.
He explained that voters’ access to polling units goes beyond establishment of the units to entail their being located in accessible places and ensuring that the environment of each polling unit guarantees observance of the commission’s guidelines.
“Over politicisation underscored by unfounded conspiracy theories has been a major obstacle to expanding voters’ access to polling units. This has caused unnecessary delays in establishing and relocating polling units prior to major elections. Declining access to the units for Nigerian voters is potentially disenfranchising,” the INEC chairman argued.
Yakubu, who noted that the problem affects every part of the country, called for a national consensus built on genuine
consultation to address it.
“Stakeholders have a central role to play in addressing the challenge, especially by committing to supporting the commission’s efforts to find solutions and assisting to de-politicise the issue,” the INEC boss said.
According to him, without full understanding and support of the major stakeholders in the country, no lasting solution to the problem is possible.
“Experiences from other jurisdictions across the world show that continuously expanding voter access to polling units is a good practice. These experiences also show that the problem of declining access to polling units is not unique to Nigeria.
“In most countries, however, expanding voters’ access to polling units is essentially the administrative responsibility of agencies charged with the function by law.”