Senate exposes Buhari blunder and dismisses Lauretta Onochie as INEC commissioner

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The president’s personal assistant on new media, Lauretta Onochie, cannot currently be commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), despite the appointment of President Muhammadu Buhari, the senatorial commission on INEC said. .

Indeed, there are currently no vacancies for Delta State (where she is from) as national commissioner, said committee chairman Kabiru Gaya, who presented the audit report. carried out on the appointment of Ms. Onochie. The committee therefore recommended that the appointment of the presidential assistant be rejected.

Mr Gaya said she had been disqualified due to federal principles as there is currently a commissioner based in Delta State, where she is from.

In appointing Ms Onochie, the president made another blunder in addition to his contempt for the Nigerian constitution which prohibits him from appointing partisan figures for such a post. The president made a similar mistake in the past when he appointed deceased persons to the boards of directors of federal parastatals.

Article 14 (1) (a & b) of the third list of the 1999 Constitution as amended states that “the… Commission (INEC) comprises the following members: a). a president, who will be the chief electoral commissioner; b). twelve other members called national electoral commissioners.

This means that two national commissioners must be chosen from each of the six geopolitical zones of the country.

It was also the part of the law that the president referred to when he written to the Senate seeking confirmation of the appointment of Ms. Onochie and three other persons.

“Pursuant to paragraph 14 of Part I (F) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, I hereby transmit for confirmation by the Senate the appointment of the following four Commissioners for … INEC ”, the letter read.

The letter specifically listed the candidates as “Muhammad Kallah (National Election Commissioner), Katsina; Lauretta Onochie (National Electoral Commissioner), Delta; Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (National Election Commissioner), Ekiti; and Saidu Babura Ahmad (Resident Election Commissioner), Jigawa.

But Ms Onochie cannot be appointed to this post at the moment because there is a sitting national electoral commissioner, May Agbamuche-Mbu, from the same Delta state where the presidential assistant is from.

Not only has Ms. Agbamuche-Mbu’s mandate not yet expired, but she also represents the South-South region on the committee. She is from the local government area of ​​Oshimili North in Delta State. A single state cannot produce the two national commissioners destined for a geopolitical zone.

Blunder?

Mr. Buhari’s decision to appoint Ms. Onochie is curious, especially since Ms. Agbamuche-Mbu still has more than five months to serve on the Commission. In fact, the president’s initial letter appointing Ms Onochie to the post arrived in October 2020, when Ms Agbamuche-Mbu was still over a year before her five-year term expired.

The Senate had on November 17, 2016 confirmed Ms. Agbamuche-Mbu as National Electoral Commissioner. This means that she has at least five more months in office – if she is not reappointed.

There is also nowhere in Mr Buhari’s letter where he indicated to the Senate that Ms Onochie would replace Ms Agbamuche-Mbu now or later.

Watch out, the law has also been broken

In addition to appointing a candidate for a post that has no vacant post, the president also violated Articles 14 (2a) and 14 (3b) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution which specifically states that those appointed to the The electoral body must be non-partisan and not a card holder of a political party.

Section 14 (2a) of the third annex of the Constitution of 1999 as amended States that “a member of the commission must be impartial and a person of incontestable integrity”.

Article 14 (3b) of the same annex stipulates that “there shall be for each state of the federation and the territory of the federal capital of Abuja, a resident electoral commissioner who shall be a person of unquestionable integrity and not will not be a member of any political organization. party. ”However, this applies directly to members appointed as resident electoral commissioners.

This completely disqualify Ms. Onochie who is not only a presidential assistant but also a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). She is known to have repeatedly expressed partisan views in the past.

She had in 2018 and 2019, campaign for the President’s second term (#NextLevel Agenda).

Ms Onochie was also one of the Nigerian politicians identified in a PREMIUM TIMES analysis that deployed fake news as online campaign strategies.

His appointment sparked outrage among Nigerians. Individuals and civic groups have called on the president to withdraw the nomination on the grounds that Ms. Onochie is partisan.

Many have also said his appointment could undermine the credibility of future elections.

Deafening silence

The Presidency has remained silent on the issue.

Ms Onochie’s controversial appointment as INEC commissioner is not the first case of an individual supporter referred to the Ninth Senate for commission appointment.

Raheem Olalekan was a “former” member of the APC appointed resident electoral commissioner by the president. he confessed to be a member of the APC during its selection exercise.

He also admitted that he challenged the presidency of the local government in Osogbo, Osun state, even though he said “he ceased to be a full party card member in 2017. “.

His appointment was rejected by the Senate after panel chairman Kabiru Gaya asked his colleagues to withdraw the screening of Mr. Olalekan because a petition was written against him accusing him of being a card-holding member of the APC.

Senators have now treated Ms. Onochie the same as they treated Mr. Olalekan.

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