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Electoral, constitutional risks of confirming Buhari’s aide, Onochie, as INEC commissioner


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A presidential aide to Muhamadu Buhari, Lauretta Onochie, is set to be confirmed by the Senate as a commissioner of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).

Her confirmation poses electoral and constitutional risks to the conduct of elections in Nigeria.

INEC is Nigeria’s electoral body saddled with the responsibility of conducting elections across the country, with resident electoral commissioners across states.

According to the INEC Establishment Act, which regulates the electoral body, a commissioner is appointed to serve for a period of four years.

On October 13, 2020, the Senate read a letter by Buhari seeking the confirmation of Muhammad Sani from Katsina State, Lauretta Onochie from Delta State, Kunle Cornelius Ajayi from Ekiti State and Seidu Ahmad from Jigawa State as INEC commissioners.

The Nigeria Constitution states that only the president can make appointments persons to offices in the INEC, subject to the Senate’s confirmation.

However, Lauretta’s nomination has received criticisms from Nigerians, civil society organisations, and the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), due to her affiliation with the ruling party, the All Progressives Party (APC).

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The ICIR had reported that on many occasions, Lauretta publicly declared her partisanship to the APC. Also, Onochie swore to a federal high court that she was a member of the APC.

If confirmed by the Senate, Onochie would serve as INEC commissioner until 2025, while Nigeria’s general election is set to hold in 2023.

She has also been spreading fake news to favour her principal, Buhari, and the APC during election periods.

Although Nigeria operates a multi-party system, the APC and the PDP have been the majority platforms in the country.

Dangers of Onochie’s appointment

Onochie’s appointment contravenes the provision of the Third Schedule, Part 1, Item F, Paragraph 14 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution, which states that an INEC national commissioner “shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”

If the Senate confirms Onochie, it will amount to outright defiance to the provision of the Nigerian Constitution.

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Her confirmation could also set a precedence for such appointments in the INEC, which is central to holding credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria.

The civil Society Organisations in Nigeria have also petitioned the Nigerian Senate to reject her nomination.

According to the CSOs, her appointment would undermine the ‘neutrality and impartiality’ and increase mistrust in the INEC and Nigeria’s electoral process.

They also contended that Onochie is a British Citizen and has been involved in active politics in the United Kingdom.

“Up till recently, she has been a full, card-carrying member of the British Conservative Party. To be specific, Mrs Onochie in 2010 contested elections for a councillorship position in Thames Ward in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham as a member of the UK Conservative Party.”

They argued that her dual national loyalty could undermine national interest and potentially threaten the independence of INEC.

Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via [email protected], on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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