Ahead of preparations for the 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is pushing for the creation of additional 57,023 polling units.
The initiation is to enable more Nigerians to vote.
The agency has called a meeting for on Friday with the political parties in Abuja to table its proposals.
The INEC will also hold talks with Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Arewa Consultative Forum, PANDEF, the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs( NSCIA) and civil society groups, to secure their support for the plan.
If all the stakeholders endorse INEC’s plans, it will be the first time since 1996 that additional polling units, will be created.
Despite its surging population, the nation’s Polling Units in the last 25 years have remained at 119,973.
INEC will also no longer allow the setting up of Polling Units in private compounds, royal palaces, government houses, political party buildings, or facilities that are in dispute.
The proposals are contained in an INEC document titled “The State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria”.
Section 42 of the Electoral Act empowers INEC to create Polling Units.
Although INEC has not succeeded in the last 25 years to create more Polling Units because of suspicion, it explained that the time is ripe now.
In the document, the INEC said it is weighing three options.
Conversion of the existing 57,023 Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements to Polling Units
Application by residents of new area/settlement for Polling Units
Creation of Polling Areas in line with Section 13(3) of the Electoral Act 2010(as amended).
Although INEC said it has received 5,747 requests from communities and groups across the country, the electoral agency said it prefers to convert the existing 57,023 to Polling Units (PUs).
It claimed that such conversion will be less controversial.
It added: “The current configuration of 119,973 Polling Units was established by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) in 1996.
“In the nearly 25-year period since then, every attempt to review or reconfigure the Polling Unit structure has been unsuccessful for sundry reasons. Consequently, the 1996 Polling Unit configuration was used for the 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 General Elections.
“When the Polling Unit structure was established in 1996, it was projected to serve about 50 million registered voters. However, the number of registered voters for the 1999 General Election was 57.93 million.
“This rose to 60.82 million in 2003, 61.56 million in 2007 and 73.52 million in 2011. Although the number declined to 68.83 million for the 2015 General Election following the cleaning up of the register through the use of Automated Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS) to eliminate double registrants, it rose to 84.04 million in 2019 as a result of the Commission embarking on a robust continuous voter registration exercise, as prescribed by law.
“The import of this development is that while the number of registered voters increased from 57.93 million in 1999 to 84.04 million in 2019, which is an increase of 45 percent, the number of Polling Units remained the same. This lack of correlation between the number of registered voters and the number of Polling Units since 1999 has resulted in congested Polling Units on Election Day and lack of Polling Units in many developing suburban and newly established settlements.
“The effects have been low voter turnout and voter apathy, insecurity at the Polling Units, disruption of elections and, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, unsafe voting environments.
“Indeed, presently, the average number of voters per Polling Unit in Nigeria, which stands at 700, is 37% more than the situation in Ghana.