By Henry Ojelu
The Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law, NBA/SPIDEL, Dr. Monday Ubani has petitioned the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the nomination of President Muhammadu Buhari’s special adviser on social media, Lauretta Onochie as INEC Commissioner.
In the petition addressed to the Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, Ubani pointed out that Onochie’s nomination is a clear contravention of Section 152 of the Electoral Act, provides amongst other things that no registered member of a Political Party shall be eligible for or be appointed to carry out duties of a returning officer, an electoral officer, the presiding officer or Poll Clerk.
Ubani stated that as a card-carrying member of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC, Onochie is unfit for the position she is nominated for.
Part of the petition reads: “Distinguished Senate Chairman, considering the reality of Nigeria today, with the high level of insecurity, ethnic tensions, and mistrust among Citizens, the decline in trust and confidence by the Citizens in their elected officials and democratic institutions to mention a few, it is very important, that as the next election draws closer, whoever is to be nominated by the President to serve as INEC Commissioner, Chairman or as an unbiased Umpire for National elections must be in compliance with the law and must be persons that, the general public view as not being partisan or compromised in any form or manner.
“Sir, Section 152 of the Electoral Act, provides that. “no person holding an elective office to which this act relates or a registered member of a Political Party shall be eligible for or be appointed to carry out duties of a returning officer, an electoral officer, the presiding officer or Poll Clerk.
“Therefore, the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, a clearly partisan individual by the President, an individual who has in recent years publicly displayed her partisanship and undying support for the ruling Party in her utterances, conduct, and interaction with the public cannot and should not serve as INEC Commissioner, a role reserved for an unbiased umpire. I on behalf of the Nigerian Public urge the Senate to righteously reject her nomination and confirmation forthwith.
“As a card-carrying member of the ruling party or any other party for that matter, she is unfit for the position she is nominated. I also doubt that Section 154 (3) of the constitution was complied with, which prescribes that the President nominates the INEC Commissioner in consultation with the Council of State. Paragraphs B of Part 1 of the 3rd Schedule of the constitution provides that the Council of State shall have the power to advise the President in the exercise of his power with respect to (iv) the INEC including the appointment of members of the Commission. When was this Section and paragraph complied with? If I may ask.
“Most importantly paragraph 14 of part I of the third schedule of the constitution as amended in Section 30 No. 1 of 2010, a member of INEC should be “non-partisan”, can Ms. Lauretta Onochie be regarded by anyone in Nigeria, knowing her antecedent as the Special Assistant to the President as “non-partisan” under the Nigerian context? The right answer is No.
“I, therefore, on behalf of the Nigerian Bar Association urge that her nomination be rejected and her confirmation be denied forthwith.”