INEC declared in Abuja on Wednesday that management of large crowds at many polling units remained a challenge at elections.
Its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the declaration at INEC’s first quarter meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) for this year.
Yakubu said that with only 119,973 Polling Units serving a voter population of more than 84 million, Nigeria faced an acute problem of voter access to polling units.
He noted that it was more worrisome as the number of eligible voters would increase when fresh registration resumed.
“The management of large crowds at many polling units across the country has been challenging to commission officials and members of ICCES.
“This in some cases result in the late commencement of polls or the disruption of the sorting and counting of ballots at polling units.
“Such disruptions often have consequences on electoral outcomes leading, in some instances, to avoidable supplementary elections.
“As you are aware, the success of elections is largely a reflection of what happens at the polling unit level. It is the only point at which votes are cast by eligible citizens.
“What follows thereafter is the collation process leading to the declaration of results.
“However, the large crowds at some of our polling units on Election Day remain a challenge to the orderly management of elections.
“In your reports to the Commission, some members of ICCES have alluded to this problem,” he said.
Yakubu recalled that the current polling units were established in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria to serve a projected population of about 50 million voters.
“Over the last 25 years, the voter population has increased. New settlements have also emerged.
“However, in spite of these demographic and spatial changes, the number of polling units has remained the same as it was a quarter of a century ago. This problem must be addressed,” he said.
He said previous attempts by the Commission to expand voter access to polling units in 2007, 2014 and before the 2019 general elections were unsuccessful.
Yakubu expressed the appreciation of the Commission for the roles played by members of ICCES in the conduct of two off-cycle governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States in September and October 2020 respectively.
He also commended the members for their roles during the 16 legislative by-elections in 12 states in the last nine weeks.
The INEC chairman urged ICCES members to maintain the same level of professionalism at upcoming elections and ultimately at the 2023 general elections.
These, according to him, include the Anambra governorship election on Nov. 6 and the legislative by-election for Kafin Hausa State Assembly constituency in Jigawa holding on March 6.
In his remarks, the National Security Adviser, Retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, commended the synergy between INEC and security agencies in recent elections in Edo and Ondo States and during other by-elections.
Monguno also commended the professionalism displayed by security personnel and expressed optimism that future elections would be better.
He urged INEC to redouble efforts to ensure that the upcoming election in Anambra was devoid of rancour.
He commended INEC for expanding its ICCES committee to include the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the National Orientation Agency, saying their inclusion would further enlighten voters and mitigate the second wave of COVID-19.
Monguno was represented at the event by one of his officers, Mr Sanusi Galadima.
It was reported that the meeting was attended by representatives of security agencies and those of paramilitary agencies.