By John Onah, Abuja
Few hours after the composition of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) ad hoc committees on Logistics and National Collation on 2019 general elections, the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation (PPCO) said it rejected “in its entirety, the appointment of Mrs Amina Zakari, President Muhammadu Buhari’s neice as head the votes Collation Committee.
In a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, the PPCO described the move as a ploy by the presidency and INEC to rig 2019 general election in favour of Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The PPCO spokesman, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said the campaign organisation was alerting Nigerians “of another heinous machination by the Buhari Presidency and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to subvert the will of the people and rig the February16, Presidential Election.”
The PPCO noted that it has alongside the party 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 on 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.
According to the PPCO, “the appointment of Mrs. Amina 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.”
It noted that “this is the same Amina Zakari, who headed the ICT Department of INEC at the time that department was accused of manipulating the INEC voter register to accommodate fictitious, underage and alien voters, particularly, in remote areas where they plan to allocate and announce conjured votes for President Buhari and the APC”.
According to PPCO, “it will interest Nigerians to note that this is the same Amina Zakari that was alleged to have played some roles in the 2018 governorship election in Osun State, where the electoral processes were flagrantly abused.
“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, whom Nigerians have indicated clearly that they are not ready to return to office as President”.
With Amina Zakari at the head of results collation, there is no way votes cast by Nigerians will count,” the PPCO said.
It could be recalled that yesterday, the INEC chairman, Prof Yakubu inaugurated ad hoc committees on Electoral Logistics and the National Collation Centre. He stated that as part of the commission’s determination to ensure seamless preparations for the 2019 general elections, it has decided to set up the two ad hoc committees to drive important components of the electoral process.
According to him, the first committee will be responsible for electoral logistics, knowing that the conduct of a general election “is the biggest and most complex logistics operation a nation can undertake.”
Yakubu further revealed that 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 16th February and the governorship, state assembly and area council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on 2nd March,” he said.
He further disclosed that 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. Membership of the committee include relevant security agencies whose roles are clearly defined in Section 29(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). It includes: National Commissioners AVM Ahmed Muazu (rtd) as Chairman, Engr. Abubakar Nahuche and Malam Mohammed Haruna.
Others are, Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Nigeria Immigration Service, the Nigeria Police Force , Nigeria Security & Civil Defence Corps, the Department of State Services, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Director, Electoral Operations Department, INEC Director, Estate Works & Transport, INEC Director, Procurement INEC Member and
Director Stores as secretary.
The Presidential Election Collation Center Committee, which according to him 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 it was the case in 2015, the commission will use the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja as the secretariat for collation of results and venue for briefing of international observers and the media.
The INEC chair said the ICC will be accessible to agents of the 73 political parties that fielded candidates in the presidential election. Facilities such as power, access to the Internet, live transmission for national and international media as well as accreditation for access to the ICC and security of the venue shall be handled by the committee.
The committee on Collation Centre has National Commissioners, Amina Bala Zakari, (the president’s niece) as chairman, Prof. Anthonia T. Okoosi-Simbine , Barr. Festus Okoye, Chief Technical Adviser to Hon. Chairman, Prof. Bolade Eyinla , Chief Press Secretary to Hon. Chairman, Rotimi L. Oyekanmi , Director, ICP Department, INEC, Director, ICT Department, INEC , Director, EPM Department, INEC, Director, Security Department, INEC, Director, P&M department, INEC, Director, Health Services Department, INEC and the Commission Secretariat, INEC Member/Secretary.
In furtherance to its preparations, the commission will today meet with the leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to discuss the lingering strike by the union, which it uses its members as returning officers.
“Let me also seize this opportunity to confirm that the Commission will meet with the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) tomorrow Friday 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 is drawn from the universities. We are determined to ensure that processes are not affected by the unions 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,” Yakubu disclosed.
The commission also said it has similarly contacted another critical partner, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) with plans to meet next week.
According to Yakubu, already the commission is also in partnership with one of NLC’s affiliate unions, the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), with which it recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the movement of personnel and materials on election day.
The chairman used the occassion to reassure Nigerians that the commission was on course to deliver credible general elections.
However, the PDP’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, yesterday advised INEC to adhere to its promise not to use incident forms for the election if it truly aims atvgiving Nigerians a credible election.
Atiku in a statement issued by his media adviser, Mr Paul Ibe yesterday, said that he was worried by reports that indicate in contrary to the promise made by INEC that it would not use the incident forms, the commission has made a volte face.
Atiku noted that a reverse in the decision of INEC not to use of incident forms will be unacceptable to the PDP and to him.
According to him, “any decision to use incident forms in the February 16 election is to encourage rigging.”
Atiku noted from the data of 2015 elections that 75 per cent of the almost 14 million people who voted without biometric accreditation in 2015 were linked to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“There are no reliable and accurate means of knowing who those voters were and whether they were genuine voters or sham voters.
This disproportionate number of voters who voted without biometric accreditation in 2015 affected the integrity of those elections and we hold the INEC to its oft-repeated promise not to use anything but the Smart Card Readers and PVCs for the 2019 elections.’’
Atiku reminded the commission that the world was watching and that Nigerians were alert to see if the present chairman and board of INEC would place national interest above narrow interest.
He reminded Prof Yakubu of his promise to Nigerians at the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room National Stakeholders’ Forum on Elections which held in Abuja on December 10 last year.
He recalled that Yakubu, at the event, assured Nigerians that the smart card reader had become an integral part of the electoral process and would be deployed for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
Atiku said that at ₦143 billion, it was safe to say that more than enough funds were appropriated for the INEC to acquire and distribute Smart Card Readers, hence no reason to revert to use of incident forms.
He said that the job of the INEC was to give Nigerians a level playing field and also conduct an election that reflected the will of the people.
“We once again want to sound the alarm that only the strict use of Smart Card Readers and Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) can guarantee free, fair and credible elections that will be accepted by Nigerians and the international community,’’ he said