Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Amina Bala Zakari as acting chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission. Zakari is the first woman in Nigeria’s history to lead the African nation’s election body, although in acting capacity. She assumed the top post of Nigeria’s election body on Tuesday after former elections chairman Attahiru Jega bowed out from the position, according to local media reports.

Jega had announced earlier he would not extend his five-year term amid allegations of bias and malpractice in association with Nigeria’s general elections. The former INEC head had reportedly chosen another national electoral commissioner, Ahmed Wali, as his successor during a handing-over ceremony Tuesday night. But Buhari stepped in and indicated his preference for Zakari, according to Nigerian newspaper Premium Times.


Zakari, a registered pharmacist from Jigawa state, is a national electoral commissioner who will remain in charge of the election body until Buhari appoints a permanent chair. Her appointment came after a historic and largely successful election cycle, which was lauded by leaders around the world. Buhari and his All Progressives Congress party unseated former President Goodluck Jonathan and his long-ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the March 29 presidential election, marking the first time in Nigeria’s history that an incumbent lost a re-election bid. Jonathan was also widely praised for accepting defeat.

However, Nigeria’s general elections were not without controversy. As ballots trickled and the PDP sensed loss, some party members condemned Jega and accused the INEC of bias and negligence. Jega immediately dismissed the allegations but later said he would give up his position as elections chairman when his current term expires at the end of June.

“I am grateful to God. I was asked to come and contribute my own quota to the national development, and I have done my bit to the best of my ability,” Jega told the media in April, according to Nigerian newspaper the Daily Post. “Whatever assignment one will do for five years -- just like this difficult one, to me if one is able to successfully accomplish the task, someone else should be given the opportunity, because for me I am not interested and if I am requested to serve again, I will not do it, by God’s grace.”

Jonathan had appointed Jega to the top post on June 30, 2010. The PDP praised the former INEC chair on Tuesday for delivering credible elections albeit the once-ruling party’s first loss. “He led us to our first defeat. But to be honest, Jega, to an extent, brought confidence to the system. Nobody is perfect but we owe his success and achievements to Jonathan who allowed him to function without interference,” PDP spokesperson Olisa Metuh said in an interview with Nigerian newspaper Punch.