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IPAC, PDP, AAC others battle FG, APC over Onochie’s nomination

…Ignore PDP’s selective criticism, APC tells Senate

…CSOs threaten court action as Senate begins screening this week

By Ezeocha Nzeh

As the Nigerian senate begins the screening of Presiudent Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees as National Commissioners of the Independent Nation al Electoral Commission (INEC), this week, more condemnations have trailed the nomination of the president’s Special Assistant on Socia Media, Lauretta Onochie to the much revered office

The INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, along with five other national commissioners would be completing their tenures in office on November 9, and the president had last week forwarded the names of four persons, including Onochie as replacement for the whose tenure are ending

Other nominees on the list are Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah (National Electoral Commissioner), Katsina; Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (National Electoral Commissioner), Ekiti; and Saidu Babura Ahmad (Resident Electoral Commissioner), Jigawa

But the nomination of Onochie as INEC commissioner has given President Buhari more kn pcks that kudos, especially from the political parties and Civil Society Organizations

The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and the African Action Congress (AAC) called on President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the nomination of his media aide, Lauretta Onochie as National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to avoid further mass action against him and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC,) government

IPAC in a statement issued by it’s Chairman, Leonard Nzenwa, demands immediate withdrawal of Ms Lauretta Onochie nomination

“It is outrageous that President Buhari would nominate his personal aide, who is also a member of the All Progressives Congress in Delta State as a National Commissioner of INEC in flagrant violation of the Third Schedule, Part 1, paragraph 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 ( as amended) which provides that a member of the Commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity and shall not be a member of any political party.

“It is inconceivable that Mr President would nominate his personal staff and a card-carrying member of the ruling APC to serve as a National Commissioner of INEC at a time Nigerians are clamouring for electoral reform, free, fair, credible, transparent elections and sanctity of the ballot box.

“It is unacceptable, unpatriotic and attack on the nation’s emerging democracy that can trigger a mass action against the Federal Government when the country is currently facing unprecedented protests against Police brutality and demand for Police reform.”

The council noted that “Lauretta Onochie has been overzealous and reckless in carrying out her duties as President Buhari’s Special Assistant on Social Media, confronting and attacking with impunity anybody who disagrees with her principal.”

“IPAC calls on the Senate to disqualify Onochie to maintain the integrity, neutrality and acceptability of INEC as the nation’s indisputable electoral umpire. To do otherwise is to court disaster that can truncate our wobbling and fledgling democracy.

“It will also show that President Buhari has a hidden agenda to subvert the will, wish and mandate of the people in the crucial 2023 general election.” IPAC regretted.

On the same note, The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had described the appointment of Onochie as a highly provocative assault on the nation’s constitution and democratic process.

The party in a recent press Conference by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, said that the appointment shows that Mr. President’s public promises on credible polls clearly demonstrates that he has no plans whatsoever to leave a legacy of credible polls.

“This ugly development is another shameful attempt to plant unscrupulous elements in INEC in order to corrupt and further desecrate the sanctity of the commission, undermine our electoral system and destabilize our democratic process ahead of the 2023 general elections.

“Indeed, her nomination dresses up Mr. President as having more than an interest in legacy building and portrays him as one who has a personal candidature interest in the 2023 election. The only way to prove otherwise is to quickly withdraw Onochie’s nomination before the Senate.

“Moreover, being a card-carrying member of the APC as records shows (from Ward 5, Onicha Olona, Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta state), Onochie’s nomination is in clear violation of paragraph 14 of the 3rd schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which forbids a person involved in partisan politics to hold office as a member of INEC.

“It is therefore surprising that having sworn to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. President is taking actions that are antithetical to the very constitution and democratic governance.”

This is even as over thirty Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have threatened to go to Court to compel the President to withdraw her nomination.

Addressing a press conference at the weekend in Abuja, the CSOs led by Faith Nwadishi, the Executive Director, Center For Transparency Advocacy (CTA) said the nomination of Lauretta Onochie as National Commissioner INEC violates the letters of the 1999 Constitution and therefore cannot stand.

According to her “We, the concerned members of the- Civil Society write to put you on notice of our displeasure and disagreement with the letter from the President to the Senate of the Federal Republic nominating Ms Lauretta Onochie as National Commissioner for INEC.

“We completely reject this nomination, which does not sit well in the recent gains of the electoral system in the country. The 1999 Nigeria constitution (As amended) in the 3rd schedule, part 2f, paragraph 14(b) expressly provides that National Electoral Commissioners of INEC, shall be non-partisan and persons of unquestionable integrity, who shall be nominated by the president.

“It is important to note that the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC is an independent body overseeing the electoral processes in the country without any affiliation to any of the political parties should not have any of its governing bodies member identified as a person sympathetic to any political party. This status should remain so in order to maintain the sacredness of that institution.

Nwadishi declared that “We are therefore troubled that Lauretta Onochie, a serving aide of the President who openly supports the president and his political party, has been nominated to the position of National Commissioner, INEC. Any INEC National commissioner should enjoy the trust and confidence of all parties concerned (Ruling and Opposition), Ms Onochie failed this critical test with her several open and toxic confrontations with opposition elements and anyone that disagrees with her position through the media. We see this as an affront to the sensibilities of Nigerians and total disrespect to the sanctity of the Nigerian constitution

“As civil society actors and veterans in election observation in the country, having contributed to the electoral gains in Nigeria, we condemn this nomination and affirm that this will erode the gains we have made in our electoral reforms and cast aspersions on the sincerity of the President in ensuring a reformed electoral process in the country. We appeal on Mr President to reconsider this nomination as it does not serve the nation any good.

But the ruling APC in its defence to Onochie’s appointment as INEC National Commissioner called on the senate to ignore the PDP and other critics and move on to clear her for the job

APC in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Yekini Nabena, noted that the appointment has been subject to rash, subjective, misplaced and selective criticism by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and some interest groups.

It reminded the PDP that similar appointments had been made in the past, under its administration

“The PDP needs to be reminded that one of its card-carrying members, Dr. Johnson Alalibo, is the current Edo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC). Alalibo who was also a former Deputy Whip in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly has been an electoral asset to the PDP but that is an issue to be addressed another day.

“We urge the patriotic 9th Senate to stick with the facts and issues by ignoring the PDP’s grandstanding, cheap blackmail, baseless and subjective allegations of partisanship it is sponsoring against Ms Onochie. For the PDP, Ms Onochie’s capacity and effectiveness as a public servant and senior social media professional amounts to partisanship.

“We equally invite the PDP to query the ‘unquestionable integrity’ of brazen PDP apologists such as Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC; Mike Igini, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Akwa Ibom State, among others.”

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