COURT documents have revealed that a presidential aide Lauretta Onochie declared under court oath that she is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2016.
Onochie, a personal assistant to the president on social media, was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but many Nigerians, including civil society organisations (CSOs), are insisting that the National Assembly should not confirm her.
In papers she filed in a libel suit before a High Court in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Onochie confirmed that she was actively involved in politics. She also said she was a ‘volunteer at the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO),’ a political think-tank that helped in coordinating Buhari’s election campaigns in the 2015 and 2019 elections.
In the suit marked CV/852/16, Onochie sought N1 billion in damages against one Emeka Ugwuonye.
She accused the defendant of defaming her when he referred to her as a trafficker of young girls for international prostitution, in a Facebook post made on January 21, 2016.
“I am also engaged in active politics and a member of the Neighbourhood Watch and has also contested the local government elections under the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom,” she said, while declaring that the words used in the said Facebook post, which she reproduced in the suit, had brought her reputation to public ridicule.
“I am also a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a volunteer at the Buhari Support Group,” Onochie added.
The presidential aide further maintained that she was an educationist who had served as headmistress of Aunt Margaret International School, Calabar, and Principal of Holy Child Secondary School, Calabar. She also said she had worked at the Epping Forest College Essex, United Kingdom.
According to Premium Times, the suit was amended and refiled on March 8, 2017.
She adopted all her claims during cross-examination by the court in 2020.
Onochie was nominated alongside five other persons as an INEC national commissioner in October 2020.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan earlier this month directed the Senate Committee on INEC to commence the process that would lead to Onochie’s confirmation despite stiff opposition from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and CSOs over her involvement in partisan politics.
What the Constitution says
In appointing the national commissioners of INEC, Section 154 (3) of the 1999 Constitution stipulates that the president should consult with the Council of State.
In addition, Paragraph B of Part 1 of the Third Schedule provides that “The Council of State shall have the power to advise the president in the exercise of his powers with respect to (iv) the Independent National Electoral Commission including the appointment of the members of the commission.”
The constitution further states that, pursuant to the provisions of Section 154 (1), the appointment of the members of the Independent National Electoral Commission shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Paragraph 14 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule, as amended by Section 30, Act No 1 of 2010, clearly stated that a member of the Independent National Electoral Commission “shall be non-partisan.”