2nd February 2021
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has finalized arrangements to engage with various stakeholders over its plan to expand voter access to polling units. The consultative meetings, which will begin on 5th February, will involve political parties, civil society organisations, religious leaders, traditional institutions, labour unions, socio-cultural organisations and various arms of the federal and state governments.
The Commission’s decision emerged at the end of its weekly meeting held today in Abuja. According to a statement signed by Barrister Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chair, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), the Commission had for the past several weeks been preparing for the national engagements to discuss the inadequacies of Polling Units in Nigeria and the challenges they pose to election management.
The statement identified some of the challenges potentially disenfranchising millions of Nigerians and posing health risks in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as over-crowding, unserved populations and poor locations.
Okoye said: “For several years, the Commission has tried to address this fundamental challenge to democratic consolidation and election administration with minimal success. This has been mainly due to inadequate engagement between the Commission and stakeholders. Consequently, the Commission has had to resort to interim measures such as creating Voting Points at Polling Units nationwide and establishing Voting Point Settlements in the Federal Capital Territory. These engagements will afford an opportunity for the Commission to consult with stakeholders in order to build a genuine national consensus to address the problem of declining voter access to Polling Units.”
He added: “In the next few weeks, the Commission plans to engage with diverse stakeholders including political parties, civil society organizations, religious leaders, traditional institutions, labour unions, socio-cultural organizations, various arms of the federal government, as well as state governments. Among the burning issues to be addressed at these consultations are the challenges that declining access to Polling Units pose to democracy and election management in Nigeria.”
The Commission appealed to all stakeholders in the electoral process Nigerians at last to cooperate with it to address the issue.