The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday declared that it would not drop Hajiya Amina Zakari as Chairperson of the 2019 Elections Results Collation Committee. It said that contrary to fears in some quarters, Mrs. Zakari who is alleged to be a niece to the President will have nothing to do with the collation of the presidential poll results.
It said by law, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmud Yakubu is the Chief Electoral Commissioner and Returning Officer for the Presidential Election. Yakubu, according to the commission, cannot and will not delegate his responsibility as the Returning Officer to anyone no matter the circumstance. The position of INEC was made known by its Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Oluwole OsazeUzzi in an interview with our correspondent.
“We cannot and we won’t drop Amina Zakari as the chairperson of the Collation Centre Management Committee. She is only in charge of a committee to prepare the facility for the collation of results,” Osaze-Uzzi said. “She was also very involved in negotiating with the ICC management in 2015 for the use of the facility so her duty is to ensure the facility is ready.
She has no role whatsoever with the process of collation of results. “The job of the chairperson and other members is to make sure that the centre is conducive with internet access for INEC officials, representatives of political parties, international and local observers. “The committee has nothing to do with the process of compiling results. They are just blowing the scope of the committee out of proportion. It’s a needless controversy; not an issue at all.” Responding to a question, Osaze-Uzzi said: “By law, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu will superintend over the collation of results. He cannot assign the responsibility and he has not assigned the responsibility to anybody. “He is going to be in charge of collation of results. It is he who decides the validity of votes and any issues in the election as the Returning Officer.”
“INEC wants to reassure Nigerians that its chairman as the Chief Electoral Officers will be assisted by trusted Nigerians who he will appoint as collation officers in all the states.” Another source in INEC said: “Sections 27 and 28(2) of the Electoral Act spell out the collation and announcement of results and no single individual can hijack it. “In fact, those in charge of the elections are even expected to swear to an oath that they will be fair to all. “I think we should be careful in reading meanings and giving political colouration into every activity of INEC. Parties ought to be well-informed than other stakeholders.”
Sections 27 and 28 (2) are as follows: 27. (1) The results of all the elections shall be announced by a) the Presiding Officer at the Polling unit; b) the Ward Collation Officer at the Ward Collation Centre; c) the Local Government or Area Council Collation Officer at the Local Government! Area Council Collation Centre; d) the State Collation Officer at the State Collation Centre; and (2) The Returning Officer shall announce the result and declare the winner of the election at(a) Ward Collation Centre in the case of Councillorship election in the Federal Capital Territory; b)Area Council Collation Centre in the case of Chairmanship and Vice Chairmanship election the Federal Capital Territory; c) State Constituency Collation Centre in the case of State House Assembly election; (d) Federal Constituency Collation Centre in the case of election to the House of Representatives; (e) Senatorial District Collation Centre in the case of election to the Senate; f) State Collation Centre in the ease of election of a Governor of a State; (g) National Collation Centre in the case of election of the President; and (h) the Chief Electoral Commissioner who shall be the Returning Officer at the Presidential election. 28. (1) “All staff appointed by the Commission taking part in the conduct of an election shall affirm or swear before the High Court an Oath of Neutrality as in the Second Schedule to this Act. (2) “All Electoral officers, Presiding Officers, Returning Officers and all staff appointed by the Commission taking part in the conduct of an election shall affirm or swear to an Oath of Loyalty and Neutrality indicating that they would not accept bribe or gratification from any person, and shall perform their functions and duties impartially and in the interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without fear or favour.” Moments after INEC announced the inauguration of the Zakari-led committee and the Electoral Logistics headed by Air Vice Marshal Tijjani Mu’azu (retd.) on Thursday, the PDP had called a press conference in Abuja vehemently rejecting the role assigned to Mrs.Zakari. National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said her appointment could not stand because “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 and harm Nigeria’s democracy. He asked the INEC chairman to rescind the appointment. Ologbondiyan had 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.”