The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday said it would by the first quarter of 2020 take courageous decisions on the creation of additional polling units.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, announced this at a dialogue session organised by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room), in Abuja.
The session was held with INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) ahead of Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship elections.
Okoye said that the commission would consult critical stakeholders and take bold steps and decisions on ”the creation of additional polling units and alterations and or adjustment of constituencies.”
He said that the commission could no longer continue with the ad hoc procedure of creating Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements.
The current arrangements of voting points according to him is stop-gap measures to ease the voting process and create opportunities for people in new settlements not covered by previous polling units.
Okoye said that the commission would also work in collaboration with the National Assembly and the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation in effecting reforms to the electoral legal framework.
He urged Nigerians to have faith in the electoral process and work towards democratic consolidation.
Okoye noted that at the conclusion of the 2019 general elections, aggrieved parties and candidates filed and served the commission with 807 petitions.
He said that the number was, however, regarded by some people as huge and a sign of regression in the electoral process.
“However, as at the Oct. 25, the petitioners withdrew 190 petitions while 570 were dismissed, four are still pending while 42 of the petitions were determined in favour of the petitioners,” he said.
Okoye also urged civil society groups and organisations to train their observers well.
He said that observers must conform to the code of conduct and exhibit a high sense of patriotism in carrying out their observations.
Speaking on the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections, Okoye urged all political parties, their candidate and all the major stakeholders in the election to respect and protect the right of the registered voters to free choice.
He said that voters must be allowed to go to the polling units unmolested, without fear, without intimidation and without being harmed.
“Our young men and women that have volunteered to serve as ad hoc must be allowed to serve without harassment, intimidation or threat of losing their lives.
“To this end, the commission will not accept or tolerate any form of harm on its ad hoc electoral personnel.
“We will on no account tolerate siege on its Collation Centres or the declaration and returns made under dubious circumstances,” Okoye said.
He said that the commission would move for greater clarity relating to the powers of its Collation/ Returning Officers.
He added that INEC had put in place better processes and procedures that would prevent the violation of the powers to make declarations and return under the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Okoye also urged all categories of ad hoc staff, including Collation and Returning Officers to pay close attention to their trainers.
“The sorting, collation, declaration and returns in election are simple and at the same time complex.
“Innocuous mistakes and alterations that may be overlooked in certain and normal circumstances sometimes lead to fatal consequences in the electoral process.
“Majority of our ad hoc staff performed creditably in the last general elections and other previous elections and we commend their commitment and patriotism.
“However, the commission has banned some ad hoc staff who abused the trust reposed on them during the 2019 general elections,” he said. (NAN)