INEC defends Zakari as southern, Middle Belt leaders, others demand her removal




The Independent National Electoral Commission on Sunday allayed Nigerians’ fears over the appointment of a national commissioner, Amina Zakari, as the Chairman of the Committee on the National Collation Centre for the presidential election.

The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, in an interview with one of our correspondents said no individual or group could influence the result of any election in favour of a particular candidate or a party.

He said Zakari would have nothing to do with the technical aspect of the collation of results of the presidential poll.

Groups and individuals including the Peoples Democratic Party and the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Oby Ezekwesili, had last week condemned  Zakari’s appointment,  claiming that she was President Muhammadu Buhari’s niece.


But on Friday, the Presidency said Zakari was not Buhari’s blood relation, saying an “inter-marriage occurred in their extended families.”

Also, Zakari in an interview with the BBC Igbo on Saturday,  said that she was not Buhari’s niece

Explaining the role of Zakari as the chairman of the collation centre committee, Oyekanmi said the panel was saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that power, access to the internet, accreditation of local and international journalists and observers, health and security centres were put in place at the centre.

According to him, Zakari played exactly the same role in the 2015 general elections.

Oyekanmi also faulted a claim by Ezekwesili that Zakari’s appointment was political corruption, “considering that having a relationship with the President, who is a contestant in the February 2019 presidential election, amounts to an apparent conflict of interest situation.”

He stated, “Mrs Zakari will have nothing to do with the technical aspect of collating the results. In any case, the results from the states that will be collated at the centre would have been certified and cannot be tampered with. Mrs Zakari’s responsibility is not even close to that aspect at all.”

He also reacted to a statement by the PDP that Zakari must leave the position if the 2019 presidential election must be credible.”

Oyekanmi stated, “Amina Zakari is not the INEC chairman. She is one of the 12 national commissioners who all play various roles. No one individual or a group can influence the results of any election in favour of a particular candidate or political party in today’s INEC.

“Check our records — out of the 195 bye, re-run and end-of-tenure elections the commission has conducted since 2015, only three have been disputed by the election petitions tribunal but not on the basis of the integrity of the process. INEC was only told to issue the certificate of return to individuals other than those that supposedly won the elections. We have demonstrated over and over again since 2015 that we are capable of conducting free, fair and credible elections. The general elections will not be different.”

Remove Zakari from sensitive positions, SMBLF, CSOs tell INEC

But despite INEC’s defence, the appointment of  Zakari attracted more condemnations on Sunday.

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum and civil society organisations, called on INEC to remove Zakari.

Speaking in separate interviews with one of our correspondents, the groups stated that Zakari’s appointment and expected roles raised a red flag.

Spokesman for the SMBLF, Yinka Odumakin, insisted that Zakari should be removed from all sensitive positions in INEC, stressing that she must not be allowed to play any major roles in the 2019 polls.

 He alleged that the INEC commissioner played an ignoble role in the Osun State governorship election, stating that “this lady has shown she is bad news for the electoral process in the country.”

Punch

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