Updated: Eight months after, Senate moves to screen Lauretta Onochie

June 9, 2021
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The Senate is set to commence screening of presidential aide, Lauretta Onochie, who was appointed as a commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Wednesday, directed the Senate Committee on INEC to commence screening.

Ms Onochie was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2020 as an INEC resident electoral commissioner to represent Delta State.

The president, in a letter to the Senate, announced the appointment and sought the lawmakers’ confirmation.

Although Ms Onochie was appointed alongside three other nominees, her appointment generated outrage, with some Nigerians describing it as unconstitutional.

Both individuals and civic groups have since called on the president to withdraw the nomination on grounds that Ms Onochie is partisan and so it would be undemocratic for her to be appointed into such an office.

Many have also said her appointment could jeopardise the credibility of future elections.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how her appointment violates Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended which states that “a member of the commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”

The Constitution declares that appointees to the electoral body must be non-partisan and also not a card-carrying member of any political party. This is, however, not the case with Ms Onochie, who had openly displayed partisanship and total support for the president and the All Progressives Congress in general.

Before the president’s request for confirmation was referred to the committee, the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, kicked against her nomination and wondered why another nominee had not been sent to the Senate to replace her.

Screening/consideration

The names of five other nominees were also referred to the committee on INEC. They are Muhammad Kallah (Katsina), Kunle Ajayi (Ekiti), Babura Ahmad (Jigawa), Sani Adam (North-central) and Baba Bila (North-east).

The motion to refer the names of the nominees to the panel was moved by the Senate Leader, Abdullahi Yahaya.

TEXEM

Mr Abaribe seconded after he kicked against her nomination and wondered why another nominee had not been sent to the Senate to replace her.

“In seconding this motion, we have dealt with the matter of the nomination of Lauretta Onochie. So we feel surprised the same name has resurfaced no longer as a national commissioner but as Delta State commissioner.

“Reluctantly, I second the motion that these nominations be referred to the appropriate committee for action. We shall meet in Philippines,” he said after which the letter was referred to the committee.

It is surprising that the Senate waited eight months to begin screening of the nominees. This is because the ninth Senate is known for confirming nominees within a few days or weeks.

After the screening, the committee is expected to present its report to the Senate for possible confirmation or rejection of the nominees.

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