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Senate moves to screen Lauretta Onochie, eight others as INEC Commissioner

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The Senate has begun the screening and subsequent confirmation of the Special Assistant, Social Media to President Muhammadu Buhari, Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan on Wednesday forwarded the name of Onochie and five others as Federal Commissioners to the Senator Kabiru Gaya, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kano South led Senate Committee on INEC.

Lawan gave the Committee two weeks to carry out legislative action on the list and report back at Plenary.

The action of the President of the Senate was sequel to the Executive Communication read by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, APC, Kebbi North that the Senate do consider the request of President Muhammadu Buhari on the confirmation of the Nominations of the following persons for Appointment as Commissioners of INEC in accordance with Paragraph 14 Part 1(F) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as Amended.

Aside Onochie, other names that were referred to the Senate Committee are Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah from Katsina; Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi, Ekiti State; Saidu Babura Ahmad, Jigawa; Prof. Sani Muhammad Adam, North Central and Dr. Baba Bila, North East.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had in October , 2020, forwarded to the Senate for Screening and subsequent confirmation, his Special Assistant, Social Media, Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan read the letter from President Buhari forwarding the name of Onochie from Delta along side three other National Commissioners.

Others are Prof. Mohammed Sani from Katsina State; Prof. Kunle Ajayi from Ekiti State and Seidu Ahmed from Jigawa.

Buhari had said “Appointment for Commissioners for INEC. Pursuant to paragraph 14 of part 11 of the first schedule of the 1999 constitution.”

Also recall that same month last year, fourteen leading Civil Society Organisations, CSOs took a swipe at President Muhammadu Buhari following his nomination of his Special Assistant, Social Media, Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC for Screening and subsequent confirmation.

Also same day, Senator Dino Melaye who represented Kogi West in the Senate 8th Senate and early part of the present 9th Senate, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately rescind the nomination of Ms. Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Melaye described the nomination as unconstitutional, affront on the patience of Nigerians and an insult to the institution of INEC.

In a statement then, the 14 CSOs while reacting to the development, said that the nomination did not go well with the recent gains of the electoral system in the country.

The Leaders of the civil societies who signed the statement were the executive director of Peering Advocacy and Advancement Center, Convener of Say No Campaign, Comrade Ezenwa Nwagwu, executive director Center for Democracy, Idayat Hassan, executive director Center for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) Faith Nwadishi among others.

The statement titled, ” Nomination of Lauretta Onochie as National Commissioner INEC”, read “Whereas it has come to our notice the nomination of Lauretta Onochie by President Muhammadu Buhari as a National Commissioner of INEC, via a letter sent to the senate leadership for screening and confirmation on 13th October 2020, we completely reject this nomination, which does not sit well in the recent gains of the electoral system in the country.

“Whereas the 1999 Nigeria constitution (As amended) in the 3rd schedule, part 2f, paragraph 14(b) provides that National Electoral Commissioners of INEC, shall be non-partisan and persons of unquestionable integrity, who shall be nominated by the President.

“Whereas, 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.

“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 confrontations with opposition elements through the media.

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