Some stakeholders have supported the move by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to create additional polling units in the country before the 2023 general elections, saying it is within the jurisdiction of the umpire to create polling units for ease of electoral activities.
Although they noted the fears being expressed in various quarters that the process could be manipulated to favour certain areas of the country, they however, added that the electronic voting system could help sort out the concerns.
Former National Chairman of the defunct, United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, told The Guardian in the past 25 years when the present polling units were created, the demographics in the country have changed exponentially.
He reasoned that the Country’s population had exploded to over 90 million potential voters, adding that many and new high-density cities and communities have emerged, coupled with the fact of massive migrations and displacements. He stressed that such have combined to make it imperative that INEC should create more polling units to make it more accessible to greater number of voters during elections.
On the fears that it could be manipulated in favour of some zones, he said: “I am aware of the anxiety of the suspecting public that the process may be manipulated to shortchange some sections of the country but the expected introduction of electronic voting system should address such fears.”
Former Chairman of the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC), Enugu State, Dr. John Nwobodo, stated that it was not true that the move by INEC to create additional polling units was not based on the demand of the people.
“It is to be noted that some voters walk long distances on Election Day in order to cast their ballot because the location of some polling units are far from their residences. In other words, the points between the residences of the voters and the location of the polling units are far apart. Some voters in this category actually save themselves the stress of walking long distances on Election Day and end up not going to vote. Therefore, the issue of lack of access to polling units is not new,” he said.
Nwobodo, a lawyer also said that INEC was on the right path by making it a policy to embark on creation of new polling units, adding, “ Do not forget that the voting population has increased significantly over the years but the number of polling units remain unchanged since 1996”
He added: “A polling unit is meant to serve a voting population of 500, but you find that some polling units have nearly twice the number. Therefore, as voting population increases, the need for expansion of access to polling units becomes inevitable and desirable.
“Moreover, INEC is not going about the creation whimsically. It received and processed requests for new polling units from Nigerians. As at February 15 2021, INEC received 9,777requests for new polling units. This speaks to the acceptability of the initiative by Nigerians.
“I do not see how creation of additional polling units will mar the 2023 general elections. On the contrary, it will enhance the integrity and credibility of the election in combination with other factors”.
Also the Enugu East senatorial candidate of the KOWA party in the 2019 general elections, Prof. Jehu Onyekwere Nnaji, stated that INEC’s intention to create more polling units ahead of the 2023 General elections can be seen as an exercise that lies within its purview and jurisdiction.
He however observed that it was yet to be seen if the creation of additional 57,023 polling units would translate to making voting on Election Day seamless, adding that polling units need to be located within the proximity of voters to encourage elderly and physically unfit people to navigate with less difficulty to exercise their franchise.
“It will be necessary to juxtapose this exercise with what will be obtainable if INEC should upgrade its voter accreditation mechanisms as well as the methods of collation, transmission and publication of results. When all these factors are placed on a pedestal, INEC can make informed decisions to see, which areas they need to up their game,” he said
Nnaji a Professor of International law and Global Politics said that so much electoral fraud was being committed on Election Day due to failure of INEC to plug loopholes.
“Without considering all the foregoing concerns as well many others encountered by the electorate and INEC itself as a body, spending so much money in creating these new polling units might as well be an exercise in futility. I will support any approach that will ease voters movement and access to election materials as much as I will endorse credible efforts on the part of INEC at ensuring that the next General elections become good examples of free and fair elections, especially so when 2023 will mark nearly a quarter of a century of uninterrupted and continuous democratic rule in Nigeria,” he argued.