PDP, CSOs react to Lauretta Onochie’s rejection as INEC commissioner

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and civil society organisations have reacted to the senate’s rejection of the nomination of presidential aide, Ms. Lauretta Onochie, as Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) national commissioner  describing it as a victory for democracy.

Recall that the senate had rejected her nomination citing federal character principle, but confirmed five others.

Those confirmed included 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).

In his presentation, the chairman, senate committee on INEC, Mr. Kabiru Gaya, said the committee received several petitions against the nominations of Ms. Onochie and Prof Sani Muhammad Adam.

He disclosed that the petitions against 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, Mrs. 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 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 said.

Reacting to the development, the PDP described it as victory for Nigerians and democracy in the country.

The party in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, maintained that the rejection of Onochie by Nigerians had saved the nation from 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 reads: “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.”

Similarly, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) said  Onochie’s rejection by the senate “shows that the federal legislature is beginning to live up to its expectation of not being a rubberstamp for the executive.”

 “A person who is supposed to be an arbiter, a person who is expected to be a fair judge in an election should not have raised such controversy even before her appearance.

“Respectfully, if I were her, I would have just declined the offer because nobody would accept whatever she gives at the end of the election because of this controversy.

“I think what the Senate has done is in the national interest,” the CNG said in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Abdul-Azeez Suleiman.

Also, the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) CTA, in its reaction, said the senate has preserved INEC’s integrity.

The group said in  a statement by executive director, Faith Nwadishi, that Onochie was rightly seen by Nigerians as partisan and toxic.

“She  lacks the integrity to assume such office as a national commissioner and a policymaker in a sacred office like the Independent National Electoral Commission.

”The Senate has done the needful by listening to the voice of the people even though pressured by Nigerians to be accountable to the people and represent the interest of the people,” CTA said.

Nevertheless, it charged civil society organisations (CSOs) and Nigerians to still be vigilant on the national assembly’s ongoing consideration of the Electoral Bill.

For the former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose, Onochie’s rejection ”portends great hope for democracy.”

“On rejection of Lauretta Onochie’s nomination as INEC Commissioner, I commend the Senate for listening to Nigerians.

“This portends great hope for democracy  and  I hope the NASS (National Assembly) can go further by subjecting itself more to what represents the interest of Nigerians,” he added.

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