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Civil societies reject Lauretta Onochie as electoral commissioner

Lauretta Onochie

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has rejected the nomination of Ms. Lauretta Onochie, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Media as National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) representing South South, pointing out that Onochie is a known partisan supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).

According to a letter dated 12th October, 2020, was read by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, Buhari asked the upper legislative chamber to confirm Onochie alongside Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah (National Electoral Commissioner), Katsina; Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (National Electoral Commissioner), Ekiti; and Saidu Babura Ahmad (Resident Electoral Commissioner), Jigawa.

Buhari stated that the nomination is pursuant to Paragraph 14 of Part I(F) of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended.

But the Situation Room, while stressing that 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, said the presidential aide’s nomination amounts to a major attempt at undermining efforts to build credibility for an improved electoral process in the country.

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Ms. Onochie recently had a row on social media with multiple award winning singer, Ayo Balogun, better known as Wizkid, after he called out the president for not taking action on the complaints of Nigerians protesting against police brutality. She rechristened the music icon Dumbkid, writing that: “Its not disrespectful to call anyone old. Its the way and manner Ayo Balogun addressed the President that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. He exhibited crass ignorance, insensitivity and childishness. But hey, he’s a #DumbkidNotWhizKid When he grows up, he might learn respect.”

Lauretta Onochie

The Situation Room, while reacting to Onochie’s nomination in a statement issued on Tuesday and signed by its Convener, Clement Nwankwo, urged the President to immediately withdraw her nomination and for the Nigerian Senate to disregard her nomination without any consideration whatsoever.

The group also called 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, stressing that it is important for Nigeria that the composition of INEC is transparently non-partisan and independent of partisan political manipulation.

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The Situation Room comprises Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria and includes such groups as Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Proactive Gender Initiative (PGI), Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), CITAD, Enough is Enough Nigeria, WANGONET, Partners for Electoral Reform, JDPC, New Initiative for Social Development and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA). Others are Development Dynamics, Stakeholder Democracy Network, Human Rights Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), CISLAC, The Conscience for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution (CHRCR), Young Innovators and Vocational Training Initiative, EdoCSOs, CONGOs Edo State, Brave Heart Initiative, LAPDO, Partners West Africa and several other CSOs numbering more than seventy.

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