By Felix Khanoba
A non-governmental organisation, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD) has condemned the decision of some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to oppose the nomination of Mrs Lauretta Onochie as national commissioner in Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The group in an open letter to Senate President dated 23 June, 2021, called on senators to ignore the reason adduced by YIAGA Africa and other CSOs for opposing Onochie’s nomination.
The letter signed by VATLAD National President, Comrade (Engr) Igbini Odafe Emmanuel, said rejecting Onochie’s nomination would be a clear violation of Nigeria’s constitution.
The letter which was titled : “OUR OBJECTION TO YIAGA AFRICA-LED OPPOSITION TO THE CONFIRMATION OF MRS LAURETTA ONOCHIE AS INEC NATIONAL Commissioner,” read in full: “We have carefully read the Letter written to the Distinguished Senate of Nigeria by Yiaga Africa and some other respected Civil Society Organisations, opposing the confirmation of of Mrs Lauretta Onochie as National Commissioner of INEC mainly on ground that she is Partisan – a strong supporter of President Buhari and the Cause or Idea she believes in for Nigeria.
“Other reasons given by Yiaga Africa and others are merely in case the main reason for their objection fails. And it will sure fail because it is against the spirit and letter of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended.
“We therefore vehemently object to such opposition, and wish to unequivocally state that any attempt by the Distinguished Senate of the Federal Republic Nigeria to be misled or pressured to reject this confirmation shall be clear and deliberate unconstitutional discrimination against Mrs Lauretta Onochie in violation of her Fundamental Right from being discriminated against, and her Freedom of Association as provided by sections 42 and 40 respectively, of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended.
“Is Yiaga Africa and others claiming not to know that other members of INEC are covertly or overtly linked or sympathetic to Politicians or Persons in partisan Politics?
” We have also carefully perused the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, and have not seen anywhere the Fundamental Rights of Citizens of Nigeria of age 18 years and above, to Freedom of Association which includes Freedom to belong to any Registered Political Party, Yiaga Africa, and other Lawful Organisations, is prohibited.
“It is imperative to remind our Distinguished Senators that rejecting her Confirmation only for the reason so far advanced will also amount to violation of sections 24(b, d), 65, 66, 153, 156, paragraph 14(2 & 3) of Part 1 of First Alteration to the 3rd Schedule and 7th Schedule of 1999 CFRN, as amended.
“It is also important to remind the Senate that Nigerians in Dispora are members of Nigerian Political Parties of their Choice and rightly so, and are using such platforms to positively contribute to the advancement of Good Government and Democracy in Nigeria.
“We also respectfully wish to make it abundantly clear that our Organisation (Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD) has for over twenty years been part of a very few Credible and Self-sponsored Nigerian Organisations that have continued to demand for truly Independent Federal and State Electoral Commissions; Credible, Free, Fair and non-Violent General Elections, in addition to the fact that we have also consistently condemned as Frauds, General Elections so far conducted in Nigeria.
“We were proved right when in year 2007, late President Umaru Yar Adua, publicly admitted and declared that INEC’s General Election which declared him Winner, was a Monumental Fraud. May his gentle and patriotic Soul continue to rest in Peace with GOD ALMIGHTY. Amen.
“Since year 2007 and with hundreds of billions of naira spent every four years by INEC, has there been credibility in all subsequent so-called General Elections conducted? The obvious answer is: NO, hence the increasing number of litigations, Peaceful and Violent Protests across the Country against Conducts and Outcomes of INEC’s General Elections.
“The desire of Nigerians is to have Nigerians of Unquestionable and Proven Integrity to be freely elected to govern them through Credible and Non-Violent General Elections conducted by proven Compatriots, men and women of unquestionable Integrity who will conduct their Official Duties as INEC Officials without fear or favour.
“In addition, by virtue of Section 24 (b &d) of 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, Citizens of Nigeria who are 18 years and above, are expected to carry out their Constitutional and Civic Duties to belong to registered political parties and or actively participate in the processes of electing Nigerians of their choice.
“It will therefore be unacceptable to have any Nigerian of the age of 18 years and above, who is not a member of any Registered Political Party or had or have no link to, support or sympathy for any worthy National Cause, Registered Political Party or Nigerian in partisan Politics, to be so appointed into INEC. Allowing any such Nigerian as Yiaga Africa and others want Nigerians to demand as in this case of Mrs Lauretta Onochie’s Appointment, will be against the spirit and letter of section 24 (a & b) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended.
“It is also for this reason that Section 156(1) refers to provision of section 65(1b) and 65(2) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as the basis for qualification for any person to be appointed as Chairman, National Commissioner and or Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC.
“Are Yiaga Africa and other Civil Society Organisations not aware that the Law of Nigeria has since been amended to allow Nigerian Civil Servants to freely belong to registered Political Parties and actively participate in elections yet these same Civil Servants constitute part of INEC?
“The question therefore to ask Yiaga Africa and others is: Does section 24 of Nigerian Constitution expect any adult Nigerian to be non-partisan, non-supportive of a group, political party, person, cause or idea in Nigeria? Certainly Not! Is Mrs Lauretta Onochie not a Citizen of Nigeria under section 24 of 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended?
“What is expected by Nigerians and prescribed by the Nigerian Constitution is for all members Federal Commissions and Councils and Public Offices to carryout their official duties in manners as to be Incorruptible and Impartial in favour or against any person, Political Party or group. It is for this reason that all members of INEC are by provision of paragraph 15(g) of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule to the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, mandated to take and subscribe the Oath of Office as prescribed in Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended.
“In conclusion, we respectfully advise that instead of opposing the nomination of Mrs Lauretta Onochie, Nigerians should demand for appointment of at least one member from each of the Registered Political Parties, nominated by the Political Parties, to be part of INEC National Commission and one member from each Political Party to be part of INEC State Commission. This will guarantee the protection of interest of all Political Parties in General Elections.
“Mrs Lauretta Onochie be confirmed as INEC National Commissioner.
” We shall be very prepared to defend our position before the Distinguished Senate when invited to do so.”