Finally, curtain was drawn on the Ms Lauretta Onochie’s saga, as the Senate took the bull by the horn voting to reject her nomination as INEC Commissioner. It was a long-drawn process which attracted attention from far and near, polarizing the senate and threatening its reputation as an independent arm of government. But, reason prevailed.
Finally, curtain was drawn on the Ms Lauretta Onochie’s saga, as the Senate took the bull by the horn voting to reject her nomination as INEC Commissioner.
It was a long-drawn process which attracted attention from far and near, polarizing the senate and threatening its reputation as an independent arm of government. But, reason prevailed.
Calm was restored to the Senate and the polity as the 8-month long matter was put to rest when the Senate voted unanimously to reject her nomination; not on account of her partisanship but for constituting an infraction on the Federal Character principle.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, in his committee’s report, said Onochie did not satisfy the provisions of the Federal Character Principles. He, however, admitted that the Committee received several petitions against the nominations of Ms. Lauretta Onochie and Professor Sani Muhammad Adam
He disclosed that the petitions against Lauretta Onochie were against the backdrop of her involvement in politics and alleged membership of a political party. He explained further that her nomination violated the Federal Character Principle as there is already a serving National Electoral Commissioner from Delta State in the person of Barr (Mrs) Mary Agbamuche-Mbu who had earlier been screened and confirmed by the 8th Senate.
“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 bound by the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amendment) on Federal Character Principle, 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 submitted.
The nomination of Mrs Lauretta Onochie, a Special Assistant on Social Media to President Buhari had been greeted with strident criticism ever since it was made. Different Civil Society Organisations and the media canvassed arguments against her membership of the Election Management body.
At the peak of the saga, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Attahiru Jega waded in and advised President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the nomination of his aide, Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner of INEC.
Prof Jega said Onochie’s membership of INEC would lead to an erosion of confidence from the electoral body and process. He also warned the National Assembly against confirming her appointment.
Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also kicked against her nomination with its Chairman Prince Uche Secondus leading a protest involving its National Assembly members to the foyer of the Senate to register its rejection of Ms Onochie.
Different Civil Society Organisations wrote petitions against her nomination. One of them, the, Concerned Nigerians Group, CNG, asserted that she is an openly partisan, card carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and constantly had attacked and denigrated critics of her party.
A consortium of Civil Society Organisations on Wednesday asked the Senate to reject the nomination of an aide to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), Mrs Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The organisations warned that her appointment would undermine citizens’ confidence in INEC and increase mistrust in the commission.
The organisations include YIAGA Africa, Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa, International Press Centre, Institute for Media and Society, The Albino Foundation, Centre for Citizens with Disability, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Centre for Democracy and Development and CLEEN Foundation.
The CSOs said Onochie’s appointment would also jeopardise the trust of other political parties in the commission.The coalition of nine civil society organisations (CSOs) took further steps to has institute a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over the nomination of Lauretta Onochie, a presidential aide, as commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/604/2021, filed before a federal high court in Abuja on Tuesday, the CSOs are asking the court to determine whether the president “can nominate a card-carrying member or members of his political party or any other political party in Nigeria, as a national commissioner or resident electoral commissioner for the independent national electoral commission”, contrary to Sections 14 (2a), 14 (3), 14 (3b), 14 (4) and Section 154 (1) of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended in 2011).
In the originating summons the applicants are asking the court to declare the nomination of “Lauretta Onochie, a well-known Member of the All Progressives Congress and current serving personal assistant on social media to the 1st defendant (Buhari), as a national commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission”, as “wrongful, illegal, null and void and same nullified”.
Amongst other reliefs sought, they are also asking the court for an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the 3rd and 4th defendants (the senate and Kabiru Gaya) from referring, considering, screening, deliberating or confirming the nomination of Ms Lauretta Onochie”.
In the affidavits deposed by Ezenwa Nwagwu, board member of the incorporated trustees of YIAGA Africa Initiative, in support of the originating summons, the plaintiffs submitted that considering the close affinity with Buhari and his administration, “Onochie cannot be a fair and unbiased umpire to serve in the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“That her criticism and constant denigration of political opponents cannot allow such opponents to be at ease seeing a member of another political party presiding as a supposed unbiased umpire,” they added.
“That based on the various baseless, bigoted and inaccurate activities of Ms Lauretta Onochie, especially on the social media, she is not a person of integrity capable of occupying a sensitive and trusted position as that of a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The CSOs include the International Press Centre, Centre for Citizens with Disability, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Incorporated Trustees of Albino Foundation, Incorporated Trustees of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, and Incorporated Trustees of Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa.
Others are Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Media and Society, Incorporated Trustees of YIAGA Africa Initiative.