Opposition forces rose on Tuesday against President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of his Special Assistant on Social Media, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) representing Delta State.
Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe; erstwhile Kogi West Senator Dino Melaye and activists, led Convener of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Clement Nwankwo also opposed the nomination.
The President had sent Onochie’s name with three others’ to the Senate for confirmation.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan read President Buhari’s letter of request at plenary yesterday in Abuja.
Also nominated for confirmation as National Electoral Commissioners of the INEC are: Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah (National, from Katsina State); Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti) and Saidu Babura Ahmad (Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC (Jigawa).
The letter reads: “Pursuant to Paragraph 14 of Part I(F) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, I hereby forward for confirmation by the Senate, the appointment of the following four Commissioners for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).”
Also, the President, in a separate letter to the Senate, requested for the confirmation of appointment of three (3) Executive Directors of the Board of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).
According to him, the request for confirmation is in accordance with the provision of Section 2(3) of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (Amendment) Act 2007.
The nominees for confirmation are: Ifeanyi Christian Kammelu (Executive Director – Southeast); Muhammad Gambo Bizi (Executive Director – Northeast); and Prof. Abubakar Ismail (Executive Director – Northwest).
There were outbursts in many quarters against Onochie’s nomination for the INEC job.
The PDP threatened to resist the appointment, describing it as “a provocative assault on the Nigerian Constitution and democratic process.”
Addressing reporters in Abuja, the party’s spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said: “…We had hoped that, as Mr. President had professed in the past, he is truly running his second and final term in office. If that were so, then Onochie’s nomination as INEC national commissioner clearly points to a totally different direction.”
The PDP spokesman said the President’s nomination of his aide portrayed him as having a personal interest in the 2023 elections.
He urged the President to withdraw Onochie’s nomination to disabuse the minds of angry Nigerians.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike faulted the President on the appointment.
He said while addressing protesters in Port Harcourt: “The President has appointed his media aide as INEC commissioner and we are saying INEC should be independent. How can we achieve that?
“Nobody is talking about it. The President cannot bring his aide to be an INEC national commissioner.”
Abaribe, who represents Abia South, described the nomination as a violation of the Constitution.
He said the Senate Minority Caucus was against the nomination and urged the President to withdraw it.
In a terse statement, Abaribe said: “Item F, Paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) forbids a card-carrying member of a political party to be a member of INEC…”
In a statement, Nwankwo, said: “…Situation Room calls on President Buhari to immediately withdraw her nomination. Should the President fail to withdraw this nomination, the Senate is hereby called upon to disregard her nomination without any consideration whatsoever.”
Also in a statement in Abuja, Melaye noted that being a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mrs. Onochie does not qualify to be a national commissioner of the INEC.
“I hereby call on President Buhari to immediately rescind her nomination forwarded to the Senate today. Otherwise, I will mobilise Nigerians to challenge this decision, which is unconstitutional,” he said.