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2019 ELECTIONS: Party Kicks As INEC Names Buhari’s Niece, Zakari Result Collation Panel Chair

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2019 ELECTIONS: Party Kicks As INEC Names Buhari's Niece, Zakari Result Collation Panel Chair

The Independent National Electoral Commission on Thursday inaugurated ad hoc committees on the Electoral Logistics and the National Collation Centre.

While the ad hoc committee on the Electoral Logistics is chaired by an INEC National Commissioner, Air Vice Marshal  Tijjani Mu’azu (retd.), another INEC National Commissioner, Amina  Zakari, has been named the chairman of the ad hoc committee on National Collation Centre.

But the opposition political parties led by the Peoples Democratic Party have rejected the appointment of Zakari as the chairperson of the Committee on National Collation Centre, claiming that she is President Muhammadu Buhari’s niece.

Buhari is the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the 2019 presidential election.

But apart from Mu’azu, other members of the Adhoc Committee on Electoral Logistics are Abubakar Nahuche (National Commissioner) and Mallam Mohammed Haruna (National Commissioner).

The representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Department of State Services, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force are members of the committee.

Other members of the committee are INEC Director of Electoral Operations Department; Director, Estate Works and Transport; Director, Procurement and Director of Stores (Secretary).

Apart from Zakari, other members of the ad hoc Committee on Collation Centre are Prof. Anthonia T. Okoosi-Simbine (National Commissioner); Festus Okoye (National Commissioner/Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee); Chief Technical Adviser to INEC Chairman, Prof. Bolade Eyinla; and Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi.

Also named as members were INEC Director, International Cooperation and Protocol Department; Director, ICT Department; Director, Election and Party Monitoring Department; Director, Security Department; Director, Planning and Monitoring Department; Director, Health Services Department and Director, INEC Secretariat (Secretary).

Yakubu said with the inauguration of the two committees, the commission was taking another step in its determination to ensure seamless preparations for the 2019 general elections.

He said, “As we move closer to the elections, the commission has decided to set up two ad hoc committees to drive important components of the electoral process. The first committee is responsible for electoral logistics. The commission is aware that the conduct of the general elections is the biggest and most complex logistics operation a nation can undertake.

“Sensitive and non-sensitive materials procured by the commission must be delivered to almost 200,000 locations nationwide, ranging from the polling units to the various ward, local government, state and the national collation centres for the 1,558 constituencies into which elections will be conducted.

“At the end of the elections, sensitive materials will be retrieved from the same locations. The same process will be repeated for each of the two phases of the 2019 general elections, namely the Presidential and National Assembly elections holding on February 16 and the governorship, state assembly and area council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on March 2.

“For the 2019 general elections, the Electoral Logistics Committee will be responsible for coordinating logistics support as well as the clearance and transportation of election materials to various locations nationwide. The committee includes relevant security agencies whose roles are clearly defined in Section 29(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

“The second ad hoc committee, which is entirely internal to the commission, shall be responsible for the national collation centre from where results of the Presidential election will be announced. As was the case in 2015, the commission will use the International Conference Centre in Abuja. Already, the management of the ICC has approved the commission’s request to once again use the venue in 2019.”

While reassuring Nigerians that INEC was on course to deliver credible elections in 2019, Yakubu confirmed that the commission would meet with the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Friday, January 4, 2019 at 4pm.

According to him, the purpose of the meeting would be to discuss the ongoing strike by ASUU but only in relation to its preparations for the general elections.

He added, “The commission has similarly contacted another critical partner, the Nigeria Labour Congress. We are already in partnership with one of its affiliate unions, the National Union of Road Transport Workers, with which we recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding, on the movement of personnel and materials on election day. The commission plans to meet with the NLC next week.”

Her appointment setting the stage for a political crisis – PDP

Meanwhile, groups including the PDP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance have opposed the appointment of Zakari as the head of the committee on the presidential election coalition centre.

The PDP, at a press conference in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan,  on Thursday rejected  Zakari’s appointment  on the grounds that “she is President Muhammadu Buhari’s blood relation.”

Ologbondiyan said such an appointment would assist Buhari, the APC and INEC to rig the presidential election.

He also said it could fuel violence, adding that it would be injurious to Nigeria’s democracy.

The PDP spokesman stated that the PDP and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, vehemently rejected the appointment.

He, therefore, called on the INEC chairman to rescind the appointment.

Ologbondiyan said, “Today, we have been informed that  Yakubu, apparently in furtherance of the plots to rig the presidential election, has appointed Mrs Amina Zakari, a blood relation (niece) of the APC candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, as the chairperson of INEC Advisory Committee and Presidential Election Collation Centre Committee.

“The PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation vehemently and unequivocally rejects, in its entirety, the appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari, President Buhari’s blood relation, as the head of the collation of results, in the same election in which his uncle, President Buhari, as a candidate, has displayed a huge desperation to win.

“The appointment of  Zakari, who had been openly accused in various quarters as being the link person between INEC and the Buhari Presidency in their schemes to rig the election for President Buhari, constitutes a direct violence against the presidential election and the PDP will not, in any way, whatsoever, accept it.”

