By Joy Odor
The Chairman, Independent National Electroal Commission INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has disclosed that Nigeria now has 176,846 full-fledged Polling Units, 25 years since the current Polling Units were created in 1996, saying the hard nut is finally and successfully cracked after several unsuccessful attempts.
REMARKS BY HONOURABLE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT A MEETING WITH THE RESIDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSIONERS (RECs) HELD AT THE INEC CONFERENCE ROOM, ABUJA, ON WEDNESDAY 16TH JUNE 2021
Resident Electoral Commissioners
The Secretary to the Commission
Directors and other Senior Officials of the Commission
Members of the INEC Press Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. It is my pleasure to welcome you all to our second meeting in less than one month, the last being the emergency session held on Wednesday 19th May 2021 in the wake of the attacks on our facilities nationwide. You may recall that at the last meeting, we resolved to reconvene in a regular session on the outcome of the expansion of voter access to Pulling Units in relation to our preparations for the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
2. You may also recall that the Commission addressed a press conference on the CVR two months ago on 1st April 2021. In announcing Monday 28th June 2021 as the date for the resumption of the exercise, the Commission informed Nigerians that it needed some time to conclude work on the expansion of voter access to Polling Units by converting the Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements to full-fledged Polling Units. We also promised that details of the new Polling Units would be made available to Nigerians ahead of the resumption of the CVR exercise. By doing so, fresh registrants and those seeking transfer will know the new Polling Units. This will enable them to choose their preferred voting locations on Election Day.
3. As you are aware, 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. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. However, 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. 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.
8. The new approved Polling Units for each State of the Federation and FCT will be presented to the public in 37 volumes at this meeting. Meanwhile, the entire report has already been uploaded on the INEC website (www.inecnigeria.org). Infographics of the distribution of the new Polling Units on State-by-State basis and the FCT have also been uploaded on the Commission’s website and social media platforms.
9. 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.
10. 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 too are those of the FCT Area Council election holding on 12th February 2022.
11. 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.
12. Once again, I welcome our Resident Electoral Commissioners to this crucial meeting. May God continue to bless our efforts.