As the 2019 general election draws even nearer, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has appointed President Muhammadu Buhari’s niece, Amina Zakari, as the head of the election collation centre of the elections. Amina’s appointment has sparked outrage and condemnation, especially from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as well as other Nigerians.
Amina Zakari is to head a committee responsible for the national collation centre – the International Conference Centre – from where results of the Presidential election will be announced, INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu said during her inauguration.
But the condemnations over the development have continued to pour in, especially on social media with notable politicians such as the immediate past Governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose, ex-minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and the PDP taking the lead. PDP described the appointment as “outright manipulation” and rejected it in entirety, the former Ekiti Governor, Fayose mocked INEC saying the commission should not only appoint Buhari’s niece but should also appoint one of Buhari’s children as Chairman.
According to happeningnownews.com, who cited Fayose, the ex-governor said, ”Instead of INEC appointing, Amina Zakari, a blood relation (niece) of President Buhari, as the Chairperson of INEC Advisory Committee and Presidential election Collation Center Committee, why not just appoint one of the President’s children as INEC Chairman?”
For Fani-Kayode, “Amina Zakari, Buhari’s neice and a member of his staff when he was Chairman of PTF has been appointed Chairperson of the INEC Advisory Committee & Pres. Election Collation Center Committee. Do you still believe that there will be a free and fair election in Nigeria on Feb. 16th?” Other Nigerians who decried the appointment said thus:
Alvin Hustleþ @AlvinHustle “Let it be known by all that INEC by appointing Amina Zakari to head the Collation center has rigged the 2019 Presidential election.”
Nwachukwuexcelingþ @Nwachukwuexcel4 “Replying to @vanguardngrnews Amina Zakari? What is going on here? Why must everything about this election tilt towards technical rigging?” Shedy®þ @ShedrackSaidu “The appointment of Amina Zakari in a sensitive position in inec is not entirely encouraging for our democracy.”
“Rogers harisonþ @rogersharison “The appiontment of AMINA ZAKARI as head of INEC Coalition Center is a prove that Buhari plans to rig 2019.” African Giant – LadiþVerified account @LadiSpeaks “APC did all they could to slander Atiku, it didn’t work Now they are so desperate that they have appointed Amina Zakari to head collation so she can easily change results! So much for integrity.”
Adewale Ajakayeþ @WAjakaye “PDP has so many dramas. They should go to ask the court to remove the woman because her uncle is a presidential candidate. If my father is a football player, I have no right to become a referee in his match, isn’t so? INEC’s job is a professional one.
” CrossÚþ @Elcrucifixio “With Amina Zakari as head of INEC collation centre, I don’t think there’d be any need for the February 16th election. The result has been decided before the poll. No wonder they haven’t been campaigning.””
Remiþ @Ceorhemz “Apart from Amina Zakari‘s close family ties with Buhari, the new head of INEC collation committee along with el Rufai was part of the Afri-Projects Consult, which carried out contracts for the (PTF) which Buhari headed under Abacha. Keep expecting a Free & Fair election.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday rejected the appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari, a relative of President Muhammadu Buhari as chairperson of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Advisory Committee and Election Collation Centre Committee, saying it is a ploy to rig the polls in favour of the President. Mrs Amina Bala Zakari Addressing journalists at the Presidential Campaign headquarters yesterday, Director, Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Council, PPCO, Kola Ologbondiyan said the party would not accept the choice of Mrs. Zakari for reasons it had enumerated in the past.
“Today (yesterday), we have been informed that the Chairman of INEC, Professor 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.
Reacting to her appointment, PDP reiterated its recent claim that President Muhammadu Buhari was determined to rig himself back into power, hence the appointment of Zakari.
In a press statement issued by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, the former ruling party said: “We have called you up again today to alert 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 February 16, Presidential election.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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, Professor Yakubu has confirmed that he has been compromised and that he has already succumbed to pressure by the Presidency and APC to open the way for the self-succession of President Buhari,” the party said.
Ologbondiyan argued that there was 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,” adding that with her “at the head of results collation, there is no way votes cast by Nigerians will count.”
It continued: “We call on all Nigerians and particularly the National Peace Committee to note that with the appointment of Amina Zakari, as head the collation of Presidential results, the INEC Chairman is setting the stage for a very huge political crisis, which is capable of derailing our democratic process.
“We also urge the United Nations and other global democratic institutions to take copious note of this noxious appointment by the INEC Chairman. “If the INEC Chairman wants a peaceful Presidential election, he should, with the speed of light, reverse himself on this appointment.”
The party warned of grave consequences should the 2019 elections fall short of the credibility test in the eyes of Nigerians and the global community. A source at INEC who declined to be named however said Amina Zakari was simply appointed to manage the situation room the collation of results of the Presidential election.