He said that in appointing Zakari to head the collation of the presidential election result, the INEC chairman had confirmed that he had been compromised and that he had succumbed to pressure by the Buhari Presidency and APC to open the way for Buhari’s self-succession.

According to him, the fact remained that there was no way Zakari would not allocate votes to her blood relation,  Buhari, whom, Ologbondiyan said,  Nigerians were not ready to return to office as President.

He stated that with Zakari at the head of results collation, there was no way votes cast by Nigerians would count.

Ologbondiyan called on all Nigerians and particularly the National Peace Committee to note that with the appointment of  Zakari  the INEC chairman was setting the stage for “a very huge political crisis,” which, he said,  was capable of derailing Nigeria’s democratic process.

The PDP spokesman urged the United Nations and other global democratic institutions to take copious note of “noxious appointment by the INEC chairman.”

He warned that if Yakubu wanted a peaceful presidential election, he should, with the speed of light, reverse himself on the appointment.

Ologbondiyan added, “All we ask for is a free, fair, credible and transparent electoral process in which the votes of Nigerians will not only count but will be seen to have counted. Like Mr President said during his 2019 budget presentation at the National Assembly, the world is watching us.”

He also raised the alarm that the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, had disallowed the PDP from using the Conference Stadium for campaign.

Ologbondiyan warned that such a development was unhealthy for democracy and fair contest. He called on Buhari to prevail on all the APC governors to allow a level playing field for all candidates before, during and after the elections.

Her appointment is  an attempt to rig – APGA

On its part, APGA  described Zakari’s appointment as a desperate attempt to rig the forthcoming elections.

Mike Angel, the Director of Strategic Communication of the campaign organisation of the party’s presidential candidate, John Gbor, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.

He said the appointment had shown why President Buhari refused to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill into law.

Angel said, “Aside from being nepotistic, it’s highly unethical. It’s a desperate attempt by the APC regime to rig the election wholesale. We can see the reason why President Buhari would not assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.

Name your child INEC chair, Fayose tells Buhari

Also, a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, said a son of Buhari should have been appointed as INEC chairman.

Fayose, in his twitter handle on Thursday wrote,  “Instead of INEC appointing Amina Zakari, a blood relation (niece) of President Buhari, as the chairperson of INEC Advisory Committee and Presidential Election Collation Centre Committee, why not just appoint one of the President’s children as INEC chairman?” Fayose wrote on Twitter.

“The same @inecnigeria that is promising free and fair elections turning around to appoint a known blood relation of President Buhari, a candidate in the election as head of its Collation Committee? Why are these people so brazen in their plot to impose themselves on Nigerians?”

It’s a provocative act of political corruption – Ezekwesili

Also, the Presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, said INEC had bowed to Buhari’s wish.

She asked, “Or how else can one describe this repugnant action of placing the President’s niece, Mrs Amina Zakari, at the head of collation of election results?

“The President and INEC chairman should know that this extremely repugnant and provocative act of political corruption that seeks to undermine our democracy and destabilise the country shall be resisted by all patriotic Nigerians.”

Her appointment not a plot to rig polls, says INEC

But the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, assured Nigerians that the general elections would be credible.

He stated, “Mrs Amina Zakari’s appointment as chairman of the ad hoc Committee on Collation Centre should not be interpreted as a plan to rig the elections. Mrs Zakari played a similar role in the 2015 general elections and I have yet to hear anybody say that the elections were rigged.

“As the National Commissioner in charge of Electoral Operations (not ICT as alleged) before she was redeployed to health services, Mrs Zakari played a major role in the planning and conduct of more than 180 re-run, bye-polls and governorship elections that produced clear winners.

“In fact, the Anambra State governorship election is a good example where neither of the two most influential political parties won.

“Rather than vilify her, Mrs Zakari deserves commendation for the outstanding roles she has played in the country’s electoral system since her appointment as national commissioner.”

A Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Mohammed, had in an interview with Saturday PUNCH on July 23, 2016, said Zakari was the daughter of Buhari’s elder sister.

He had said, “When President Goodluck Jonathan was re-organising INEC and he was bringing in Prof. Attahiru Jega, he reached out to Buhari and asked Buhari to nominate somebody from the North-West so that that person would be a national commissioner. Of all the people in the North-West, Buhari decided to nominate his own niece, the daughter of his elder sister- Amina Zakari.

“She has been there; when Jega left, Buhari was determined to make her chairman, it was because of the massive backlash that he dropped the idea like hot potatoes.

“As we are talking today, that woman is a national commissioner which means she is one of the principal election umpires. Throughout my reading of history, political science and social sciences generally, I have never heard of any dictator or any tyrant under any system of government whether totalitarian or fascist, appointing his own niece to conduct elections in which he was either a party or going to be a party to; Buhari has done that.

“The immediate younger brother to Amina Zakari is currently the Minister for Water Resources representing Jigawa State in the same Buhari government. In addition, even though they are from Kazaure, Kazaure is contiguous to Daura. The eldest sister of both of them is now the Commissioner for Education in the All Progressives Congress government in Jigawa State.

“If this is not nepotism, then I don’t know what is nepotism and anybody who has the guts, the brutal arrogance to appoint these relations not bothering about public opinion, about the sense of justice, about competence, then you can see that he has a very serious question to answer. There are two mysterious cases.”