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Chief Chekwas Okorie, national chairman of the United People’s Party (UPP) has congratulated Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari on her appointment as the Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In a statement issued he on behalf of the party, he said that in the party’s interaction with Mrs Zakari during the process of its registration as a Political Party when she was the Commissioner in-charge of Political Party Monitoring and Liaison (PPM & L) now Election and Party Monitoring (EPM), the UPP found her to be a diligent, conscientious and upright personality that was fair and firm in carrying out her responsibilities. “By our assessment she is a woman of integrity. Her appointment is meritorious. We further congratulate her for being the first woman in the history of the Electoral Body in Nigeria to lead the Commission even as an Acting Chairman,” Okorie said.
While wishing Mrs. Zakari a successful tour of duty, the UPP leader advised her to commence without delay, introducing strict discipline among the staff and zero tolerance for corruption. The UPP also commend President Muhammadu Buhari for exercising his prerogative of power under the Nigerian Constitution in appointing Mrs. Zakari as the Acting Chairman of INEC. “We do not share in the unwarranted propaganda by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on an appointment in which the President merely exercised his inherent powers. The issue of lack of due process will arise if Mrs. Zakari is confirmed the substantive Chairman of the Commission without passing the screening and approval of the Nigerian Senate, “the party said.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had kicked against the appointment of Mrs. Zakari as acting chairman of INEC by President Buhari, demanding her immediate removal.
PDP which made its position known in a press conference addressed by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, on Wednesday, claimed the appointment of Mrs. Zakari by the presidency barely hours Professor Attahiru Jega handed over to Ahmed Wali, INEC national commissioner smacks of foul play and therefore should be reversed.
“The PDP has declared the appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari as unacceptable and demands that President Buhari changes her immediately. In INEC, the PDP states in unequivocal terms that we cannot, as critical stakeholders, fold our hands and watch while the Presidency perpetuate actions that diminish the independence of the electoral commission,” Metuh declared.
He said although the PDP recognizes the right and powers of the President to appoint the Chairman of INEC and others, such as that of the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, which was done recently, his party rejects attempts to paint the process as transparent and objective when such was not the case.
“The situation in INEC since the PDP government reformed and granted it operational autonomy has been peaceful, but Tuesday’s untidy overruling of Prof. Jega and appointing of Mrs. Amina Zakari as acting chairman which, we gathered was influenced by personal relationship with the Presidency and one of the new governors of the North West, ostensibly to pave the way for the APC at the electoral tribunals, has completely eroded public trust in the commission,” he alleged.
But in a swift reaction to PDP’s claims, the Presidency declared that due process was followed in the appointment of Mrs. Zakari as the Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on June 30.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina described the allegations by the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that the appointment of Mrs Zakari was based on personal relationship and designed to pave way for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to reclaim the PDP controlled states at the election Tribunal through some dubious means as untrue.
“Metuh’s spurious claims of her (Mrs Zakari) appointment having been influenced by “personal relationship with the Presidency” and a Governor in the North-West “to pave the way for the APC” at election tribunals should be disregarded by the public.”
“Contrary to Mr Metuh’s allegations, President Buhari’s appointment of Mrs Zakari as Acting INEC Chairman was based entirely on merit, her vast experience in the internal operations of INEC and the President’s commitment to affirmative action in support of gender equality, because, apart from being fully qualified for the position, Mrs Zakari was the only woman among the six Commissioners considered.
According to Mr. Adesina, President Buhari did not “overrule” Prof. Attahiru Jega in appointing Mrs. Amina Zakari as the Acting INEC Chairman, as Mr Metuh alleged. “Prof. Jega’s purported handing over to another Commissioner cannot be construed as an “appointment” because only the President has the constitutional authority, which he exercised to appoint Mrs Zakari as acting Chairman of INEC.
“The allegations are nothing but falsehoods contrived by Mr Metuh to unjustly denigrate a President popularly elected by Nigerians to undo the damage done to the nation by years of PDP rule,” he added.
The President’s spokesperson also went further: “Other than boring reporters at his press conference with a rehash of baseless allegations of inaction against the President, Mr Metuh clearly had nothing new to say apart from his charge of nepotism and partisanship in the appointment of the Acting INEC Chairman, which also lacks any factual foundation.
“His claim that the PDP has rejected Mrs Zakari’s appointment is also laughable after he had admitted that the right and power of the President to make such appointments cannot be questioned.”
By Olisemeka Obeche (with agency reports)