Senate Screens Onochie, Others For Position Of INEC Commissioners

Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie during her screening before the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, July 8, 2021.

 

The Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday screened Lauretta Onochie and other nominees for appointment as National Commissioners of the electoral body.

One of President Buhari’s aides, Lauretta Onochie is among the nominees.

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The nomination of Lauretta Onochie who currently serves as Senior Special Assistant on New Media to President Buhari has elicited public criticism from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and civil society organizations who are against her nomination on the grounds that she is an alleged card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and is not proper to be appointed as an election officer.

In her introductory remarks, Onochie said she is not partisan. She admitted that she had seen the petitions against her which are not only from the opposition but also from people in the APC. She said the opposition to her candidacy is because she is known to be non-partisan and someone who insists on due process and the right thing to be done.

However, Committee members questioned her stance on non-partisanship.

Senator Istifanus Gyang queried that one of the petitions against her has an affidavit affirming her membership of the APC.

Senators participating in the screening exercise.

 

Senator Ike Ekweremadu in his contribution said he is worried that her nomination is flouting the principle of Federal character.

He explained that there is a nominee already from Delta State whose tenure will soon expire and Lauretta is being nominated for the second slot for the South-South which should go round the southern states, however, the nomination means that for a second time the position is going again to Delta State to the exclusion of the other Niger Delta states.

Ekweremadu advised her to withdraw her nomination to preserve the integrity of President Buhari.

However, Senator Lawal Gumau said there is nothing wrong with her nomination and maintained that all the petitions against her are sentiments.

In her response, Onochie explained that the INEC National Commissioner who Senator Ekweremadu made reference is May Agbamuche Mgbu.

Lauretta Onochie at the screening exercise.

 

According to Onochie, Mgbu was nominated under her husband’s state – Cross River and not Delta State. She explained that since President Buhari won his second term, she has removed herself from all things political.

She maintained that from 2019 till date she has not had anything to do with any political organisation and did not partake in APC’s validation exercise.

PDP Leaders Storm NASS To Protest Onochie’s Nomination As INEC Commissioner

Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe and National Leader of the PDP Uche Secondus during the protest at NASS gate.

 

Leaders of the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), on Wednesday stormed the National Assembly in protest.

The leaders are demanding the immediate reversal of President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of Lauretta Onochie as National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Lauretta Onochie is currently the media aide to President Buhari on Social Media.

Led by its National Chairman, Uche Secondus, the PDP described the appointment as a travesty on democracy.

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Secondus said Onochie being a card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) cannot be appointed into a position that requires a high level of neutrality.

He urged the National Assembly leadership to impress on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately withdraw her nomination.

The party also raised concern over the recent defection of some members of the PDP to APC and blamed it on the approach used by APC in luring the defectors.

The party further accused the current administration of impoverishing Nigeria and subjecting the citizens to untold hardship.

Some PDP lawmakers including the Senate Minority leader, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe were among those who joined in the protest.

President Buhari earlier in October wrote to the Senate to confirm the appointment of one of his media aides, Lauretta Onochie, and three others as Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Others are Professor Mohammed Sani (Katsina); Professor Kunle Ajayi (Ekiti), and Seidu Ahmed (Jigawa).

The leaders also submitted a letter stating fully their demands and rejection of the nomination of Onochie. The statement was signed by the National Secretary of the party, Umaru Ibrahim Tsauri.

 

See the letter below…

The Chairman,
Senate Committee on INEC,
National Assembly Complex,
Three Arms Zone,
Abuja.

Dear Sir,

REJECTION OF THE NOMINATION OF LAURETTA ONOCHIE
AS INEC COMMISSIONER

The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has learnt of the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as a Commissioner in INEC by Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The nomination which was read on the floor of the Senate and forwarded to your committee for screening has created a lot of misgivings in the court of public opinion and judgement.

Our Party considers it as important to bring to the attention of your committee the fact that our duty is to let you know that the National Assembly must endeavour to do things right and in accordance with the dictates of the laws of the country.

The Nigeria Constitution 1999 as amended clearly prohibits people like Mrs. Onochie, who is very partisan, in fact, a card-carrying member of a political party to be appointed into INEC as an electoral umpire. Section 156(i)(a) and third schedule, Part 1, Item F, Paragraph 14(1) of the Constitution have outrightly disqualified her.

We are, therefore, writing to ask the Chairman to save the Senate President, the Senate itself and Mr. President from being ridiculed.

We call on your committee to reject the nomination of Onochie because she cannot be neutral or independent as she is factually known to be an unrepentant card-carrying member of the APC with an uncountable number of proofs.

Her confirmation will be a wholesome abuse of democratic tenets and dragging the reputation of the President and the Senate in the political mud.

Please, don’t make an avoidable legislative and political mistake for the country.

Kindly, accept the assurances of our highest consideration and esteem regard.

Sen. Umaru Ibrahim Tsauri, CON
National Secretary