Text of an address by INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu during a meeting with party leaders of political parties and other critical stakeholders on the 2023 general elctions held on Monday, in Abuja
1. I warmly welcome you all to this meeting. We appreciate that you are in the middle of your electioneering campaigns nationwide and yet found time to attend this meeting in spite of the short notice. We thank you for your presence and wish to assure you that meeting will not be long so that you can resume your campaigns and other activities towards the 2023 General Election.
2. We have consistently assured the leaders of political parties that the Commission will regularly consult you with a view to bringing you up to date on the preparations for the forthcoming elections.
3. Let me therefore start with the issue of polling units. You may recall that in 2021, with your support and that of other critical stakeholders, the Commission successfully expanded voter access to polling units 25 years after the last delimitation exercise in 1996. Consequently, the number of polling units increased from 119,973 to the current figure of 176,846.
4. At previous meetings, we also briefed you on our efforts to redistribute voters to the polling units in order to avoid the congestion that made voting cumbersome in many of them nationwide. This requires the redistribution of voters to new polling units in proximate locations. Where they are separated by distance, this must be done after consultation with the voters. This has been done by our State offices nationwide. However, there are 240 polling units without registered voters spread across 28 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). They range from one polling unit to 12 polling units in each State and the FCT, except Taraba and Imo States with 34 and 38 polling units respectively. No new registrants chose the polling units and no voters indicated interest to transfer to them during the last Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), mainly for security reasons. This means that no elections will hold in these polling units.
5. In our avowed commitment to transparency, the Commission is making available to Nigerians a comprehensive list of these polling units by name, code number and their locations by State, Local Government and Registration Area. With this development, the number of polling units where elections will hold nationwide on 25th February 2023 and 11th March 2023 is now 176,606. Hard copies of the list are included in your folders for this meeting. Above all, Nigerians deserve the right to know the locations of these polling units. Accordingly, the soft copy of the list has been uploaded to our website and social media platforms for public information and guidance.
6. Closely related to the distribution of voters is the identification of polling units. From the feedback we received from our officials and accredited observers following the recent nationwide mock accreditation using the BVAS, it is clear that some voters could not easily identify their polling units. This should not happen on election day. Consequently, the Commission is advising voters to confirm the locations of their polling units through a dedicated portal on our website. In addition, all voters who have been assigned to new polling units will receive text messages from the Commission indicating their polling units. We have also compiled the register of such voters and our State offices will give it wide publicity, especially for those who may not have provided their telephone numbers during voter registration or those whose numbers may have changed. Voters can locate and confirm their polling units before election day by sending a regular text or WhatsApp message to a dedicated telephone number. Details of the simple procedure will be uploaded to our social media platforms shortly.
7. As you are already aware, we have less than two weeks to the 2023 General Election. The Commission is finalising the issuance of 1,642,386 identification tags for the Polling and Collation Agents nominated by the 18 political parties made up of 1,574,301 Polling Agents and 68,085 Collation Agents. I urge the Chairmen and leaders of political parties to ensure that only agents accredited by the Commission and wearing the correct identification tags appear at polling units and collation centres during elections. A situation where two or more agents claim to represent a political party, resulting in commotion at polling units or collation centres, is unacceptable. Only Identification tags issued by the Commission will be recognised on election day and violators are liable to arrest and prosecution for impersonation.
8. Turning to the ongoing electioneering campaigns, the Commission is concerned about violent attacks on supporters of political parties across the board, resulting in the loss of life in some cases. Let me once again appeal to Chairman and leaders of political parties to continue to call your candidates and supporters to order. I also call on the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to arrest, investigate and prosecute anyone involved in violent conduct, including incendiary statements capable of inciting a breach of the peace.
9. Once again, I welcome you to this meeting. Thank you and God bless.