President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Mrs Amina Bala Zakari as Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) following the exit of Professor Attahiru Jega, who completed his five-year tenure Tuesday, June 30.
According to an official statement issued by the Director Communications in the Office of Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Haruna Imrana, on behalf of the HoS, Mr. Danladi Kifasi, Zakari’s appointment was with immediate effect and would subsist from June 30, 2015 until the appointment of a substantive chairman.
Mrs. Zakari, a widow with five children and registered pharmacist becomes the first female to occupy the top seat, although in acting capacity. She was until her appointment, a National Electoral Commissioner at INEC. She was born on June 23, 1960 and hails from Kazaure Local Government of Jigawa State. She had her post-primary education at Queens College Yaba, Lagos where she obtained her West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1976. She then proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria for a degree programme and graduated with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) Degree in Pharmacy (Second Class Upper Division) in 1980. She was the best graduating student in her class.
Mrs Zakarri had her National Youth Service Programme at the Federal University of Technology, Bauchi between 1981 -1982, where she set up a Pharmacy and Drug Store Dispensary as her service year project.
Her other academic qualifications include, Certificate in Managing Drugs Supply for Primary Health Care from the International Drug Agency, MHS Amsterdam, Netherlands and a Certificate in General Management Programme, Executive Education in Business and Management, Harvard Business School (HBS) Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
She began her professional career at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Kaduna as a Senior Pharmacist in 1984. She was at CVS Pharmacy Hartsdale, New York, USA between 1993 and 1994 as an Intern Pharmacist and returned to Nigeria to join the Consolidated Health Services, Abakpa Kaduna, where she worked as the Chief Pharmacist/Consultant from 1996 to 1997. She also worked with Afri-Project Consortium, Abuja from 1999 to 2001, where she was also a Senior Consultant/Chief Pharmacist.
Her career as a pharmacist Consultant, saw her working with the National AIDS and STDs Control Program (NASCP), Federal Ministry of Health 2002, Project Director for National Primary Health care Development Agency in 2003, Project Coordinator for FCT Federation of Muslim Women’s Organization (FOMWAN) 2003, National Consultant, National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) 2004.
She was a Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo and was deployed to the Federal Capital Territory Administration where she, between 2004 and 2007, served as Secretary of Health, Human Services and Social Development, and later that of Agriculture and Rural Development under Malam Nasir El-Rufai, the current governor of Kaduna State, who was then the FCT minister.
She was Lead Consultant/ Project Manager, Songhai Medical Centre Limited 2008, Consultant, Complete Medicare Limited and Accessible Managed Care Limited 2008 and Consultant, Millennium Development Goal Office 2008.
She was appointed a National Commissioner of INEC in 2010.
Mrs Zakari who is a widow with five children is a Registered Pharmacist and Member, Pharmacist’s Society of Nigeria as well as member of Nigeria Institute of Management (NIM).
By her appointment, Mrs Zakari replaces Professor Jega who vacated his position on Tuesday after overseeing two high-profile national polls – the April 2011 and the March/April 2015 elections respectively. Jega was appointed the chairman of the commission by former President Goodluck Jonathan on June 30, 2010. Under his reign, the country witnessed its first regime change when the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lost to the presidential poll and majority seats at the national assembly as well as states to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In his farewell speech in Abuja, Jega predicted that “the future is bright for the commission (INEC) and the country”, urging his successor to improve on the achievements recorded so far.
“In whatever we have achieved, we should keep it up and do more”, he said, stressing that a lot still needs to be done to enhance free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
The new government is expected to carry out massive reshufflement of the INEC top echelon following the exit of Professor Jega and other top officials. For instance, Jega’s tenure ended alongside six national commissioners :- Col. M.K. Hammanga (retd.), Adamawa State, (North-East); Dr. Ishmael Igbani, Rivers State, (South-South); Professor Lai Olurode, Osun State, (South-West); Dame Gladys Nwafor, Abia State, (South-East); Mrs. Thelma Amata Iremiren, Delta State, (South-South) and Dr. Nuru Yakubu, Yobe State, (North-East).
Three other national commissioners are expected to serve out their term in July and August, this year. The affected commissioners include Dr. Abdulkadir Oniyangi, Kwara State (North-Central) whose tenure will expire on July 21; Dr. Chris Iyimoga, Nasarawa State (North-Central); whose tenure will expire on August 11; and Wali, Sokoto State (North-West) whose tenure will also expire on August 11, 2015.
By Olisemeka Obeche