Out of the 68 million Permanent Voters Cards produced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, about 10 million is yet to be collected by the electorate while another 400, 000 is yet to be delivered by the contractor handling the manufacture of the cards.
The Acting Chairman of the commission, Mrs. Amina Zakari, who made this clarification as reported exclusively by The Nation newspaper on Saturday.
The report further stated that some INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners were being investigated for various allegations concerning their roles in the last election in the country and that the commission is only watching and waiting for the outcome of the ongoing investigations by security agencies.
The Nation quoted Mrs. Zakari as saying the agency will give those affected the benefit of doubt in line with the legal framework that they are innocent until proven guilty.
She said: “For the commission, we won’t know the number of those under probe at the moment until the investigations are over.
“We always know that a person is innocent until proven guilty. For now, we are just waiting and watching.”
Upon the completion of her five-year term in office, according to the report, Mrs. Zakari said she had already cleared her desk and was personally driving home when she was appointed as acting INEC chairman based on the fact that she was the most senior National Commissioner.
“I did not lobby for it. I had packed all my things out of INEC, I wanted to leave on June 30th, I wanted to take a leave for the remaining three weeks. I felt as the commission was being depleted, that I had a sense of responsibility to sit out my three weeks.
“And then, I was just called on my way home after the chairman (Jega) handed over to Ambassador Wali. I was called that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation was looking for me and I said: ‘what for?’ And I just continued driving and I was by Bullet House by the time I got the call and I just continued driving; I was almost home when they said: ‘come back, you have a letter to be the acting chairman’ and I said: ‘but somebody was appointed in the morning’. I said: ‘take the letter to INEC’, but they said: ‘it’s in your name; you have to come and receive it, just turn around.’
“And while I was arguing, my driver decided to turn around and I called the ambassador and I told him and he said: ‘Go and pick your letter.’ I called the former chairman and he said, ‘Go and pick the letter.’
“I was confused and worried because it’s an enormous responsibility and I wasn’t really expecting it. I picked the letter and came back to the office the next day in a sober mood.
“I know the only thing left to do is to consolidate on the gains within this acting period, just maintain an administrative structure, try to keep the commission running administratively and then let’s see what happens, since I know the problems of the commission in terms of business processes, so we are working on communication, we are discussing with the directors, giving them responsibilities and hopefully, everything should be fine.”
The report further said when she was asked if she was the most senior, she added: “yes, there were two of us, but one of us turned 80 years and could not be appointed as acting chairman. The lot fell on me.
“We were the two most senior commissioners and this is not the first time INEC has had an acting commissioner. I understand Prof. Maurice Iwu was a commissioner that became a chairman.
“When we came, Soyebi was the acting chairman and he handed over to Jega, and he conducted elections. He had done all the procurement. The commission was running before we came.
“In fact, with Soyebi and Phillip Umeadi Jr., the same scenario happened. When Iwu left, he didn’t nominate an acting chairman, Umeadi took over, but the Presidency appointed Soyebi as acting chairman.”
Mrs. Zakari said she has no filial or marital relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari, contrary to insinuations in some quarters.
She said: “I would say Gen. Buhari did not appoint me as a commissioner; President Jonathan appointed me as a commissioner. Before that, Gen. Obasanjo appointed me as special assistant, posted to FCT where I was secretary for Health, Agriculture and Social Development at the same time.
“At the time President Jonathan came, he was looking for people that have integrity, that’s what I was told and I found myself in the commission and I did my best.
“For somebody to say Gen. Buhari knew me and gave me the job, obviously he knew I am a hard worker and he is a principled person. I have never known him to be nepotistic, he is a very principled person.
“If there are familial ties, the principle would have rubbed off on that family. I come from a very principled family, my father survived two regimes that were jailing and sacking people and he survived both and for that, I don’t think I would do anything that would jeopardize that principle.
“I can’t say the general is my in-law. I am not married to his son; my daughter is not married to him, that is what I understand about being an in-law. But obviously in life, you have acquaintances, people you have known.
“But I think people should not get distracted by this ‘family or no family’. Am I competent? Can I deliver? Can I conduct my affairs with integrity? “The President’s message is for people to be honest and to have integrity.”
On PVCs, Mrs. Zakari told The Nation that INEC would soon begin a nationwide audit of the cards.”
Pressed to talk on whether or not she is determined to head INEC, she said: “I am not desperate. God decides who becomes leader; if God decides I would be the one to continue, I will have to do my best.”
“We have about 58million PVCs collected so far, which is about 81 per cent, out of 68million produced. We have about 10million PVCs uncollected.
“We still have about 400,000 PVCs not produced. So, we are going to resume the distribution of PVCs, but we cannot just bring out those PVCs and begin to distribute them until we are sure they belong to living human beings.
“We are planning our modalities for distribution. But before that we are going out to the field to conduct PVC audit in all the states. On Thursday, we had a meeting with all our Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and the topic of discussion was resumption of PVC distribution and Continuous Voters Registration (CVR).
Asked when INEC will go to the field, she added: “Like I told the RECs yesterday, the audit will start by next week but as for the PVC distribution we have to come up with a water-tight process so that the PVCs will not get into wrong hands especially as we are having Kogi and Bayelsa elections. We have to scientifically determine how we are going to do the distribution, so that we just don’t go out to the field and it becomes a different story.
“For the CVR, the plan was laid out before RECs on Thursday, but they had reservations on the process and we have to go back to the drawing board and do a proper planning.
“We don’t mind to plan for six months so that when it takes off, we will ensure we have a plan that can withstand pressure, except for minor changes, rather than we just take off because we want to please Nigerians and we end up having complaints and hitches along the way.
“We have set up a committee to look at the modalities and then we will still call the RECs back and agree on the modalities, because the new direction of INEC is a bottom to top approach and take decisions in an inclusive manner with the people that implement decisions rather than the commission just deciding on the processes.”