Nigeria’s Democracy Doomed If Onochie’s Appointed INEC Commissioner

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THE Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has stated in clear terms that if the nomination of Ms Lauretta Onochie by President Buhari as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is approved by the National Assembly, it will doom Nigeria’s democracy.

Ms Idayat Hassan, Director CDD

Ms Onochie, apart from being a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is also Special Assistant to the President on Social Media. The President in October last year wrote to the Senate seeking, among other nominees, the confirmation of Ms Onochie as National Commissioners of INEC.

Since her nomination, calls have come from a cross section of individuals and civil society groups for the withdrawal of her name from the list by the President. However, the calls have gone unheeded as the Senate, last week, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, commenced the screening of Ms Onochie as INEC National Commissioner.

Joining the agitation, CDD said the appointment of Onochie into such a nonpartisan position could spell doom for Nigeria’s democratic principles if the Senate allowed it.

In a statement on Thursday, June 17, 2021 by its Director, Ms Idayat Hassan, CDD’s asked the Senate to reject Onochie’s nomination to save the country from further ridicule.

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, CDD stated.

According to CDD, it has already sent a petition to the Senate highlighting the effects of such appointment on INEC and the entire electoral process in Nigeria if allowed to stand.

“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,” the statement stated.

Ms Hassan further pointed out: “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.”

According to Ms Hassan, Ms Onochie’s appointment makes mockery of the Nigeria constitution which forbids a political party member or partisan individual from being appointed to such office.

“…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.

“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,” CDD stated.

The Centre also said the appointment was a breach of Section 30 (Paragraph 14, Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution) which 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,” the statement stressed.

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