Senate Committee Chairman on Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), Senator Kabiru Gaya has tasked the Commission on making polling units available for the electorate.
He said it was within the powers of the electoral umpire to make polling units available and accessible, noting that when there is a lack of polling units, the electorates are inadvertently denied their voting rights.
Speaking at a one-day joint Senate and House Committee on INEC and Electoral Matters on Tuesday, the lawmaker stressed that the availability of polling units is the first level of “citizens’ active and physical democratic rights.”
Citing section 42 of the Electoral Act, 2010, Gaya said “The Commission shall establish a sufficient number of polling units in each Registration Area and allot voters to such Polling Units”,
He maintained that if INEC stifled voting accessibility, voters would be discouraged.
He pointed out that the challenge of the 2019 general election was over-populated voters in some polling units, insisting that such developments should not happen in 2021.
“One of the challenges that almost marred the credibility of the 2019 general election especially in densely populated urban and rural registration areas was the accessibility to polling units.
“There were some polling units that had more than 12,000 voters well over the prescribed average number of 500 voters per polling units.
Gaya urged INEC to be proactive in the area of polling units location that is in difficult terrain as well as ensuring that the physically challenged are taken into consideration in accessing polling units, which he revealed would be captured in the proposed Electoral Act amendment Bill, 2021.
In doing this, he said, the National Assembly was ready to support INEC to ensure inclusiveness.
Reacting, INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu confirmed the challenges of voters accessibility.
He assured the parliament that the narrative would change, while displaying the video clip of how overcrowded voters struggled to vote in the last election, he expressed optimism that more polling units will be created with the support of lawmakers.
According to him, no new polling units were created in the last 25 years, even when the population of voters was on steady growth.