By Michael Paul
The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) has thrown its weight behind the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) decision to expand voter access to polling units in Nigeria.
The Situation Room which is a coalition of over 70 Civil Society Organizations in a statement said it will be observing this week’s commencement of the INEC’s programme of expansion of Voter Access to Polling Units, with a view to reporting on the implementation of the exercise.
The statement was signed by Ene Obi, Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room; Asma’u Joda, Co-Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and James Ugochukwu, Co-Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room.
The coalition however, listed some issues, which it said INEC should address because they are critical to the conduct of the 2023 elections.
For instance, it urged INEC to ensure that polling units are sited in open and spacious areas that make it practicable to comply with election guidelines and enhance the secrecy of ballots.
The statement reads in full:
Situation Room welcomes INEC’s initiative to expand voter access to polling units in Nigeria. The creation of more polling units and the enhancement of existing polling units and voting points are essential to improving the quality of Nigerian elections and voter turnout, which has steadily declined in recent times.
Situation Room enjoins the Commission to work towards ensuring that the issues highlighted in its policy documents and communiqués from its engagements with stakeholders, are reflected in the final result of the exercise. Some of these issues have been recurring in election observers’ reports and have posed challenges to Nigeria’s elections over time. As stated in its discussion paper, INEC is expected to address the following concerns in this exercise:
· Polling units are sited in open and spacious areas that make it practicable to comply with election guidelines and enhance the secrecy of ballots.
· Polling units are created for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps across the country and persons residing in rural communities located within difficult terrains.
· Polling units have sufficient covering to shield voters from adverse weather conditions.
· Proper relocation of polling units and voting points currently sited in private residences.
· Polling units are made accessible and conducive for vulnerable groups such as Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), women, youth and elderly persons.
Situation Room calls on INEC to ensure that it adheres strictly to the guidelines it set out for the exercise, as it is critical to the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
Situation Room also calls on INEC to create more awareness on the exercise, to enable registered voters and new registrants locate their respective polling units ahead of elections. Situation Room enjoins all election stakeholders and the Nigerian people to support the efforts of the Commission towards enhancing the structure of voting locations in the country, as part of preparations for the 2023 general elections and other major off-cycle elections.