Recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) remapped the country’s electoral landscape to fit the current realities and it was a huge feat in our opinion.
It is a huge feat because previous administrations of the electoral commission have tried but failed to achieve it. But that is not all.
The commission said it has removed polling units from ‘inappropriate’ places and worship centres across the country, numbering 749.
In the breakdown, 232 polling units were removed from private properties, 145 royal palaces, six Mosques, 21 Churches and nine Shrines. The remaining 336 Polling Units were relocated for various reasons which include distance, difficult terrain, congestion, communal conflict, new settlements and general insecurity.
The commission also created 56,872 Polling Units (PUs) which now brings the number to 176,846 full-fledged polling units against its initial 119,974 in the 36 states and Abuja.
To be clear, this was the first time in 25 years that new polling units were created. The last creation of Polling Units was done in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) in 1996 when Chief Karibi Gagogo- Jack was chairman of the Commission between 1994- 1998 during the regime of the late former Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
The previous configuration of 119,974 was used for the 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections without being corrected.
We salute the courage of the commission to not just embark on this exercise but to follow it through. We believe that this move is in tandem with the yearnings of Nigerians that institutions take on bold but necessary initiatives as permitted by the constitution in a just and fair manner.
Much more, it is commendable that the commission embarked on this process much earlier compared to previous attempts which were started rather too close to general elections.
Also, as much as the discovery of polling units in awkward areas is no secret, we acknowledge the courage of the Commission to relocate such units to areas that will be accessible to a more diverse voting population devoid of undue influences.
Expectedly, some objections have been raised about the way the polling units were
allotted. Much like the last time, when such an exercise was to be conducted, some leaders from the Southern part of the country had cried injustice, noting that the sharing pattern was skewed in favour of the North.
While It is interesting that this claim is coming after the commission had embarked on consultative meetings before the exercise, we expect that the Commission would want to throw more light on how it allotted the polling units, the criteria adopted so as not to create room for false narrative.
Nevertheless, the gains from the process cannot be overemphasized. It is safe to conjecture that the creation of additional polling units in the six geopolitical zones of the country and the nation’s capital, Abuja could have been carried out to address issues relating spates of violence, voter apathy, insecurity, congestion, lack of safety, among others that are associated with the existing ones.
Without doubt, the additional polling units would hopefully encourage the the citizens exercise their fundamental rights to vote and to make electoral choices freely. To do this, the siting of the polling units must be in areas where voters have access to.
Now that the Commission has achieved this feat, we urge it to keep up the tempo with regards to other issues that have continued to impact negatively on its performance.
We also urge the Commission to devise strategies on how to tackle the challenge of underaged voting, late distribution of electoral materials and address other logistics issues as well as having well-trained adhoc staff.
We do acknowledge that the commission cannot do all these alone even though it is the lead agency as far as management of elections in the country are concerned.
We encourage the other critical stakeholders like political parties, security agencies among others to play their role. As the events shape up ahead of the next general election, the desire is that the quality of elections will be a huge improvement from the previous ones.