By Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has converted 1,374 voting points in Akwa Ibom State to Polling Units in the expansion of voter access to Polling Units exercise across the country.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner,(REC) in the state, Mr. Mike Igini who made this known during the stakeholders meeting held weekend in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, said the new Polling Units(PUs), were added to the existing 2,980 to bring the total number of PUs in the state to 4,354.
Igini explained that the expansion of voter access to the Polling Units project in the country has become very important because it gives spice and piquancy to democracy as well as meaning and purpose to the right to vote.
He stressed that the phenomenal increase in the number of registered voters relative to the limited 2,980 Polling Units had led to over-crowded and over-congested Polling Units in the state during past elections.
He stressed” This is the situation the Commission is seeking address given that limited access to polling units have become a discouraging factor for voter participation and the voting process, resulting in delays, disruptions, violence, and voter apathy.
“To address these problems, the Commission pursuant to its power under section 42 of the Electoral Act to establish a sufficient number of polling units in each Registration Area and allot voters to such polling Units” decided to convert the existing and well-known one thousand, three hundred seventy-four (1,374) voting points to full-fledged Polling Units.
“This brings the total number of polling units in Akwa Ibom State to four thousand, three hundred and fifty-four (4,354). The entire ongoing process is data-driven and based on demographic and spatial considerations.
“Without access to convenient voting locations on election day, the right to vote becomes meaningless. The Commission shall remain focused on these and other important integrity-driven issues of the electoral process in the country.
“We appeal to all stakeholders to continue to support the Commission, seek information from the Commission, and try to understand the processes we are putting in place in our efforts at building trust and confidence through this seamless polling unit reforms to increase citizens participation in future elections”
Addressing the stakeholders’ meeting, the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel thanked the INEC, for initiating such a fruitful, important, and historical project aimed at ensuring credible and successful future elections throughout the country, particularly in Akwa Ibom state.
Emmanuel was represented by his deputy, Mr. Moses Ekpo commended the stakeholders drawn from all registered political parties in the state, groups, and associations as well as the security agencies for coming out to support the effort of the commission.
“As a matter of fact, you will agree with Igini who has gone too far to state specific reasons why this has become necessary at this time. What is left for us now, as government, political parties, politicians is to collaborate and work with INEC in publicising this new move to make sure that we have a level playing field, congenial atmosphere that will enable our elections to be what they are expected to be.
“And I want to hope that the sanctity of the Polling Units will be sustained by providing sufficient security in each of those new polling stations. And of course, I think the security agencies have to relate and discuss seriously, with INEC in our state and across the country on this issue”, the governor said.