- N’Assembly promises to provide better voting environment
By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that failure to create more polling units across the country before the 2023 general election may hamper the integrity of the polls.
This comes as both chambers of the National Assembly have agreed to do everything legislatively possible to provide better voting environment for the citizens.
The Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this during a meeting of the Joint Committee on INEC with INEC Chairman on the state of voter access to polling units in Nigeria.
In his presentation, Yakubu lamented that the existing polling units, which were established in 1996, were no longer adequate for voters to freely vote.
This crisis, he said, is disenfranchising millions of Nigerians and could damage the credibility of elections in Nigeria if not solved.
Yakubu, while revealing that the commission received over 10,092 requests for additional polling units across the country, said the commission had considered a lot of solutions to the problem and converting the voting points to polling units is the best option.
”The problem is nationwide. There are at present 10,092 requests for polling units from all over the country and rising. In other jurisdiction, expanding voter access to polling units is purely administrative, Nigeria should aim for that. Conversion of voting points into polling units is the least controversial, timely and inexpensive solution,” the INEC Chairman said.
Speaking further, he appealed to the lawmakers to help depoliticise the issues involved and support the commission to build a national consensus to solve the problems.
Yakubu also urged the lawmakers to support the commission’s efforts to convert existing voting points to polling units and relocate some of them to underserved areas.
In his address, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said that the National Assembly will support INEC fully in ensuring that it provides a better voting environment for the citizens.
Lawan however drew the attention of the stakeholders to poor voter participation.
He appealed to the commission, politicians, political parties and CSOs to mobilize voters to participate.
Lawan said: ”We had about 50 million voters in 1996, and now we have over 85 million. One thing however that interested me is the level of participation. Only 35 per cent of voters participated in the 2019 presidential election. That translates into less than 30 million Nigerians who participated. So the issue is not only creating more polling units but mobilizing voters to participate.”
He also promised that both chambers will ensure the passage of the electoral act and constitution amendment by June this year.
”The electoral act amendment is something we’ve taken very seriously and our committees both in the Senate and House are working so hard and the two chambers are prepared to look into the reports. I assure Nigerians that the electoral act amendment, constitution review that both chambers are working on will be passed before we go on our summer break in June,” Lawan said
Corroborating Lawan’s statement, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, said they are committed to electoral reforms to improve the way Nigerians elect the men and women who superintendent their affairs.
The Speaker, who was represented by the House Leader, Hon. Ado Doguwa, said: ”Polling units are essential in ensuring that all our people have access to electoral process and that their votes count towards electing leaders who represent their best interest. This consideration should inform our decision about how and where to put new polling units across the country.”