According to him, “The woman was appointed as chairperson of the committee in charge of the collation centre which is the International Conference Centre (ICC) Abuja and not committee in charge of collation of results. The INEC Chairman remains the Chief collation and returning officer for the Presidential election.”
PDP, however, assured that it remained “committed to a peaceful and credible process, but we will never, in any way, allow anybody to use any means, under any guise
whatsoever, to rig us out in this election. Not after it is clear that Nigerians have attained a consensus to rally behind our Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as their next President.
“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,” the statement added.
Also, Ppresident General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Nnia Nwodo has told Nigerians to hold the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Federal Government responsible should anything happen to the nation’s democracy.
This is as Nwodo called on Mrs. Amina Zakari, a national commissioner in INEC to resign from the commission because of her blood relation to President Muhammadu Buhari.
Reacting to INEC’s appointment of Mrs. Zakari as head of Election Collation Committee, yesterday, Nwodo said it was bad enough that Mrs. Zakari was allowed to continue to serve in INEC and worse by INEC appointing her in the new position. “It’s like Rangers VS Kano Pillars and Kano Pillars is allowed to nominate a referee.
It’s impossible for justice to be done. In a civilized clime Amina Zakari should have resigned,” he maintained.
“I expected the APC government having come to power through a free and fair election conducted by another president, they should not destroy the history.
“I call on Amina Zakari to honourably resign. Whatever happens to our democracy tomorrow, they (INEC and Federal Government) should hold themselves responsible.
“With continued membership of Mrs. Zakari in the commission, the corporate personality of INEC is seriously whittled down; making her head of collation committee is worse than anything anybody can imagine,” Nwodo said.
In its reaction, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it will not allow the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) dictate to it how it will conduct the 2019 general elections.
Speaking in a chat with newsmen, Rotimi Oyekanmi, Chief Press Secretary (CPS), to the INEC Chairman also warned the PDP to desist from its personal attacks on one of its National Commissioners, Mrs Amina Zakari.
“What is this crazy phobia about Amina Zakari? Why is one political party paranoid about this woman? There are 12 National Commissioners in INEC, why are they singling her out always? We are not going to allow one political party to dictate to us how to manage our affairs.
“If they have any problem with Amina Zakari, they should let us know. She was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan under the PDP government. She was not appointed under the present dispensation. Throughout the time she was there under Jega, this same PDP did not see anything wrong with her. Every national commissioner is entitled to having a renewed term and her term was renewed.
“This woman has a family, children and yet people are just attacking her for nothing. What did she do? Would they be happy if anybody is doing this to their wives?
“The way INEC is structured, not even the INEC chairman can rig the election in favour of any political party or any candidate in this country today.
“He is incapable of doing so because the system will not allow it. So, if the INEC Chairman cannot rig, where is the national commissioner that wants to rig?”
Encourage States To Harness Own Resources For Dev, Wike Tasks FG
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said Nigeria must encourage federating states to harness their resources and generate revenues, including Value Added Tax (VAT) to advance their development.
He also stressed that it was baffling to note that Rivers State was not included among states to benefit from any of the projects to be executed with the fresh loan that the Federal Government was seeking to obtain from the World Bank.
Wike made the observation when the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, led a delegation to present letter of nomination to him as the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award at Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The Rivers State governor observed that there were mounted attempts to frustrate federating states like Rivers, to actualise the constitutional provisions that empower them to harness their resources and revenues, particularly VAT.
The governor decried the situation where the legality of states collecting VAT was not considered on the merit of the law by some public commentators, including state executives, rather, they were politicising it and looking at it from prism of ethnicity and religion.
According to Wike, what the FIRS was doing was illegal, and could be likened to robbing some states to pay others.
“You don’t even need to be a lawyer to know that VAT is not in Items 58 and 59 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Everybody knows that. It is not even in the Concurrent List. Therefore, it falls under the Residual List. It is not arguable. That yesterday, nothing happened, does not mean that today, nothing will happen or tomorrow, something will not happen.
“Nigeria should encourage states to be strong enough to have resources to develop themselves. We are in a federal system where we are practicing unitary system. Everybody at the end of the month will run to Abuja to share money. Nobody comes back to the state to think, how do I develop my state.”
He explained that the contest against the collection of Valued Added Tax (VAT) was started by Lagos State, which had sued the Federal Government at the Supreme Court.
According to him, Rivers State only avoided their pitfall by suing the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which is an agency of the Federal Government that was illegally collecting the tax in the state.
“The issue of VAT did not start from Rivers State. It started in Lagos State when Lagos State challenged it in Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court said you (Lagos) shouldn’t have sued the Federal Government. All you would have done was to sue the agency.”
