Photo: Onochie at Senate
The Nigerian Senate has rejected the nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari of Lauretta Onochie, his Special Assistant on Social Media, for appointment as a National Commissioner with Nigeria’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Buhari had written to the Senate in October 2020, to confirm the appointment of Onochie, who is currently his media aide on Social Media, and three others as Commissioners of INEC.
Giving reasons for rejecting Onochie’s nomination, the Chairman of the Screening Committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South), in his presentation, said the Committee received several petitions against the nominations of Ms. Lauretta Onochie and Professor Sani Muhammad Adam, adding that the petitions against her were against the backdrop of her involvement in politics and alleged membership of a political party.
He said her nomination also violated the Federal Character Principle as there was already a serving National Electoral Commissioner from Delta State, Barr. Mary Agbamuche-Mbu who was screened and confirmed by the 8th Senate.
The Senate’s decision on Tuesday was the outcome of massive petitions, protests and opposition that trailed her nomination from members of the ruling party, the opposition and civil society organisations who claimed that she was a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Lending his voice to the uproar which greeted Onochie’s nomination was the highly respected immediate past INEC National Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, who oversaw the election that ushered Buhari into office in 2015.
Jega had while speaking on a live television program on Monday taken a swipe at the nomination saying that it was fraught with glaring elements of partisanship.
“This kind of controversy is really avoidable. Any person who generated such a controversy, the appointing authorities should be careful because you don’t want to appoint anybody that can raise suspicions or doubts or can lead to a loss of trust of the electoral management body.”
Onochie was, however, adamant when she appeared before the Senate for screening last Thursday, insisting that she was not partisan.
Confirming that she had seen the petitions against her, she maintained that she was someone who believed in due process.
The presidential aide argued that since the president’s re-election in 2019, she had not had anything to do with any political organisation and did not partake in APC’s recent validation exercise, having removed herself from all things political.
But explaining further, Gaya said: “In the case of Ms. Lauretta Onochie’s, having studied her curriculum vitae and other relevant documents, followed by exhaustive interaction around the petitions against her nomination which she responded to accordingly, including attesting that she is not a registered member of any political party, the Committee is bound by the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amendment) on Federal Character Principle, and has refused to recommend Onochie for confirmation.
“Therefore, based on the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) on Federal Character Principle as earlier stated, and in order for the Committee and the Senate to achieve fairness to other states and political zones in the country, the committee is unable to recommend Ms. Lauretta Onochie for confirmation as a National Electoral Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission,” he added.