By Babajide Okeowo
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Wednesday rallied its members in the Senate to block the confirmation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Personal Assistant on Social Media, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, as a national commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The party’s renewed opposition to Onochie’s nomination came as the Senate began the process of confirming her, along with other nominees, for the positions.
At yesterday’s plenary, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, read the executive communication, saying the confirmation request was made by the president in accordance with paragraph 14 Part I(F) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Shortly after the executive communication was read, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, rose to challenge the nomination of Onochie.
Mr. President, in seconding this motion, we have dealt with this matter of the nomination of Lauretta Onochie. So, we feel surprised that the same name has resurfaced no longer as a national commissioner, but as a Delta State commissioner.
Mr. President, reluctantly, I second the motion that these nominations be referred to the relevant committee for action and we shall meet in Philippi” he said.
Responding to Abaribe’s observation, Lawan said: “The nominees are not stated resident electoral commissioners; they are national commissioners. And there was no change of request; so they are not resident electoral commissioners”.
Lawan later referred the president’s request to the Committee on INEC, chaired by Senator Kabiru Gaya, to screen the nominees and report back to the Senate in two weeks.
Recall that Buhari, in a letter dated October 12, 2020, had sought the Senate’s confirmation for the nominations of Onochie and five other nominees.
Criticisms had trailed the nomination of Onochie, who hails from Delta State, on the grounds of her being a registered member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in violation of Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, states that “a member of the commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”
The Senate had stepped down the consideration of the request following the outrage generated by the inclusion of Onochie on the list.
Opposition parties and civil society organisations had argued that her nomination breached the constitution given her political affiliation.