The governor observed that rather than commend Rivers State Government for seeking to entrench fiscal federalism and constitutionalism, a particular state governor had threatened that the judgement of the court that declared that states, and not FIRS, are entitled to collect VAT within their jurisdiction, will not stand.
He urged those demanding for a brothers’ keeper consideration to first, appreciate the position of the law and situate it rightly.
“Some people say, ‘be your brother’s keeper’. I have no problem in being my brother’s keeper, but why not come out and say, let us tell ourselves the simple truth: as it is provided in the law, who is the person responsible to collect the VAT?
“When you agree to that, that it is the state, then, we can sit down to look at the different problems of states. And not to say ‘be your brother’s keeper’ while you’re doing an illegal thing, in disobeying what the law says you should not do.”
Wike stated that it was sheer act of discrimination for the Federal Government not to include Rivers State as one of the states that will benefit from projects for which it was seeking fresh foreign loans to execute.
“Look at the money that Federal Government has gone to borrow from the World Bank. Of all the projects, in all the states, Federal Government did not include Rivers State.
“Look at the list of projects that states will benefit from this money they’re borrowing from the World Bank that they have sent to National Assembly for approval, the only state that is not benefitting is Rivers State”.
He further noted, “It is the prerogative of Mr President; if he says he does not like Rivers State, if the ruling party says they don’t like Rivers State, I won’t kill myself. But leave the one that the law says I should be the one to collect so that I will be able to develop my own state.”
Speaking further, Wike explained that beyond the provision of infrastructure, his administration was seeking a law that would provide comfortable accommodation for judicial officers on retirement.
The reason, he said, was to ensure that, while in service, the judicial officers can concentrate on their jobs without cutting corners, and avoid corrupt practices.
In his remarks, the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the SUN (Newspaper) Publishing Limited, Mr Onuoha Ukeh, said the SUN Man of the Year 2020 Award was the flagship of award the company.
According to him, Wike was unanimously selected for his remarkable contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria and promotion of fiscal federalism with his position on VAT, which would help in the restructuring of Nigeria.
“Today, His Excellency has guided Nigeria to true federalism with the issue of VAT. Knowing what fiscal federalism should be, His Excellency went to court to challenge the collection of VAT, and the court stated that actually the states should collect VAT. And that is laying the foundation for true federalism and fiscal federalism”, he said.
Ukeh commended Wike for his sterling performance in office and infrastructural revolution taking place in Rivers State.
Buhari Seeks NASS’ Amendment Of PIA …Wants NNPC, EFCC Boards’ Confirmation
President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the Senate, seeking an amendment to the recently signed Petroleum Industry Act, PIA.
President Muhammadu Buhari also sought the House of Representatives’ amendments to the Petroleum Industry Act, including removal of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning from the boards of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
In the letter, Buhari wants an amendment to the new Act to allow for the removal of the Ministers of Petroleum and Finance from the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), saying that they can continue to perform their functions without necessarily being members of the board.
In the letter read, yesterday, during plenary by the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Buhari is also seeking for the amendment to allow the Non-Executive Members to be increased from two to six in the national interest.
The President, in three other letters to the Senate, asked for the confirmation of nominees into the boards of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The three confirmation letters from the President were read in yesterday’s plenary by Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan.
In a letter dated September 16, 2021, Buhari stated that the request to confirm the chairman, chief executive and executive directors for the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority was being made in accordance with the provision of Section 34(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.
The nominees for confirmation into the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Board are: Idaere Gogo Ogan (chairman); Engr. Sarki Auwalu (chief executive); Abiodun A. Adeniji (executive director, Finance and Accounts); and Ogbugo Ukoha (executive director, Distributions Systems, Storage and Retail Infrastructure).
In another letter also dated September 16, 2021, the President while relying on the provision of Section 11(3) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, requested the Senate to confirm the appointment of four nominees as chairman, chief executive and executive commissioners to the Board of the Upstream Regulatory Commission.
The nominees are: Isa Ibrahim Modibo (chairman); Engr. Gbenga Komolafe (chief executive); Hassan Gambo (executive commissioner, Finance and Accounts); and Ms Rose Ndong (executive commissioner, Exploration and Acreage Management).
According to the President, requests for the confirmation of the board’s membership were made “in order to fast track the process for the establishment of the commission”.
In the third letter dated September 17, 2021, Buhari requested the upper legislative chamber to confirm the appointment of the secretary and board members of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He explained that the request for the confirmation of the nominees was in accordance with the provision of Section 2(1) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.
Those to be confirmed include George Abbah Ekpungu, secretary (Cross River); Luqman Muhammed (Edo); Anumba Adaeze (Enugu); Alhaji Kola Raheem Adesina (Kwara); and Alhaji Yahaya Muhammad (Yobe).
