The Senate yesterday rejected the nomination of President Muhammadu Buhari’s aide, Lauretta Onochie, as a commissioner in Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, citing federal character principle, but confirmed five others.
It also stepped down the confirmation of Prof. Sani Muhammad Adam (North Central) for further investigation by the committee.
This came as a source in INEC that urged President Buhari to nominate another person from Delta State as a national commissioner representing South-South to replace Onochie.
This is even as Onochie’s rejection by the Senate drew immediate reaction from Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which described it as a victory for Nigerians and democracy in the country.
Recall that the opposition party and some other stakeholders, including civil society organizations, CSOs, had staged series of protests at the National Assembly against Lauretta Onochie’s nomination by the President, arguing that she was a card-carrying member of ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which she denied by the Senate’s screening committee.
Her rejection and confirmation of five other nominees followed the consideration of a report by the Senate Committee on INEC.
Those confirmed include Professor Abdullahi Abdu Zuru (North-West), Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah (Katsina), Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti), Dr. Baba Bila (North-East), and Saidu Babura Ahmad (Jigawa).
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South), in his presentation, said the committee received several petitions against the nominations of Ms. Lauretta Onochie and Professor Sani Muhammad Adam.
He disclosed that the petitions against Lauretta Onochie were informed by the fact of her involvement in politics and alleged membership of a political party.
He added that her nomination violated the federal character principle, as there was already a serving National Electoral Commissioner from Delta State, Barr. Mary Agbamuche-Mbu, who was screened and confirmed by the 8th Senate.
“In the case of Ms. Lauretta Onochie’s, having studied her curriculum vitae and other relevant documents, followed by exhaustive interaction around the petitions against her nomination which she responded to accordingly, including attesting that she is not a registered member of any political party, the committee rejected her nomination,”Gaya said.
According to him, the committee, bound by the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) on the Federal Character Principle, refused to recommend Onochie for confirmation.
“Therefore, based on the provisions of Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) on Federal Character Principle as earlier stated, and in order for the Committee and the Senate to achieve fairness to other states and political zones in the country, the committee is unable to recommend Ms. Lauretta Onochie for confirmation as a National Electoral Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission,” he explained.
On the nomination against Prof. Sani Muhammad Adam, the committee recommended that his confirmation be stepped down, pending further legislative action by the committee.
Accordingly, the Senate, while confirming the five nominees, adopted the recommendations of the committee by rejecting Onochie’s nomination and stepping down that of Professor Adam for further action.
However, a source in INEC who didn’t want to be named asked the President to nominate a replacement for Ms Onochie from Delta State.
Vanguard gathered from INEC office in Abuja that the South-South geopolitical zone, Delta, and Bayelsa states have never had National Commissioner nominated to INEC.
The source told Vanguard that at the moment, the only national commissioner from the zone whose tenure was still subsisting was Mrs Mary Agbamuche-Mbu.
The source explained: ‘’Mrs. Agbamuche-Mbu is of Delta parentage but married to the son of erstwhile late Chief Mathew Mbu and was nominated to represent Cross River State for the zone and not Delta.
“It should be noted that Mrs. Thelma lremiren (though of Delta parentage) married an Esan husband from Edo State and was nominated to INEC by late Chief Tony Anenih (Esan)
“She was nominated from Edo State to represent the zone and served from 2010-2015, not Delta.
‘Unfortunately and surprisingly, in 2016 another Edo nominee, Dr. Mohammed Lecky, was appointed again and served from (2016 – 2020). Delta has not had a national commissioner nominated in INEC.’’
According to the source, Akwa Ibom was represented by Mr. Okpo Sam Kiaso Okpo (1999-2003), Cross River by Mr. Ekpenyoung Nsa (2003-2008), Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu (2017 till date).
‘’Edo has produced two national commissioners, Mrs. Thelma lremiren (2010-2015) and Dr. Mohammed Lecky (2016-2020), while Rivers State has produced Mr. Ignatius Kogbara (1999-2003) and Dr. Ishmael lgbani who served two terms of eight years and left in 2015.
Reacting to the development yesterday, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, described it as a victory for Nigerians and democracy in the country.
The party in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, maintained that the rejection of Onochie by Nigerians had saved the nation from a very serious crisis as well as salvaged INEC and the entire Nigerian electoral process from a “ruinous pollution that would have led to the collapse of our democratic order.”
The statement read: “The party asserts that Onochie’s vexatious nomination, in total affront to paragraph 14 of the 3rd schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), was a very dangerous machination by the Buhari-led APC Presidency against our electoral process, in the attempt to subvert the will of the people in the 2023 elections.
“The APC, in spite of its shenanigans, is aware that it will have difficulties winning election at any level in a free, fair and credible election and as such it is determined to rig every process ahead of the 2023 elections.
“Our party, therefore, commends Nigerians including civil society organizations, the media as well as other political parties, for joining forces with the PDP in fighting for the sanctity of our electoral process by resisting Onochie’s nomination.
“The stiff resistance displayed by Nigerians across board, in repelling this vicious attempt to hijack and pollute the electoral commission, underscores their collective and unwavering determination to resist and kick out the APC in 2023, despite its shenanigans.
“The PDP urges Nigerians not to rest on their oars but to continue in this spirit in fighting for our democracy, particularly in further resisting the attempt to alter the Electoral Act to prohibit direct electronic transmission of elections results from polling units.
“It is clear that the APC is pushing for the prohibition of electronic transmission of results because it seeks to use its usual malpractices alteration of figures, switching of results as well as disappearance of ballot materials while on transit to collation centers to, again, subvert the will of the people and manipulate its hold on power in 2023.”
“The PDP therefore counsels the APC to read the handwriting on the wall and know that Nigerians are ready and waiting to resist them at any turn ahead of the 2023 election.”