The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Wednesday unveiled 56,872 converted Polling Units, increasing the total number across the country from 119,974 to 176,846.
The conversion of Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements to PUs is expected to facilitate the Commission’s plan to roll out the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise on 28th June.
Speaking at the unveiling which was done during the Commission’s meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in Abuja, Prof. Yakubu noted that, “twenty-five years since the current Polling Units were created in 1996, the hard nut is finally successfully cracked after several unsuccessful attempts.”
Providing the background, Prof Yakubu observed that the history of creating and expanding PUs in Nigeria had been long and complex, adding that issues relating to adequacy, accessibility, number and location of PUs across the country were among the challenges that had to be tackled.
According to him, “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”.
Furthermore, he noted that, “Following several unsuccessful attempts to create additional Polling Units despite the obvious pressure from an 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.”
Prof. Yakubu noted that after wide-ranging consultations with stakeholders and fieldwork by INEC officials, the 56,872 Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements were converted and added to the existing 119,974 Polling Units.
He affirmed: “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.”
He also revealed that after consultation with stakeholders, the Commission successfully removed 749 PUs from inappropriate locations to appropriate public facilities or open spaces in line with the Commission’s policy to guarantee unencumbered access to PUs for all voters.
He gave the breakdown as follows; “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.”
In view of the Commission’s advanced preparations already made, Prof. Yakubu explained, four pending bye-elections in Kaduna, Jigawa and Plateau States will be the last to be conducted using a combination of PUs and VPs.
He said: “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 with the Anambra State Governorship election that will be held on 6th November 2021, there will be no Voting Points anymore in Nigeria.”
While Prof. Yakubu acknowledged that the RECs and Commission’s Staff spared no effort to ensure the success of the exercise, he also affirmed that the historic accomplishment could not have been possible without the support and understanding of Nigerians.