Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) and civil society organisations on Sunday joined the call for the removal of controversial Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commissioner, Amina Zakari, hinting that her appointment and expected roles raised a red flag.
Spokesman for the SMBLF, Yinka Odumakin, told the Punch that Zakari should be removed from all sensitive positions in INEC, saying she must not be allowed to play any major roles in the 2019 elections.
Mr. Odumakin alleged that the INEC commissioner played an ugly role in the Osun State governorship election.
This lady has shown she is bad news for the electoral process in the country, he said.
He added, “The INEC chairman is truly the national returning officer for the presidential election, but this lady (Zakari) has shown she is bad news for the electoral process in the country and I think rather than argue about where INEC deploys her, she must not participate in the 2019 elections. She should be removed. For us to have credible elections, INEC should do the right thing.”
Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye of the Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, also urged INEC to be sensitive to criticisms from the opposition parties against Zakari’s roles in the polls.
He recalled that this is not the first time Nigerians are asking for Zakari’s removal from the electoral commission.
According to him, her latest appointment as the head of the results collation committee was improper.
Atoye said, “I think INEC at this stage must be sensitive to the criticisms coming from the opposition parties. They must also be sensitive to the needs of the nation. The issue of Amina Zakari has become a recurring decision not just in the forthcoming elections. This is not the first time they (Nigerians) are demanding that she should be removed from INEC.”
“It has been established that Zakari is a niece of the President and the appropriate thing to do in a sensitive national election is for INEC to be careful and for INEC to step her down from sensitive positions.”
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA) also joined in the call for Zakaris removal.
The group, in a statement by its National President, Emmanuel Onwubiko gave Zakari 48 hours to comply, otherwise “we will proceed to petition the National Assembly and all the international organisations including the United Nations and major world leaders.”
The statement added, “Zakari had become a stumbling block in INEC since July 2015, when her appointment as the acting Chairman of INEC met stiff resistance and condemnation across the country over conflict of interests arising from her family’s affinity with the President.
“We hereby strongly condemn the ongoing threats against the next general elections. We have consistently advocated for holistic electoral reforms and the appointments of only persons of good character as members of INEC.
“On the issue of the continuous retention of Mrs Amina Zakari by INEC in spite of the monumental groundswell of accusations that she is not independent going by her biological affinity with one of the major presidential contenders, Muhammadu Buhari, we again reiterate our call for her dismissal or for her to excuse herself from any role in this coming elections.
“Her failure to so do after we gave her 48 hours’ notice means that we will proceed to petition the National Assembly and all the international organisations that partner INEC including the UN and major world leaders.
“We will serve a petition to the President of the Senate because of the ongoing troubling threats to the integrity and credibility of INEC which surely have the potency of undermining the 2019 general elections. The announcement of Zakari as the head of the election collation centre is an act of sabotage and is capable of undermining the credibility of the election.”
However, despite these calls for Zakari’s removal, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, on Sunday insisted that no individual or group could influence the result of any election in favour of a particular candidate or a party.
He claimed that Zakari would have nothing to do with the technical aspect of the collation of results of the presidential poll.