By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja, May 4, 2021(NAN) The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday commenced a nationwide verification exercise for centres proposed for voting units to be converted to polling units across the country,
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this when he visited some of the proposed centres and existing polling units in FCT and Nasarawa State.
Yakubu spoke with newsmen at the exercise at the INEC’s office in Karu Local Government, Nasarawa State.
The chairman said that the purpose of the verification exercise was to ensure that the right thing was done in the conversion of the voting points to polling units.
“All the National Commissioners are out, visiting the states of the Federation to verify the work of converting the voting points to polling units.
“So, we decided from the headquarters to visit some of the polling units and voting points in the FCT and also in the Karu Local Government, Nasarawa State.
“We have done that of FCT, we are now in Karu.
“You will recall that as part of our engagement with stakeholders, we show images of one of the congested polling units in the country from Karu in Nasarawa State.
“So, I have to verify that the right thing is being done in converting those voting points to polling units and relocating them in line with the Commission’s guidelines.
“So far, it is a work in progress. At the end of the exercise will address the media,” he said.
The INEC Chairman said he had been informed that 395 voting points were being converted to polling units in Karu Local Government.
Yakubu said that with the conversion of voting points to polling units, there would be expanded access to polling units for voters, while congestion of polling units would be eliminated in future elections.
“What we have done, basically, is to build on what we did in 2019. Recall that we are converting the voting points used for the 2019 elections into autonomous polling units and relocating them.
“This is going to be a continuous process. One exercise will not solve the problem.
“But we hope we have established the mechanism that going forward, the commission will be adjusting the number of polling units as the number of registered voters increases,” he said.
He gave assurance that the Continuous Voters Registration exercise would commence on June 28 after the PUs conversion.
He added that voters would be given the opportunity to choose the location they wish to be their new polling units.
He urged stakeholders and community leaders to support the commission and sensitise the people on the ongoing exercise for the conversion of polling units.
Some of the centers visited by Yakubu include PUs located in Government Secondary School Life Camp, Apo Legislative Quarters, and Zone-D entrance gate Apo, in the FCT.
Others include the commission’s office in Mararaba, Karu Local Government office and Karu International market in Nasarawa State.
Also speaking with newsmen, National Commissioner, Mohammed Haruna, said that the visit was to ensure the fieldwork carried out by the officers of the commission for conversion exercise was okay.
Haruna said that at the end of the verification exercise, INEC would hold a stakeholders’ meeting to inform stakeholders what the commission had done as well as to get their inputs.
He said that the process of the PUs conversion was in three stages namely the fieldwork, which was undertaken by INEC Electoral officers.
“The next stage is a verification and that is what we have embarked on from Monday, which was a public holiday, from May 3 to May 7 and from May 8, we will do stakeholders meeting,” he said.
He said that when that was concluded the CVR would commence by June 28.
Some of the PUs visited in Abuja included PU001 located at Minister’s Gate, Life Camp; Government Secondary School – Life Camp which also served as a collation center.
INEC Electoral Officer, Abuja Municipal Area Council, Mrs Falimatu Bakare, explaining work done so far to Yakubu at the minister gate said before now, the PU had one polling unit and six voting points.
Bakare said that four of the voting points were being moved to other public and open spaces including Stella Maris School, Paradise Caffee Garden and others for easy access to voters around the area.
Also conducting the chairman’s team to the visited location in Nasarawa, INEC Electoral officer in Karu Local Government, Mr Idris Maikazua, said the voting points were moved out to public places to accommodate areas far from the existing polling units.
These areas according to him, including Aso, Karu e-library, Karu abattoir, City College of Education, Ruga Market, Mararaba International Market and other public and open spaces