Festus Okoye, National Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in-charge of North-West, on Tuesday, announced that the commission had taken ‘bold steps’ to expand 1,340 voting points in Kebbi state.
He disclosed this at a Stakeholders’ Forum meeting on “Expansion of Voters Access to Polling Units” held at the INEC state headquarters, Birnin Kebbi.
Mr Okoye, who is also the National Commissioner on Information and Voter Education, said a few existing polling points would be relocated to other locations to enable the electorate have access to them.
“The commission is fully ready to expand 1,340 polling points in Kebbi state and relocate a few existing ones to locations where the electorate will have access to them.
“Since 1996, about 25 years ago, the same polling units created for about 50 million voters are still in existence till today while the national population had grown to over 200 million.
“In 1999, the same polling units were used for an electorate of 57 million, while in 2011, 2015 and 2019, the same polling units were used for 61.5million voters, 73.5 million voters, and 80 million voters respectively”, he said.
He explained that what the commission was doing and what it would be doing continuously would be to promote inclusivity and consultation on its programmes and policies.
“Sine 1996, when the last polling units were created, no polling units were created. And as at the time these polling units were created, the voter population was 50 million.
“During the 2019 voter registration, we had a voter population of over 80 million and we still remained with the same number of polling units.
“As such, the commission decided that all the polling points in existence should be converted to full polling units. We would take these polling points to underserved areas,” he said.
Mr Okoye added that the commission was working towards carrying all stakeholders along, so that they would track what was going on before the commencement of voter registration on June 20, 2021.
Earlier, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kebbi State, Ahmed Bello-Mahmud, noted that the commission was ready to make history for itself by expanding and creating new polling units, after over 25 years.
He said due to congestion and inaccessibility of polling units, many voters had been disfranchised, observing that with the expansion of the polling units and creation of new ones, voter apathy would be drastically reduced.
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In a remark, the Kebbi State Chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC), Bala Sanni-Kangiwa, described the development as a good reform that would enable party supporters to vote.
He said: “the more polling units we have, the less congestion we would experience, leading to less voter apathy and less crowd situation.
“So, it is a very good exercise and I want to commend the commission for the programme. I hope they will sustain the exercise for the good of democracy and the nation.
“It is going to benefit our political parties because more of our supporters will now have the opportunity to vote.”