Civil Society Groups have written a petition to the National Assembly, to oppose President Buhari’s nomination of Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
President Muhammadu Buhari had sent a letter to the National Assembly requesting the confirmation of three nominees as INEC National Commissioners and one Resident Electoral Commissioner which was read by the senate president on Tuesday, October 13, 2020.
The groups include Yiaga Africa, Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), International Press Centre (IPC), Institute for Media and Society (IMS), The Albino Foundation, Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), and CLEEN Foundation.
Mrs. Lauretta Onochie who hails from Aniocha Local Government Area of Delta state and a current Special Assistant to the President on social media is among the nominees awaiting confirmation by the Senate. She was nominated as National Commissioner of INEC to represent the South-South region. On Wednesday, 9th June 2021, eight months after her nomination, the Senate referred Lauretta Onochie’s name to its Committee on INEC to commence her screening as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The groups based their petitions on the ground that whether the President consulted with the Council of State before submitting to the Senate a letter nominating Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as INEC’s National Commissioner, as stated in Section 154(3), 156(1a), Third Schedule, Item F Paragraph 14(2a) and 14(3b) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended), as a confirmation by the Senate without the input of the State Council is unconstitutional.
Also, Section 156(1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly prohibits the appointment of any person who is a member of a political party as a member of INEC.
The petition reads in part that, “to further ensure the neutrality of the members of INEC, the Constitution clearly mandates in the Third Schedule, Part 1, Item F, paragraph 14 (1) that a National Commissioner shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity which Mrs. Lauretta Onochie is found wanting in this category.
“However, until this moment Mrs. Lauretta Onochie is not only a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), and a Special Assistant to President Buhari on social media, but she is also notorious for her partisan, biased, and in some instances inflammatory comments on national issues targeted at perceived or imagined enemies of the Buhari government.”
The group in their petition made it known that Mrs. Lauretta Onochie has been identified by some media houses as one of the Nigerian politicians who used fake news as campaign strategies online.
The groups also stated that “While the social media space is still littered with many other inexcusable tweets and posts by Mrs. Onochie. It will be innocuous to state that the nomination of an individual as INEC’s National Commissioner who as in the instant case has habitually demonstrated unabashed partisanship should be outrightly refused and rejected by the Senate. Doing otherwise is a violation of our constitution and the impartiality of our electoral umpire.”