*Petition Senate, ask Buhari to withdraw her nomination
*Insist she will undermine neutrality of INEC
By Myke Uzendu, Abuja
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have petitioned the Senate, faulting the nomination of the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The group insisted that “confirming her to work any sensitive office, especially at the commission will greatly undermine the neutrality and impartiality of INEC and will increase mistrust in the INEC and Nigeria’s electoral process”.
The CSO in the petition dated June 16, 2021 which was addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Sen. Kabiru Gaya, stated that Onochie’s nomination runs contrary to several sections of 1999 constitution.
The petition which was signed by Yiaga Africa, Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), International Press Centre (IPC), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), CLEEN Foundation and Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), emphatically drew attention to the fact that valid nomination to the position INEC National Commissioner “is governed by Sections 154(3), 156(1a), Third Schedule, Item F Paragraph 14(2a) and 14(3b) of the Constitution.
The coalition in the petition said: “A combined reading of the above stated constitutional provisions demands that, first, the President ,before appointing an individual as INEC National Commissioner, must consult the Council of State before forwarding the nomination to the Senate for confirmation.
“The fundamental question is whether the President consulted with the Council of State before submitting to the Senate a letter nominating Onochie as INEC’s National Commissioner? A confirmation by the Senate without the input of the Council of State is unconstitutional.”
The CSOs further said that the nation’s constitution makes it mandatory that a person nominated “as an INEC National Commissioner, should be non-partisan.
“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 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.
“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, 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.”
Deducing from her claimed disposition, the coalition opined that “it is highly unlikely that she would remain neutral and objective if successfully screened as one of INEC’s National Commissioners”.
They said: “We contend that her appointment will greatly undermine the neutrality and impartiality of the Independent National Electoral Commission and it will increase mistrust in the INEC and Nigeria’s electoral process.
“By the combined effect of Section 156 (1)(a) and Third Schedule, Part 1, Item F, paragraph 14 (1), Onochie is constitutionally prohibited from any appointment as a member of the electoral umpire.
“It is against the sacred spirit of our Constitution to accept her nomination,” they submitted.
The coalition also pointed out that one of the requirements for such appointment is that such a person should be “a person of unquestionable integrity.
“Unfortunately, Onochie lacks the integrity to serve as INEC’s National Commissioner due to her previous antics on the social media.
“In addition to using her social media platform to express her loyalty to the ruling All Progressive Party (APC), she peddles propaganda and misinformation regularly,” they claimed.
They also claimed “There are several documented evidence of written attacks, social media altercations, and unfounded, malicious allegations against individuals or groups by the nominee in a manner that clearly shows partisanship and questionable character.
“In addition, a February 2019 media analysis by Premium Times on individuals/accounts, using fake news as campaign strategies online, revealed and identified Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as one of the Nigerian politicians, who used fake news as campaign strategies online.”
The coalition urged the Senate to completely reject the nomination of Mrs. Onochie as a National Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The coalition, also, urged President Buhari to withdraw her nomination in the public interest, and in furtherance of his commitment to leave a legacy of a truly independent electoral institution that enjoys the trust and confidence of citizens and electoral stakeholders.
They equally, requested the president “to uphold the federal character principle in re-nominating a non-partisan, neutral, and competent Nigerian to represent the South-South as INEC National Commissioner as well as urged the President to uphold the principle of diversity by ensuring gender inclusion in the nomination of non-partisan and competent Nigerians as INEC National Commissioners.”
Earlier, the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has threatened to institute legal action against the President and the leadership of the National Assembly if her nomination is not withdrawn .