The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has objected to the appointment of a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
President Muhammadu Buhari had written to the Senate in October last year seeking her confirmation and that of others as national commissioners of the nation’s electoral body.
Ms Onochie is not only a member of the APC but also the special assistant to the president on Social media.
It is on the ground of her social media campaigns for the current administration and other alleged undemocratic behaviours that individuals and civic groups called on the president to withdraw her name from the list.
Disregarding public and civil groups agitations, the Senate, on June 9 set in motion the process of screening the Delta State-born-Onochie as INEC commissioner.
In a statement by its Director, Idayat Hassan, on Thursday, CDD said the appointment of Ms Onochie to serve in such a nonpartisan office could spell doom for Nigeria’s democratic principles if the Senate allowed it.
It asked the lawmakers to reject the nomination to save the country from further ridicule.
The Centre said it had petitioned the Senate highlighting the effects of such a move on INEC and the country’s electoral process at large if allowed to pass through the assembly.
“First, Ms Onochie is from Delta State, the same state from which Barrister May Agbamuche-Mbu, a current national commissioner, hails. Barrister Agbamuche-Mbu’s tenure is not ending until December 2021,” the Centre said.
“Also, Mr Mike Igini, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, hails from the same state and his tenure will end in August 2022. Neither Mrs Agbamuche-Mbu nor Mr Igini has been removed from office.
“Therefore, Ms Onochie’s confirmation will contravene the Federal Character principle as enshrined in the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended. President Buhari’s renomination of Ms Onochie from Delta State promotes inequity and appears to send a message that there are no qualified and non-partisan persons in the other South-South states worthy of appointment into INEC.”
The group said Ms Onochie’s appointment had also made mockery of a part of Nigeria constitution which forbids a political party member or partisan individual from being appointed to such office.
“Second, Ms Onochie does not hide her partisan support for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and she is likely a card-carrying member of the party.
“It is also important to realise that her partisanship is the reason she was appointed to her current role as an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media.
“This, therefore, precludes her from being appointed into INEC. Section 156(1) and Item F, Paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, forbid an appointee to INEC to be a political party member or a partisan individual.
“There is no doubt that Ms Onochie will continue to protect the interest of the APC if confirmed by the Senate. Moreover, CDD believes strongly that she will represent political baggage that could damage the Commission’s legitimacy. Any elections she oversees will likely be subjected to multiple litigations, even in a genuine win by the APC and other parties,” CDD stated.
The Centre also said the appointment was a breach of Section 30 (Paragraph 14, Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution) which forbids anyone of questionable character from being appointed into the election management body.
It said, “The nominee, in past elections, particularly ahead of the 2019 General Elections, used her social media handle (@laurestar) to peddle fake news, with the intent to delegitimise INEC.
“She also peddled fake news when she shared photographs of a Nasarawa-Jos road construction project purportedly done by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“CDD’s fact check traced the images she posted to a foreign construction project shared on iStock photos, where she lifted the images.”
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