Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on Saturday, engaged relevant stakeholders in Oyo State on the rationale behind the conversion of the existing voting points into full polling units. The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Mr Mutiu Agboke, while addressing the stakeholders, said that the commission had decided to start early engagement on the urgency of voters having access to polling units. Agboke said that INEC had received many requests regarding creation of more polling units, adding that the existing ones were inadequate. He said that the inadequacy of the existing polling units had made the commission to look into the guidelines to expand voters’ access to polling units. “Among the objectives of the exercise being carried out by the commission is expanding voter access to polling units by converting existing voting points and settlements into full polling units. “And also where necessary, relocating new and existing ones to places where they are closer or more accessible to voters as well as decongest existing polling units by reducing the number of voters per polling unit. “Another objective is to continue to improve the quality of access to electoral services provided to all voters by the commission, including better access to polling units for persons with disabilities (PWDs). “Also, to improve health and safety conditions at polling units during elections in order to comply with COVID-19 protocols, and to address declining voter turnout at elections due to lack of access to polling units.” he said. Agboke, who disclosed that the state had 1,607 voting points and 4,783 polling units, said with the conversion of the voting points, the state would now have 6,390 polling units. He further intimated the stakeholders that continuous voter registration (CVR) would commence on June 28 and last till the third quarter of 2022. Agboke further explained that the commission was migrating from Direct Data Capture Machine (DDCM) to INEC Voter Enrollment Device (IVED), which, said, was based on an android tablets. He urged eligible individuals to seize the opportunity of the exercise to fulfill their important civic responsibility of voting. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that some of the stakeholders at the occasion, in their separate remarks, commended INEC for organising the event and furnishing them with relevant information on activities of the commission. The stakeholders also reiterated their unflinching support for and cooperation with the commission in its efforts at preparing adequately for the conduct of credible and fair elections in 2023. They lauded INEC for converting voting points to polling units, submitting that such decision would reduce some of the challenges usually facing voters during elections. NAN reports that three serving members of House of Representatives, Mr Shina Peller (Iseyin/ Itesiwaju/Iwajowa/Kajola Federal Constituency); Mrs Tolulope Akande-Sadipe (Oluyole) and Dr Muraina Ajibola (Ibarapa North and Ibarapa Central), were present at the meeting. Also in attendance were the state Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mrs Folaje Ayoola; members of Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), led by the Chairman, Mr Adegbenro Fagbemi and representatives of security agencies in the state.The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has created 2,358 additional polling units out of existing voting points in Plateau.

Mr Halilu Pai, the state INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) made this known on Saturday at a stakeholders’ meeting in Jos.

Pai said that prior to the creation of the new polling units, the state had 2, 631 polling units spread across the 17 Local Governments Areas  (LGAs).

“At the end of the field exercise across the 17 LGAs,  a total of 2,358 voting points which satisfied the threshold requirements will be converted to autonomous polling units.

“When the converted voting points are approved by the commission, it will increase the existing 2,631 polling units to a total of 4,989 polling units in the state.

“This is to avail voters better access to polling units and serve previously unserved/poorly served areas,” Pai said.

He said that the conversion of the voting points to polling units was subject to approval by the national headquarters of INEC.

He explained that the creation became imperative as the existing polling units created in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission (NECON) were no longer adequate due to increase in population of the state.

Pai said that the objective of the exercise was basically to, among other benefits, expand voter access to polling units.

“As much as possible, the location of polling units shall be in accordance with the detailed guidelines issued by the commission.

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“They shall be accessible and in spacious facilities such as schools, town halls, health centres, court premises and recreational centres.

“The location shall be central in non-sectarian and adequately sheltered public places.

“Under no circumstance shall polling units be located in facilities that are in dispute, private compounds, royal palaces, residences of government officials, political party buildings or religious worship centres.

“Moreover, any building into which a voter may be denied access will not be considered,” he said

Pai said the National Commissioner in charge of North Central, Mr Muhammed Haruna led the verification team comprising of technical staff from the headquarters, the REC and other staff to conduct the verification which lasted from April 21 to April 29.

He, however, appealed for understanding as the exercise may not have completely met all demands or requests for polling units in the state.

Mr Edward Egbuka, the state Commissioner of Police, appealed to Nigerians, particularly politicians to support INEC to be truly independent.

Egbuka, represented by ACP Aliyu Ishaq appealed to the commission to quickly approve the new polling units to enable police and other security agencies make adequate security arrangements for the 2023 election.(NAN)

Vanguard News Nigeria

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