At the House of Representatives, the Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, read the cover letter attached to an executive bill presented to the House by Buhari at the opening of plenary, yesterday.
The proposals also include the appointment of non-executive board members; removal of the ministries from the boards of the two institutions; and appointment of executive directors to the boards.
The President’s requests to the House of Representatives are a rehearsal of the same demands he made to the Senate.
It would be recalled that the joint National Assembly committees that worked on the PIB had proposed five per cent equity share for the development of the host communities but the Senate-led the campaign for its reduction to three per cent while the House of Representatives approved the panel’s recommendation.
The conference committee set up by the presiding officers of both chambers in their recommendation, fixed the equity share at three per cent and was invariably approved by the National Assembly.
The development generated into controversy with senators from the South-South geopolitical zone kicking against it and asked Buhari to resolve the impasse by seeking amendment to increase the equity share to five per cent.
However, the new amendments proposed by the President did not address the concerns of the South-South stakeholders.
Rather, Buhari’s fresh request centred basically on the need to review the administrative structure of the Upstream Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
Buhari is seeking the senators’ approval to increase the numbers of the non-executive board members of each of the regulatory agencies from two to six, in order to capture the six geopolitical zones.
He said, “The Petroleum Industry Act 2021 provided for the appointment of two non-executive members for the board of the two regulatory institutions.
“I am of the view that this membership limitation has not addressed the principle of balanced geopolitical representation of the country.
“Therefore, I pray for the intervention of the 9th Assembly to correct this oversight in the interest of our national unity.
“Needless to add that this amendment will provide a sense of participation and inclusion to almost every section of the country in the decision making of strategic institutions such as oil industry.
“If this amendment is approved, it will now increase the number of the non-executive members from two to six that is one person from each of the six geopolitical zones of the country”.
The President also removed the Ministers of Finance and Petroleum Resources from the board of the two agencies.
He said the two ministers already have constitutional responsibilities of either supervision or inter-governmental relations.
He said, “They can continue to perform such roles without being in the board.
“It is also important to note that administratively, the representatives of the ministries in the board will be directors – being the same rank with the directors in the institution
“This may bring some complications in some decision making, especially on issues of staff related matters.”
Buhari added that the appointments of the executive directors who would be in charge of the seven departments in the NMDPRA should not be subjected to Senate confirmation since they are civil servants who were promoted in the course of their career.
He said, “The Act has made provision for seven departmental heads in the Authority to be known as executive directors.
“Their appointment (according to the PIA) will also be subjected to Senate confirmation. These category of officers are civil servants and not political appointees.
“The Senate is invited to note the need to exempt serving public officers from the established confirmation process for political appointments.
“This will ensure effective management of the regulatory institutions through uniform implementation of public service rules for employees of the authority.
“In the future, these positions will obviously be filled by the workers in the authority.
Buhari said the proposed amendment would also increase the membership of the board from nine to 13 members that is representing 44 per cent expansion of the board site.
He said, “This composition would strengthen the institutions and guarantee national spread and also achieve the expected policy contributions”.
By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
Emohua, Three Kalabari LGAs Partner On Joint Security
The Chairman of Emohua Local Government Area, Dr Chidi Lloyd, has met with his counterparts from the three Kalabari-speaking local government areas; Degema, Asari-Toru and Akuku-Toru, to review the security situation along the Emohua-Kalabari Road, and plan strategies for a joint network to checkmate any infractions in the security of the LGs.
The meeting, which was held at the instance of Lloyd at the headquarters of Emohua Local Government Area, followed the recent abduction of an expatriate attached to Lubrik Construction Company; the contractor handling the construction of Trans-Kalabari Road by yet to be identified gunmen.
The chairmen of Akuku-Toru, Degema, and Asari-Toru LGAs, Hon Roland Sekibo, Hon Michael John Williams, and Hon Onengiyeofori George; respectively, in their separate remarks, commended Lloyd for initiating the process for a partnership to improve the security of lives and property along the Emohua-Kalabari Road, which presently calls for concern.
Speaking after a closed-door meeting which lasted for hours, Lloyd said the meeting condemned the abduction of the expatriate staff, who was supervising the construction work being executed by the Rivers State Government on Trans-Kalabari Road.
The council chairmen also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the expatriate by his abductors, as well as the apprehension of the masterminds of the reprehensible act by security agencies.
The meeting further agreed to set up a local security outfit with members drawn from the four local government areas to support the security agencies in providing effective security along the Emohua-Kalabari Road.
Lloyd said the meeting was also expected to be hosted concurrently amongst the four local government areas, with a view to strengthening the relationship between the LGAs as well as the promotion of the socio-economic development of the area.
The chairmen also appointed Hon Lolo Ibiene to serve as their rapporteur.
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