While Nigeria is currently on the precipice of instability due to the ongoing #EndSARS protests across the country, President Muhammadu Buhari decided to ignite a new fury in Nigerians by appointing Lauretta Onochie, his Special Assistant on social media as a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Senate President Ahmad Lawan at plenary on Tuesday read the letter from Buhari with Onochie from Delta State alongside three other nominees.
Buhari said “Appointment for Commissioners for INEC. Pursuant to paragraph 14 of part 11 of the first schedule of the 1999 constitution.
Others are Prof. Mohammed Sani from Katsina State; Prof. Kunle Ajayi from Ekiti State and Seidu Ahmed from Jigawa.
Onochie who was popular for attacking critics of the President on her social media handles was said to be a card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in her homestate of Delta.
Reacting to the appointment, Pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere has described Onochie’s appointment as the peak of insensitivity.
Speaking with Daily Independent, Yinka Odumakin, the organisation’s National Publicity Secretary said the President has decided to provoke Nigerians by appointing a partisan fundamentalist into INEC.
While calling on Nigerians to reject the appointment, Afenifere said failure to do will mark the end of INEC.
“It is the peak of insensitivity and provocation by Buhari to bring a partisan fundamentalist as a commissioner of INEC. IT would be easier to count the number of decent Nigerians the saucy lady has not insulted than those she has rudely ran her mouth against fit Buhari.”
“The President is killing INEC and turning turning it to APC electoral board.If Nigerians don’t resist and reject it, it would mark the final conquest of the country and the beginning of the end of INEC and electoral democracy. Appointing her can only happen in a failed country”.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike while addressing #EndSARS protesters in Port Harcourt urged Nigerian youths to set their priorities right by protesting against Onochie’s appointment
He said even though the End SARS protest is heating up, young people should focus on real issues including demanding a reform of the Nigerian system.
“In Nigeria, we must choose our priority. Nobody is talking. Let me tell you, just now we have heard that Mr. President has appointed his media aide (Lauretta Onochie) as an INEC Commissioner.
“You appoint your own media aide as a Commissioner in INEC and you are saying that you want INEC to be independent. How will that INEC be independent and nobody is talking about it. Nobody is protesting about it.
“So, as you are protesting for Police reforms also protest that Mr. President cannot bring his own aide to be a National Commissioner in INEC. That is what is supposed to be done. That is rigging. They have started rigging ahead of 2023 and nobody is saying anything,” Wike charges.
Also, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of Situation Room called on President Buhari to reverse the appointment, saying Onochie ‘is a known partisan supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC)’.
The group in a statement made available to Daily Independent signed by Clement Nwankwo, the Situation Room Convener said “Situation Room calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately withdraw her nomination. Should the President fail to withdraw this nomination the Nigerian Senate is hereby called upon to disregard her nomination without any consideration whatsoever,” the statement read.
It stated further that Onochie’s appointment contravenes the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
“Item F, paragraph 14 of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) forbids a partisan politician as a member of INEC – a body charged under the Constitution to unbiasedly conduct of free and fair elections. Her nomination amounts to a major attempt at undermining efforts to build credibility for an improved electoral process in the country,” the statement read.
The group said if Buhari fails to reverse the appointment of Ononchie, the Nigerian Senate should reject her appointment.
“Situation Room is also calling on the Nigerian Senate to investigate all of the other nominations by the President especially as there are concerns that some of these nominations may have been by self-serving interests,” the statement further read.
Nwankwo wrote that ‘it is important for Nigeria that the composition of INEC is transparently non-partisan and independent of partisan political manipulation’.
On his part, Monday Ubani, a former Second Vice- President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) also condemned the appointment of Lauretta Onochie, describing it as an unfortunate development.
Speaking in a chat with Daily Independent, Ubani said the appointment of Onochie, a partisan, card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) into an electoral commission that is expected to be unbias is an indication that President Buhari is not committed to giving Nigerians free, fair and credible elections.
According to him “If it is true that President Buhari has appointed that woman as an INEC commissioner, then something is fundamentally wrong somewhere. What it means is that there is no intention by the President to guarantee a free and fair election by this administration. If you are mouthing free and fair election, then the issue of recruiting people who are the umpire is very important”.
“You cannot bring in somebody of such nature; somebody who is very political as a member of an umpire that is supposed to be unbias. I , Ubani staked my name and reputation to ensure that President Buhari was elected. I ran down the former administration and enjoined Nigerians to vote for President Buhari because he promised to do things better”.
“If President Buhari , with the knowledge of things he knows about this country, appoints that woman as an INEC commissioner, who again am I going to believe in this country that is coming to change the way of doing things?”
“By this appointment, what the President has done is that we can all go to hell. It is not about the interest of this nation and it is something that is very condemnable. To say that I’m not disappointed with the appointment of that woman as INEC commissioner, then I will be lying. It is very unfortunate” he said.
On its part, The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA described Onochie’s nomination as a direct “murder” of INEC.
The right group anchored its rejection on claims that Onochie was known for peddling fake news and for being a fanatic member of the APC.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, and Miss. Zainab Yusuf, National Media Affairs said Buhari was setting Nigeria up for a serious political crisis.
According to the statement: “The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has learnt of the appointment of Special Assistant on Social Media to President Muhammadu Buhari; Lauretta Onochie, as an electoral commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission representing Delta State.
“Lauretta Onochie is known on social media for peddling fake news and pictures as some of her claims have been proven to be false including tweeting false pictures to praise the Buhari administration.
“Again, Lauretta Onochie is a fanatical member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and so by her appointment into a Commission tasked with the mandate to conduct elections in Nigeria wherein the All Progressives Congress will participate, President Buhari is setting the stage for a very huge political crisis, which is capable of derailing our democratic process.
Credit: Daily Independent