Coalition Petitions Senate, Says Onochie’s Nomination Unconstitutional

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A coalition of civil society groups has petitioned the Senate opposing the appointment of a Special Assistant to the President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In the petition dated June 16 and addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya, the coalition listed several grounds against Onochie’s nomination.

Among others, the petition was signed by Yiaga Africa, Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), International Press Centre (IPC), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ,), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), CLEEN Foundation and Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD).

it noted that the nomination of a Nigerian as a National Commissioner to the Independent National Electoral Commission “is governed by Section 154(3), 156(1a), Third Schedule, Item F Paragraph 14(2a) and 14(3b) of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended).

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“A combined reading of the stated constitutional provisions demands that, first, the President before appointing an individual as INEC national commissioner must consult the Council of State before forwarding the nomination to the Senate for confirmation.

“The fundamental question is whether the President consulted with the Council of State before submitting to the Senate a letter nominating Onochie as INEC’s National Commissioner? A confirmation by the Senate without the input of the State Council is unconstitutional.”

The coalition, also, said constitution mandated that a person nominated “as an INEC National Commissioner should be non-partisan. Section 156(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly prohibits the appointment of any person, who is a member of a political party as a member of INEC.”

According to the coalition, to further ensure the neutrality of the members of INEC, “the Constitution clearly mandates in the Third Schedule, Part 1, Item F, paragraph 14 (1) that a National Commissioner shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.

“Onochie is not only a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), and a Special Assistant to President Buhari on social media, she is also notorious for her partisan, biased and in some instances inflammatory comments on national issues targeted at perceived or imagined enemies of the Buhari government.”

Given her antecedents, however, the coalition noted that it was highly unlikely that she would remain neutral and objective if successfully screened as one of INEC’s National Commissioners.
It said: “We contend that her appointment will greatly undermine the neutrality and impartiality of the Independent National Electoral Commission and it will increase mistrust in the INEC and Nigeria’s electoral process.

“By the combined effect of Section 156 (1)(a) and Third Schedule, Part 1, Item F, paragraph 14 (1), Onochie is constitutionally prohibited from any appointment as a member of the electoral umpire. It is against the sacred spirit of our Constitution to accept her nomination.”

The coalition said requirement was that a person nominated as INEC’s National Commissioner should be “a person of unquestionable integrity. Unfortunately, Onochie lacks the integrity to serve as INEC’s National Commissioner due to her previous antics on social media.

“In addition to using her social media platform to express her loyalty to the ruling All Progressive Party (APC), she peddles propaganda and misinformation regularly.

“There are several documented evidence of written attacks, social media altercations, and unfounded, malicious allegations against individuals or groups by the nominee in a manner that clearly shows partisanship and questionable character.

“In addition, a February 2019 media analysis by Premium Times on individuals/accounts using fake news as campaign strategies online, revealed and identified Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as one of the Nigerian politicians, who used fake news as campaign strategies online.”

In view of these, the coalition urged the Senate to “Completely reject the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner into the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The coalition, also, urged President Buhari to withdraw her nomination in the public interest and in furtherance of his commitment to leave a legacy of a truly independent electoral institution that enjoys the trust and confidence of citizens and electoral stakeholders.

“In addition to using her social media platform to express her loyalty to the ruling All Progressive Party (APC), she peddles propaganda and misinformation regularly.

“There are several documented evidence of written attacks, social media altercations, and unfounded, malicious allegations against individuals or groups by the nominee in a manner that clearly shows partisanship and questionable character.

“In addition, a February 2019 media analysis by Premium Times on individuals/accounts using fake news as campaign strategies online, revealed and identified Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as one of the Nigerian politicians, who used fake news as campaign strategies online.”

In view of these, the coalition urged the Senate to “Completely reject the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner into the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The coalition, also, urged President Buhari to withdraw her nomination in the public interest and in furtherance of his commitment to leave a legacy of a truly independent electoral institution that enjoys the trust and confidence of citizens and electoral stakeholders.

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