The president’s personal assistant on new media, Lauretta Onochie, said she was not partisan. Well, not anymore.
Ms Onochie, who said she was not in politics, described herself as “Madame Due Process”.
She said so on Thursday when she appeared before the Senate committee on INEC to be shortlisted for the post of national commissioner for the electoral umpire.
Ms. Onochie, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2020 as INEC commissioner to represent the Delta State – an appointment which triggered the indignation of Nigerians because many qualified it as unconstitutional.
The president, in a letter to the Senate, sought confirmation from lawmakers.
Many have asked the president to withdraw the appointment on the grounds that Ms Onochie is partisan and therefore it would be undemocratic for her to be appointed to such a position.
Civic groups including Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism and YIAGA Africa jointly wrote to the Senate opposing the appointment of Ms. Onochie.
The PDP also protested against this decision.
PREMIUM TIME reported how his appointment violates article 14 (2a) of the third annex of the Constitution of 1999 as amended, which stipulates that “a member of the commission shall be impartial and a person of unquestionable integrity”.
But Senate Speaker Ahmad Lawan on June 9 asked the Senate INEC Committee to select Ms. Onochie and four other candidates.
The committee, chaired by Kabiru Gaya (APC Kano), began the screening of Ms. Onochie and the other nominees on Wednesday. The nominees are Kunle Cornelius, Saidu Ahmad, Sani Adam and Baba Bila.
During their selection, other candidates spoke about their goals for the new position, their integrity as well as their impartiality.
On the agenda, Ms. Onochie was the last candidate to be shortlisted. And when it was his turn, almost everyone on the panel questioned his integrity and partisanship.
The lawmakers referred to petitions and documents it showed that she is partisan. This includes an affidavit that she signed affirming her membership in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In her response, she said the petitions against her appointment were motivated by the fact that she was following “due process”.
“I have seen the petitions against me, but I stand up for justice and fairness. So no one has anything to fear. I am Madame Due Process and this is the reason for my attacks, because I respect the law and due process.
“I have no partisan bones in my body until I am invited to come and work with President Muhammadu Buhari,” she said.
Panel member Seriake Dickson said Ms Onochie’s appointment would be less of a problem if she was appointed to serve in the president’s cabinet.
He also noted that INEC already had a national commissioner from Delta State, where Ms. Onochie is from. He asked her to justify why it should be confirmed.
“Since Buhari was elected president for the second term, I have withdrawn from all politics. Since 2019, I no longer have anything to do with politics. As I am sitting here, I am not a member of any political party in this country, ”she replied.
She also explained that the current INEC Commissioner representing Delta State, Ms. Agbamuche Mdu, represents Cross-River State because she married someone from Cross River “and therefore she does not represent Delta State “.
Ike Ekweremadu, a dissatisfied former vice president of the Senate, said he knew Ms Onochie was doing everything to support the president. He also expressed his concern over concerns raised by CSOs in various petitions to the Senate calling for the rejection of his appointment.
He also referred to a letter written by Ms Onochie to the chairman of the committee in July, in which she stated in paragraph five that “a register has been opened and we have all put our names as members of the organization. support Buhari “.
Mr. Ekweremadu did not give all the details of the letter.
He, however, urged Onochie to emulate former finance minister Kemi Adeosun and reject the nomination “to protect the integrity of the president.”
Ms Adeosun had resigned as minister after a PREMIUM TIMES report denounced her for presenting a false NYSC exemption certificate to Nigerien authorities under her powers.
Then Plateau Senator Istifanus Gyang produced an affidavit in court in which Ms Onochie swore to be involved in politics and also to be a member of the APC. But again, Ms Onochie insisted she retires from politics in 2019.
She admitted to working with Mr Buhari but has stopped all politics since 2019.
“I made an affidavit saying that I am in politics and that I am a member of the APC when I just returned to the country,” she said.
Those on the other side …
Then there were Senators Yahaya Gumau (Bauchi Sud) and Bamidele Opeyemi (Ekiti Nord) who saw no reason to use Ms. Onochie’s past against her.
Mr Gumau said all allegations against Ms Onochie are based on feelings.
While Mr. Bamidele argued that the current president of INEC, Mahmoud Yakubu, had worked for Mr. Buhari in various capacities in the past and that did not count against him. So, working for President Buhari should not be accountable to Ms Onochie, he said.
The committee is expected to present its report to the Senate on another legislative day. The report will contain recommendations confirming or rejecting the appointments of Ms. Onochie and the other candidates.
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