The Independent National Electoral Commission has reacted to criticisms over its appointment of Amina Zakari as head of its collation centre for the forthcoming presidential election.

The opposition has rejected the appointment, saying Mrs Zakari is a blood relation of President Muhammadu Buhari and had shown bias in past elections. It has not substantiated the claims.

The director of voter education and publicity at INEC, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, however, said Mrs Zakari’s role as head of the collection center committee has nothing to do with actual collation of votes.

He said only the chairman of INEC, who is the returning officer for presidential election, decides the validity of votes.

Mr Uzzi said this Friday while speaking on Channel Television’s Sunrise Daily.

He said Mrs Zakari was appointed because she was in charge of welfare, and the role of the collation committee is to be in charge of the physical structure of the International Conference Center (ICC).

He said Mrs Zakari was suitable for the position having been involved in negotiating for the use of the centre in 2015.

“The chairman of INEC by virtue of the Electoral Act is the returning officer of the country for the presidential election. It is he who decides the validity of votes and any issues in the election,” he said.

“The committee is primarily in charge of welfare. She was also very involved in negotiating with the ICC management in 2015 for the use of the facility so her duty is to ensure the facility is ready. She has no role whatsoever with the process of collation.”

Following Mrs Zakari’s appointment on Thursday, the opposition Peoples Democratic Patty (PDP) and the Coalition of United Political Party (CUPP) released statements rejecting her appointment and demanding her removal.

Also, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timi Frank, in a statement on Friday also alleged that Mrs Zakari’s appointment was sealed at a midnight secret meeting at the presidential villa.

He called on the INEC chairman, Yakubu Mahmood, to resign for being part of the alleged meeting.

Mr Uzzi said the controversy was needless.

When asked if INEC was considering removing her, he said, “Removing her as the chairman of the committee to prepare the facility? That’s not an issue. It’s a needless controversy; not an issue at all”.

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