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Nigeria voter turnout hovers around 30, 35% – INEC

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Reviews on 2019 poll have been positive - INEC Chairman

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says voter turnout across Nigeria hovered around 30 to 35 per cent of registered voters in the last two electoral cycles.

INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu disclosed this in Abuja at the Commission’s first consultative meeting with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for 2021 on Tuesday.

Yakubu said while some elections recorded higher percentage of voter turnouts, it was lower in some other elections.

“Over the last two electoral cycles, including off-season elections, voter turnout across the country hovers around 30 to 35 per cent.

“While a few elections had higher percentages, some recent by-elections recorded as low as 8.3 per cent voter turnout in urban an constituency of over 1.2 million registered voters located in the nation’s most densely populated city.

“This unfavourably compares to the average voter turnout of 65-70 per cent in other countries, even in the West Africa region,” he said.

The INEC chairman said that justifiably, CSOs had been urging the Commission to find solutions to the problem.

Yakubu said that as accredited election observers, some CSOs had submitted reports to the commission adding that after studying the reports in details, it was clear that they were concerned about the declining voter turnout in elections in Nigeria.

“The Commission has deeply reflected on the matter. Our conclusion is that several factors are responsible for discouraging voter turnout.

“Among them are inadequate voter and civic education, ineffective voter mobilisation, the fear of violence during elections, unfulfilled promises by elected officials and low public trust in state institutions.

“While the Commission will continue to work with CSOs and all stakeholders to address these challenges, we are also convinced that access to polling units is a critical factor in voter turnout during elections.

“Countries with higher percentages of voter turnout during elections also have adequate and convenient voting locations for eligible voters which are periodically adjusted to reflect increase in voter population, unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria,” he said.

Yakubu said Nigeria has 119,973 polling units established in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) to serve a projected population of 50 million voters.

“The figure remains the same in the last 25 years although the number of registered voters has increased to 84,004,084 by 2019. It is set to rise after we resume the registration of new voters ahead of the 2023 General Election,” Yakubu said.

He said that INEC had reviewed previous efforts aimed at expanding voter access to polling units in 2007, 2014 and before the 2019 General Election and why they were unsuccessful.

Yakubu, said that the commission came to the conclusion that it intention might not have been properly communicated for inputs from Nigerians and therefore misunderstood and politicised.

He said the INEC meeting with CSOs was in furtherance of its consultations with stakeholders, hoping that by doing so, it would better communicate its intention to Nigerians.

He, however, invited for inputs across board on how to address the problem on immediate term and hopefully establish the framework for future adjustments as the need arose.

“I am confident that by working together, we will make history by finally solving the 25-year old problem of expanding voter access to polling units in Nigeria,” Yakubu said.

Emmanuel Oloniruha

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