- Calls on the Senate to disqualify Ms Lauretta Onochie as nominee for National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
- Advises President Buhari to honourably withdraw her nomination
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has petitioned the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to object to the nomination of Ms Lauretta Onochie for appointment as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). CDD is of the strong opinion that Ms Onochie’s nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari is ill-conceived, politically motivated and intended to roll back years of successes recorded by the electoral umpire in promoting electoral integrity in the country. The organisation’s opposition to Ms Onochie’s nomination is based on the following concerns:
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. 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.
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, a position in. 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.
Third, Ms Onochie does not satisfy the character requirement for appointment into INEC. Section 30 (Paragraph 14, Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution) forbids anyone of questionable character from being appointed into the election management body. 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.
CDD, therefore, calls on the Senate to reject the nomination of Ms Lauretta Onochie in its entirety. Also, President Buhari should in good fate withdraw her nomination to save INEC from ridicule within and outside the country.