In continuation of its extensive stakeholder consultation with a view to securing national acceptance of its planned expansion of voter access to polling units, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), today met with representatives of Professional Bodies and Labour Unions.
Addressing participants at the meeting, INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, explained that the purpose of the ongoing consultation is to build a broad national consensus towards addressing the crisis of voter access to Polling Units in Nigeria.
Professor Yakubu expressed satisfaction with the encouraging outcomes of consultations previously held with other stakeholder groups, and said the inputs will assist the Commission in formulating the Guidelines for the implementation of the policy. His words: “We are encouraged by the outcome of the consultations held so far. These consultations are helping us in formulating the Guidelines on the option preferred by stakeholders as we proceed to the implementation stage which will also involve further consultations in the field.
“We are approaching this exercise systematically because it is central to democratic elections. Voter access to Polling Units gives meaning to the right to vote. Without access to convenient voting locations on election day, the right to vote is undermined and therefore meaningless”.
The INEC Chairman used the opportunity to appeal to the National Assembly to expedite action on the Amendment to the Electoral Act. He said “In addition to voter access to Polling Units, the Commission will continue to work with the National Assembly to ensure the speedy passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill”.
He continued “This is critical to our work because it is the legal framework that governs our activities. We have been re-assured by the National Assembly that work on the Bill will be concluded in the next few months. Let me once again appeal to the National Assembly for expeditious consideration and passage of the Bill.
In addition, we are also preparing to engage with the leadership of the National Assembly on the issue of the division, revision and alteration of electoral constituencies in Nigeria. The Commission’s discussion paper on the matter is being finalized”
Commenting on other areas the Commission is working to improve its processes, Professor Yakubu, informed that effort is being intensified to introduce new technology-driven innovations in the electoral process.
He said “while we are pursuing the expansion of voter access to Polling Units and reform of the electoral legal framework through the quick passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law, the Commission is also working hard on the resumption of voters’ registration. This will enable citizens that have not registered before or those that may wish to transfer their registration to other areas where they wish to vote in future elections to do so. We are also working on new innovations to deepen the deployment of technology to improve electoral integrity in Nigeria. The Commission shall remain focused on these and other important issues. For this reason, we appeal to Labour Unions and Professional Associations to continue to support the Commission”.
The INEC Chairman informed the meeting that “over the next three weeks, the Commission will conduct bye-elections in three States of the Federation starting with Ekiti East State Constituency 1 this weekend, followed by the Aba North/Aba South Federal Constituency bye-election in Abia State on 27th March 2021 and then the Isoko North State Constituency in Delta State on 10th April 2021”.
“We wish to assure registered voters and all stakeholders in the affected constituencies that the Commission is ready for these bye-elections. Again, like all the elections held since August last year, results from the Polling Units will be uploaded to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) for public view in real-time on Election Day”, he said.
Responding on behalf of the Professional Associations and Labour Unions present, Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON) and Executive Secretary, Nigeria Elections Debate Group, (NEDG), Eddie Emessiri, commended the Commission for the well documented and explicitly detailed document shared on the proposed expansion of voter access to polling units.
He encouraged the Commission to comply with the data provided in order to avoid problems that arise as a result of improper implementation of Policies.
In a detailed presentation during the meeting, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Barrister Festus Okoye showed a graphic overview of the present state of Polling Units in the country. According to Commissioner Okoye, the problem of poor access to Polling Units cuts across all parts of Nigeria. He showed the height of the crisis through election day images and finally made a case for expansion of the polling units to give access to more voters.
In attendance at the meeting were National Commissioners: Barrister May Agbamuche-Mbu, Festus Okoye Esq., Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Tijjani Mu’azu (Rtd), Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, and Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu as well as the Secretary to the Commission, Mrs Rose Oriaran-Anthony and other executives of the Commission.