Despite Pushback, Senate Panel Begins Screening Of Lauretta Onochie, Others For INEC Job


*I Don’t Belong To Any Party — I Quit Politics In 2019 — Onochie Tells Senate Panel

The senate committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has commenced the screening of Lauretta Onochie, a presidential aide.

Onochie was nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari as an INEC commissioner.

In June, Senate President Ahmad Lawan directed the senate committee on INEC to screen Onochie — eight months after Buhari sent her name for confirmation.

The president sent his request for her confirmation in October 2020.

Many Nigerians condemned the nomination on the grounds that Onochie is partisan. She is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The presidential aide will be screened alongside Muhammad Kallah, Kunle Ajayi, Saidu Ahmad, Sani Adam and Baba Bila — all of whom were nominated by the president as INEC commissioners.

Owing to the outcry by many over Onochie’s nomination, Ajibola Basiru, senate spokesman, asked Nigerians to petition the upper legislative chamber if they think she is not qualified for the position.

On Tuesday, some CSOs filed a lawsuit against Buhari over the nomination of Onochie.

In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/604/2021, filed before a federal high court in Abuja, the CSOs are asking the court to determine whether the president “can nominate a card-carrying member or members of his political party or any other political party in Nigeria, as a national commissioner or resident electoral commissioner for the independent national electoral commission”, contrary to sections 14 (2a), 14 (3), 14 (3b), 14 (4) and Section 154 (1) of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended in 2011).

*I Don’t Belong To Any Party — I Quit Politics In 2019 — Onochie Tells Senate Panel

Lauretta Onochie, presidential aide, says she is not a member of any political party.

Onochie spoke when she appeared before the senate committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on new media was on Thursday screened as an INEC commissioner.

Buhari nominated her for the role in October 2020 but the senate only began working on his request for her confirmation in June. Many Nigerians had condemned the nomination on the grounds that Onochie is partisan.

While appearing before the committee, she said the petitions against her nomination emerged because she follows “due process”.

“I have seen the petitions against me but I stand for justice and fairness. Thus nobody has anything to fear,” she said.

“I am madam due process and this is the reason behind my attacks, because I follow the law and due process.

“I had no partisanship bone in my body until I was invited to come and work with President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Dissatisfied, Ike Ekweremadu, senator representing Enugu west, asked Onochie to reject the nomination and “protect the integrity of the president”.

On his part, Istifanus Gyang, senator representing Plateau north, presented an affidavit in which Onochie said she is an APC member.

In response, Onochie said since Buhari was reelected in 2019, she has not engaged in politics.

“Since Buhari was elected as president for the second term, I have removed myself from everything about politics,” she said.

“Since 2019, I don’t have anything to do with politics. As I am sitting down here, I am not a member of any political party in this country.”

Yahaya Gumau, senator representing Bauchi south, and Opeyemi Bamidele, senator representing Ekiti north, spoke in Onochie’s defence.

Opeyemi argued that Mahmoud Yakubu, INEC chairman, worked with Buhari in different capacities but that did not affect him when he was nominated as chairman of the electoral commission.

Onochie’s eventual confirmation will be dependent on the recommendations of the committee.

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