There are strong indications on Friday that the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may recommend the confirmation of the appointment of a presidential aide, Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner for the electoral umpire.
The President, Muhammadu Buhari, had in a letter dated 12th October, 2020, and read by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, the following week, sought the Senate confirmation for Onochie and other nominees.
The letter read, “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 (4) Commissioners for the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
The nominees listed by the President are Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah (Katsina); Prof. Kunle Ajayi ( Ekiti); and Saidu Ahmad (Jigawa)
The red chamber suspended action on the nominees based on the controversy it generated with the inclusion of Onochie, the Special Assistant to the President on New Media, who critics believed is a card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress.
However, Lawan on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, surprisingly, asked the committee on INEC to screen for confirmation, the appointments of Onochie and five others as INEC commissioners.
Two new nominees, Professors Sani Adam (North-Central), and Baba Bila (North-East), were added to the list.
The development came eight months after the President sent the list of the nominees to the Senate for screening.
The Senate INEC Committee led by Kabiru Gaya, screened the nominees including Onochie on Thursday.
Onochie in her opening remarks, acknowledged a series of petitions against her which bothered on her membership of the APC and the fact that someone from her state was already on the board of INEC
She renounced the party three times before the Senate committee.
Meanwhile, investigations by our correspondent have revealed that some APC members in the panel are currently trying to influence the confirmation of Onochie by putting it in the committee report which would be laid next week.
A member of the panel told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that the basis for writing petitions against Onochie had been defeated.
He said, ‘The various petitions that we received on Onochie centred on her membership of the APC and the fact that her confirmation would make Delta State produce the two slots meant for the South-South region on the board of INEC.
However, Onochie has told the panel that she is not a member of the APC. She has also said the Delta State-born woman on the INEC board is actually representing Cross River.
“If the argument is that she is a political appointee, even the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, was a Federal Government appointee because he served as the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund during former President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
“Personally, despite being an APC card-carrying member and senator, I don’t want Lauretta Onochie to be confirmed but we really don’t have anything to hold her back because she has cleared herself.”
Asked if the affidavit she swore to at the court could not be used against her, the Senator argued that events had overtaken it.
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