The PDP, the APGA and the ADP rejected the choice of Zakari, believed to be niece to President Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the APC.

Romanus Ugwu and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has come under a barrage of attacks over its appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari, as chief collation officer in an election in which her uncle is a frontline candidate.

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Action Democratic Party (ADP) rejected the choice of Zakari, national commissioner, believed to be niece to President Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The parties said the appointment is a clear statement that the electoral umpire was not ready to provide a level playing field for all the contestants.

The commission Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, yesterday, inaugurated two ad hoc committees – Presidential Collation Centre and Electoral Logistics Committee – to drive important components of the electoral process.

He said the Zakari-led committee will serve as the secretariat for collation of results and venue for brief- ing of international observers and the media.

Reacting to the appointment, National Secretary of ADP and Director General of the party’s presidential campaign council, Dr. James Okoroma claimed the choice of Zakari showed the election would not be free and fair.

He contended that Nigerians were aware that Zakari is related to President Buhari and has not hidden her sympathy for the ruling party.

“For us in ADP, we are disappointed with her appointment. Every Nigerian who has followed her activities in INEC knows that she has sympathy for APC. Beside that, she is related to the president who is a contestant. Everything is clearly showing that the election will not free and fair.”

Spokesman of APGA’s Gen John Gbor campaign team, Mike Angel also toed the line of Okoroma.

“It is a pointer to what all of us should expect. It shows the desperation of APC government to rig
the election. The rigging of election is actually perpetrated between the polling booth and collation centre. Everything is showing that the government is not ready for a transparent election.”

PDP also condemned and rejected the appointment of Zakari as head of INEC national collation centre in the February 16 presidential poll.

Speaking at a press briefing in Abuja, spokesman of the main opposition party, Kola Ologbondiyan, said Zakari’s appointment is a confirmation that INEC chairman, Yakubu, has bowed to pressure by the Presidency and the APC to manipulate the poll in favour of President Buhari.

Ologbondiyan, who is also the director, Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation (PPCO), said the choice of Zakari is a recipe for political crisis.

“With the appointment of Zakari as head of the collation of presidential results, the INEC chairman is setting the stage for a very huge political crisis, which is capable of derailing the nation’s democratic process.

“With Amina Zakari at the head of results collation, there is no way votes cast by Nigerians will count. You will recall that we have been raising the flag on how the Buhari Presidency, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and some individuals at the echelon of INEC have been seeking ways to compromise our electoral processes and open the way for the allocation of fictitious votes to President Muhammadu Buhari, having realized that he cannot win in a credible, free and fair polls.

“Today, we have been informed that the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood 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 Center Committee.

“The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organization (PPCO) outrightly, 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.

“In appointing Mrs. Amina Zakari to head the collation of this Presidential election, Prof. Yakubu has confirmed that he has been compromised and that he has already succumbed to pressure by the Buhari Presidency and APC to open the way for the self-succession of President Buhari.

“The fact remains that there is no way Amina Zakari will not allocate votes to her blood relation, President Buhari, who Nigerians have indicated clearly that they are not ready to return to office as president.

The PDP spokesman recalled that Zakari was the head of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Department in INEC, at the time the department was accused of allegedly manipulating the voter register to accommodate fictitious, underage and alien voters, especially in remote areas. He added that the same National Commissioner was alleged to have played some roles in the 2018 Osun State governorship poll, which was trailed by allegations of electoral malpractices.

Ologbondiyan stated that if the INEC chairman wanted a peaceful presidential election, he should reverse the the appointment immediately.

“For us to have a peaceful election, Mrs. Amina Zakari should not be seen anywhere near any of the 2019 election processes, not to talk of being involved in the collation of Presidential results,” he added.

He called on the National Peace Committee and the international community to take note of the develop- ment.

Notwithstanding the criticisms and misgivings, Zakari has assured that her Committee wwould be just and open in the delivery of the responsibility assigned to it.

Also appointed into the Zakari-committee are National Commissioners, Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine, Festus Okoye, Chief Technical Adviser to the INEC Chairman, Bolade Eyinla, Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Oyekanmi, Directors for ICP Department, ICT Department, EPM Department, Security Department, P&M department, Health Services Department, while the Director of Commission Secretariat, will serve as Secretary.

Yakubu who also revealed that the commission would meet with the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), reassured that everything is in place for the polls.

“I wish to reassure Nigeri- ans that we are on course to deliver credible elections in 2019. Let me also seize this opportunity to confirm that the Commission will meet with the national leadership of ASUU on January 4, 2019 at 4pm.

“The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the ongoing strike by the union but only in relation to our preparations for the general elections. We are concerned that the bulk of critical election duty staff are drawn from the universities.

“We are determined to ensure that processes are not affected by the union’s industrial action. ASUU
is a critical partner to the Commission in delivering credible elections. We look forward to the meeting and we are confident of a positive outcome,” he noted.

He said the Commission has similarly contacted the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

“We are already in partnership with one of its affiliate unions, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), with which we recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the movement of personnel and materials on election day. The Commission plans to meet with the NLC next week,” he said.

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