- Amina Zakari, 3 others National Commissioners
- 611 petitions in Election Tribunals – INEC
The Council of State has approved the choice of Professor Mahmood Yakubu as the new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to superintend over Nigeria’s electoral umpire.
Prof Yakubu who was a former chairman of Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari and presented to the first Council meeting since May 29. He hails from Bauchi state.
The Council also approved the nomination of four INEC national commissioners, including the current acting chairman, Mrs Amina Bala Zakari (North West); Dr Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbime (North Central); Dr Mohammed Mustapha Lekki (South South) and Prince Soyebi Solomon (South West).
With the council’s approval, the President is expected to forward the nominations to the National Assembly for confirmation.
The national commissioner representing the South East, Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku from Ebonyi state is still serving his term.
Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal announced the new INEC chair while briefing State House Correspondents after the council of state meeting.
The appointment of Mahmood may have put paid to the controversy sparked off by the appointment of Zakari in acting capacity, following the exit of Prof. Attahiru Jega in June this year.
The council which has Vice President; former Presidents and Heads of State; President of the Senate; Speaker of the House of Representatives; former and serving Chief Justices of Nigeria and all state governors, among others as members, is chaired by the President.
The meeting which held inside the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja started about 11:10am with the arrival of the President.
Four former Nigerian leaders: Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd.); Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd.); Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar (rtd.); and Chief Ernest Shonekan, were in attendance while former Presidents Shehu Shagari, Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan were absent.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki who appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Wednesday for continuation of his trial over allegations of false declaration of assets was also absent.
State governors, deputy governors and some top presidential aides also attended the meeting.
Tambuwal said the nomination of the new INEC national commissioners was in conformity with the constitutional provision which stipulated that no fewer than four commissioners would form a quorum.
He noted that eleven of the commissioners had served out their tenure, explaining that the staggered appointment of the new commissioners was informed by the exigencies of the moment.
He said: “As the first Council meeting in the life of this administration, the Council received a memo on the nomination of Chairman and five Commissioners for INEC. This is in conformity with the provisions of the constitution of Nigeria particularly Sections 154 (1 and 3 and 156 (3) that confers on the President the powers to appoint a chairman and national commissioners of INEC, in consultation with the Council of States.
“The situation in INEC as at today is such that requires for this emergency meeting to approve the nominations by Mr. President, because the law requires that a minimum of four commissioners should form a quorum in INEC, which is not the case as of today, because the tenures of 11 of the national commissioners of INEC had expired.
“In line with this, the Council considered and confirmed the appointments of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu as Chairman of INEC, Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari as member representing North West, Dr. Antonia Taiye Okoosi-Simbile as Commissioner, North Central, Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo, from Borno as Commissioner representing North East, Dr, Mohammed Mustapha Lekki from Edo as Commissioner representing South South and Prince Soyebi Adedeji Solomon from Ogun representing South West.”
Explaining further, Tambuwal said council had agreed that the names of the remaining six commissioners should be submitted in due course for approval to avert a repeat of all their tenures lapsing at the same time as had recently happened.
“The Council has agreed to stagger the confirmation of this appointment of Commissioners of INEC in view of the situation we found ourselves presently whereby the tenures of individual commissioners expired almost over the same time. So to avert future occurrence of such a situation, the Council has agreed that the next six of the Commissioners should be submitted to the Council subsequently for its approval.
“These names have been approved and would be transmitted to the NASS for confirmation,” he said.
The Council also commended immediate former Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega for his contribution to free and fair election in the country.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, who disclosed this to State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting, said the council was full of praise for Jega for presiding over elections that were generally accepted as free and fair worldwide.
He said the President directed the council secretariat to note the commendations.
“The council noted and commended Prof. Jega for his laudable activities as the chairman of INEC. The President directed that the secretariat should note the commendations. A letter of commendation may later be sent to the former INEC boss,” Shehu disclosed.
Meanwhile, INEC says a total of 611 petitions are currently before the various election petition tribunals set up after the 2015 general elections nationwide.
The commission said the number was less than half of the 1, 290 petitions filed after the 2007 polls.
The former acting National Chairman of INEC, Hajia Amina Zakari disclosed this at the public presentation of the INEC 2015 General Election Report, in Abuja yesterday.
“According to available statistics, the number of election petitions after the 2007 general elections stood at a whooping 1, 290; after the 2011 general elections, the number came down by almost half, with a total of 732 election petitions filed.
“Following the 2015 general elections, the number of petitions further scaled down to 611.
“It is therefore expected that the incidence of nullified elections will be correspondingly low,’’ Zakari said.
She said that the 2015 general election was by no means exhaustive, as there were still unfolding developments at the tribunals.
“It is to be noted, however, that election tribunals are part and parcel of the election process.
“By the time the tribunals are done with their processes on the 2015 general elections, it is most likely that some outcomes and data on the polls as in this report might slightly alter.
“But nothing will by any means distract from the overall verdict of Nigerians and the international community on the 2015 polls,’’ she said.