On 25 February and 11 March 2023, voters will head to polling units to elect a President, National Assembly members, 28 governors and 993 State House of Assembly members. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has repeatedly emphasized “No PVC, no voting.” However, it is alleged that over 7 million registered voters may be disenfranchised if they are unable to locate their polling units on or before election day.

In 2021, INEC created 56,872 new polling units, which means there will be 176,846 polling units for the 2023 elections. Also, the commission involuntarily migrated voters to new polling units while some voters voluntarily chose new voting locations during the last Continuous Voter Registration.

With less than 7 days to the elections, voters are faced with the challenge of identifying their polling units. The recent mock accreditation exercise carried out nationwide, using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), revealed this, as some voters turned up at the wrong polling units. INEC has not released an official report on the exercise; however, Yiaga Africa, an election observer group, released a report which stated, “The exercise reveals underlying challenges with the relocation of voters to new polling units without notice to the voters.”

INEC’s solution to this problem is to send bulk text messages to citizens voting in new polling units. The commission is also offering two ways by which all voters can locate and confirm their polling units before Election Day. One of them is by sending a normal text message to a phone number provided by the Commission while the second is by visiting their website and using the Voter Verification Service.

Many Nigerians have received these text messages and responded with suspicion; first, regarding the veracity of the information; and secondly, with anger at the late arrival of the information. The INEC Chairman attempted to sound a note of hope in his remarks when he said: “I urge all eligible voters to confirm their voting locations ahead of Election Day. In doing so, you would be contributing to our avowed commitment to deliver credible, inclusive, transparent elections.”

INEC’s mandate to deliver credible, inclusive and transparent elections will be challenged as a result of poor management of this exercise and the implications of disenfranchising millions of voters, who would be unable to locate their polling units on or before Election Day.