Despite opposition from various groups and stakeholders, Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission is reportedly about to install presidential aide, Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner for the electoral umpire.
Naija News reports that there have been controversies over the nomination of Onochie for the nation’s electoral body commissioner by President Muhammadu Buhari in a letter dated 12th October 2020.
The letter which was read at the senate by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, sought the confirmation for Onochie and other nominees.
The letter read, “Under Paragraph 14 of Part I(F) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, I hereby forward for confirmation by the Senate, the appointment of the following four (4) Commissioners for the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
The nominees listed by the President are Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah (Katsina); Prof. Kunle Ajayi ( Ekiti); and Saidu Ahmad (Jigawa)
However, the red chamber suspended action on the nominees based on the controversy it generated with the inclusion of Onochie who happens to be the Special Assistant to the President on New Media.
Subsequently, Lawan on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, gave the committee on INEC a go-ahead to screen for confirmation, the appointments of Onochie and five others as INEC commissioners.
Two new nominees, Professors Sani Adam (North-Central), and Baba Bila (North-East) were added to the list.
Kabiru Gaya screened the nominees including Onochie on Thursday, Naija News reports.
In her address during the screening on Thursday, Onochie acknowledged a series of petitions against her which bothered on her membership of the APC and the fact that someone from her state was already on the board of INEC
She renounced being a member of the ruling party three times before the Senate committee. Onochie admitted being part of Buhari’s campaign organisation in 2015 before she was appointed Special Assistant on Social Media.
She also admitted deposing an affidavit at the Abuja Federal High Court that she was a member of the APC. She, however, noted that she stopped being a member of the party immediately after the 2019 elections.
She said, “Since 2019, I have not had anything to do with any political organisation, including Buhari support groups.
“When the APC was doing re-validation of party members, I did not take part in that exercise.
“As I’m sitting down here, I’m not a member of any political party in this country. I have no partisanship in my blood.
“I have seen many petitions against my nomination not only from the Peoples Democratic Party but also from some APC members.
“I’m not partisan, they know. It is about the law. No one has any reason to fear for my nomination as INEC commissioner representing Delta.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m madam due process. That’s why all the attacks. I follow due process, I follow the law.”
Her speech generated a barrage of reactions with oppositions calling for her name to be ruled out of the screening.
Naija News understands that an affidavit dated 30th June 2021, swore to at an FCT High Court, attached to one of the petitions against her, contradicted Onochie’s claims.
She deposed to the affidavit at the High Court of the FCT in a case involving her as plaintiff an Emeka Ugwuonye (defendant).
Onochie in her witness statement on oat affirmed among others that, “I am also a member of the All Progressives Congress and a volunteer at the Buhari Support Organisation.”
She further told the panel that Mrs May Agbamuche, a serving INEC national commissioner from Delta State, is representing Cross River on the board of the electoral umpire.
There was a sharp disagreement among the senators on whether Onochie should say the denial on oath or not but Gaya ruled that she didn’t need to do so and subsequently adjourned the proceedings.
Reports emerging, however, asserted that Onochie could be declared as INEC commissioner as the panel paid deaf ears to criticism of the presidential aide.