Senate set to screen Onochie as INEC commissioner despite protests

NIGERIAN Senate President Ahmad Lawan has asked the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to screen Lauretta Onochie as a national commissioner of the electoral body.

Lawan gave the directive following a motion moved to that effect by the Senate Leader Yahaya Abdullahi during Wednesday’s plenary.

The motion was protested against by Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe, noting that the upper chamber had dealt with Onochie’s nomination. He said it was surprising that she was being brought up for screening again.


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“In seconding this motion, we had dealt with the matter of renomination of Lauretta Onochie,” he said.

“We feel surprised that that same name has resurfaced not as a national commissioner but as a Delta state commissioner, Mr President, reluctantly, I second the motion.”

Clarifying that Onochie was nominated as national and state commissioner, Lawan said the committee had four weeks to conclude the screening and report back to the red chamber at plenary.

Onochie, who is a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and spokesperson of President Muhammadu Buhari, was nominated alongside five other persons in October 2020.

Her nomination by the president has attracted a lot of protests by the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and several Nigerians on social media.

What the Constitution says

In appointing the members of the INEC, the 1999 Constitution requires the president to consult with the Council of State pursuant to section 154 (3) of the Constitution.

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 adds that pursuant to Section 154 (1) of the Constitution, 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 states that a member of the Independent National Electoral Commission “shall be non-partisan.”






     

     

    The Coordinator of Anambra Voters Forum Ebube Umeh said Onochie’s screening, despite stiff oppositions from Nigerians, would bring the integrity of the electoral body to disrepute.

    He told The ICIR in a phone interview that having a staunch supporter of the president and a card-carrying member of the ruling party on INEC would seriously compromise future elections

    “Onochie’s nomination and screening would bring the integrity and independence of INEC to question. Her presence on the board of the country’s electoral body would seriously affect the outcomes of future elections,” he said.

    Multiple times Lauretta Onochie, Buhari’s aide declared she is APC member

    “Someone like her, who is a strong defender of the president, should not be an umpire in a sensitive institution like INEC. She portends great danger for our democracy. Nigerians and the opposition parties should be worried.”

    You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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