President Mohammadu Buhari on Wednesday appointed Professor Mahmood Yakubu as the new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Yakubu who is taking over from the Acting Chairman of the Commission, Mrs. Bala Zakari was the former Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND. The president also appointed five other national commissioners including Zakari. The appointments followed an approval by the National Council of State which had an emergency meeting, being the first under president Buhari, at the presidential Villa, Abuja.
The council is usually chaired by the President had Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; all living former Presidents and Heads of State; President of the Senate; Speaker of the House of Representatives; all living former Chief Justices of Nigeria and all state governors among others as members. Accordingly, Wednesday meeting had former Heads of State, Generals Yakubo Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdusalami Abubakar, and Chief Ernest Shonekan. Also, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, former Chief Justices of Nigeria which included Mohammed Uwais, Alfare Belgore and Idris Kutigi, as well as almost of the Serving governors graced the meeting. Addressing State House correspondents on behalf of the meeting, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal stated that the situation in INEC necessitated the emergency meeting which approved the appointments. He however stated the names remained to be confirmed by the Senate.
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 today, because the tenures of 11 of 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 Lecky from Edo as Commissioner representing South South and Prince Soyebi Adedeji Solomon from Ogun representing South West. 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 the same time. “So, to avert future occurrence of such a situation the Council has agreed that the next 6 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.
Asked whether the forthcoming governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States featured in the meeting, the governor said it was not a matter for the council but stating that the new INEC chair and his team have the responsibility of conducting the elections. “It is not a matter for the Council to go into. It is is a matter that is strictly under the purview of the commission itself, so it didn’t come up at the Council meeting. Obviously the new chairman and members of the commission. I have said earlier on that we need a quorum for the commission to function and that is why Mr. President in his wisdom summoned this emergency meeting for us to approve these names. So, I’m sure it is the new chairman that will now supervise and conduct the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa”, Tambuwal said.
Meanwhile, the Council also hailed the former INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega on the success of the 2015 elections. This was according to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu who spoke to the State House correspondents at the end of the meeting. “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”, he said.