The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said that it has approved 1,373 new voting points to decongest overpopulated units and provide for new and emerging settlements in Akwa Ibom.

State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Barr Mike Igini who made this known at a training organised for Electoral Officers and Assistant Electoral Officers on the 2021 expansion plan for voters’ access in Uyo yesterday said this has become imperative following the inability of the country to expand voters’ access for 25 years.

This, according to Igini, has led to the loss of voters’ confidence and the continued disenfranchisement of many eligible voters and thus he said, the training would also equip the trainees with the appropriate knowledge and materials to build trust in the electorates.

“The Commission has succeeded so far in the current efforts through the adoption of a new approach to disabuse the minds of Nigerians who harbour such misconceptions. Thus, apart from the technical issues in this training, it is also about trust-building.

“As a permanent staff, you all may recall that the last time efforts were made to expand voters’ access to ensure ease of voting on Election Day was in 1996. That is a period of twenty-five (25) years ago, with the result that voter’s access to Polling Units and ease of voting on Election Day has been problematic, difficult and chaotic during elections.

“Since 1996 when the number of Polling Units has been 119, 973 there has been a geometric increase in the number of registered voters without a corresponding increase in the number of Polling Units. This trend had resulted in overpopulated polling units across the country.” He said.

The objective of the current efforts the REC stated include to ensure the expansion of more access to voters on election day, leave overpopulated Polling Units to a minimum of 750 to a maximum of 1,000 voters per Polling Unit; and address the declining voters turnout at every election

“This exercise is very important to the Commission for the benefit of the Nigerian people as we approach the 2023 General Elections. Participation in the choice of leadership by the people is the whole essence of democracy and it represents the greatest dimension of Liberal democracy.

“As E.Os and AEOs, you have a duty to educate stakeholders on what this expansion of voters’ access is all about and what it is not in order to avoid unnecessary pressure for favours that you do not have authority to grant to individuals or groups over polling units establishment or allocation.

“In other words, as I said earlier, you need to build trust, restore and sustain the confidence of the Nigerian people in order to make the task of Election Day management easier for all stakeholders.

“The total numbers of voting points in each state across the entire thirty-six states of Nigeria is already settled and known to all. In Akwa Ibom State, we have One Thousand Three Hundred and Seventy-Three (1,373) voting points to be reallocated to decongest overpopulated Polling Units and for new settlements.” He explained.

Only the Commission Igini pointed out has the power to determine the criteria for the implementation of the exercise and advised the participants to adhere strictly to established principles and issued guidelines as field officers warning that punitive measures would be taken by the Commission against those who would breach the guidelines and principles.

Key highlights in the training would include the Commission’s policy on the appropriate location of polling units, how to capture Polling Unit coordinates using UTM GEO map application and enumerating the threshold for voting points.

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