The news of the Senate’s rejection of Lauretta Onochie’s appointment as INEC’s national commissioner came as no surprise to many Nigerians on Tuesday.
This is because individuals, civic groups and opposition parties had written petitions, staged protests and called on the upper chamber to reject Ms Onochie’s appointment, describing it as unconstitutional – majorly because she is partisan and has openly campaigned for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Ms Onochie, currently a presidential aide, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2020, as an INEC commissioner to represent Delta State.
Although she had told the Senate committee on INEC that she quit politics in 2019 and that she is no longer partisan – a claim which turned out to be false, she was, however, rejected by the lawmakers.
But the basis for her rejection was not her partisanship.
A copy of the committee’s report, obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, shows that Ms Onochie’s appointment was rejected because “it breaches the federal character principle.”
“In the case of Ms Onochie’s…the Committee, bound by the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution on Federal Character Principle… the Senate may wish to recall that in 2016, the Senate, based on the recommendation of its INEC Committee, confirmed Barr. May Agbamuche-Mbu from Delta State as a National Commissioner in INEC, who is still serving.
“…Confirming the nomination of Ms. Lauretta Onochie from the same Delta State will be a violation of the Federal Character Principle. Therefore, based on the provisions of Section 14(3) of the Constitution…and in order for the Committee and the Senate to achieve fairness to other states and political zones in the county, the Committee is unable to recommend Ms. Lauretta Onochie for confirmation as a National Electoral Commissioner for INEC but would rather recommend to the Senate to request that the President makes another nomination,” the report read.
The panel, in its report, said several petitions were written against her on grounds of violation of federal character principle, partisanship, being a card-carrying member of the APC and using her social media accounts fake news campaign strategies.
None of these reasons were good enough for Ms Onochie to be rejected but for the federal character principle.
Sani Mohammed Adam
Mr Adam was the second nominee to be rejected. But in his case, the consideration of his appointment was stepped down to allow for further legislative action by the committee.
According to the report, the decision to step down his case was because a petition was written against him “on an issue that occurred in 2001, which requires further investigation by the Committee.”
Although details of this ‘issue’ was not stated in the report, ThisDay newspaper reports that the petition was over his reported dismissal as a lecturer in the University of Jos in 2007.
The petitioners had alleged that Mr Adam was dismissed over improper behaviour.
The committee’s report however, says Mr Adam debunked the petition against his nomination with an explanation that the “situation” occurred on August 15, 2001, when he was a lecturer in the University and it has nothing to do with his integrity.
“He supported his claim with a written clearance issued by the Nigerian Bar Association before he was made a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN),” the report said.
Mr Adam’s case with the University of Jos is currently pending at the Supreme Court, according to the Nation’s newspaper – a possible reason for which the Senate committee decided to step down the consideration of his appointment.
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