A coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs), on Wednesday, June 22, asked the National Assembly to reject the nomination of Lauretta Onochie as Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) commissioner because she is a British citizen.
Lauretta Onochie is a Nigerian educator and government worker who is currently the special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on social media and known for her unflinching support of the president.
Speaking during a press conference in Abuja on behalf of the coalition, Board member at YIAGA Africa, Ezenwa Nwagwu noted that Onochies’s dual citizenship makes her fall short of the constitutional requirements for being appointed to that position as stated in Sections 156(1a) and 66(1a) of the 1999 Constitution.
Nwagwu stated: “Further proof of Mrs. Onochie being a British citizen is contained in the fact that until recently, she was a full, card-carrying member of the British Conservative Party, even contesting elections for a councillorship position in Thames Ward in the London Borough of Barking and Degenham in 2010 as a member of the UK Conservative Party.
“The fact of her dual citizenship and political activities in the UK raises major questions on her loyalty and commitment to Nigeria.
“As a Nigerian and UK citizen, she is obligated to demonstrate loyalty to both countries. Therefore, her dual loyalty will undermine national interest and potentially threaten the independence of INEC.”
Also speaking, the founder of Albino Foundation, Jake Epelle, on his part noted that Onochie, in her position as special assistant to President Muhamadu Buhari on social media, she has built a partisan reputation by her biased and sometimes inflammatory comments on national issues and against perceived or imagined enemies of the Buhari administration.
Epelle maintained that she is unlikely to be non-partisan, neutral and objective in her duties as an INEC National Commissioner if she is confirmed, adding that CSOs will be left with no option other than to seek legal redress.
“Her appointment as a national commissioner or in the leadership of INEC will gravely undermine the neutrality and impartiality of the Commission, and taint its credibility,” Epelle said.
“Such an appointment will undermine citizens’ confidence in INEC, increase mistrust in the Commission and Nigeria’s electoral process. It will also jeopardize the trust of other political parties in the Commission.
“The Constitution requires that a nominee for the position of INEC National Commissioner must be a “person of unquestionable integrity.”
“Unfortunately, Mrs. Onochie’s actions on social media show that she lacks the required integrity to be appointed into such a sensitive position.
“There are several documented evidence of written attacks, social media altercations and malicious, unfounded allegations against groups or individuals by Mrs. Onochie via her social media accounts.”
Epelle urged the Senate to reject the nomination of Onochie as INEC National Commissioner and ensure that due diligence is exercised in the confirmation of nomination into INEC.
He added: “Ensure that nominees to positions in the Independent National Electoral Commission are individuals with impeccable character, unquestionable neutral inclinations, dispositions, and competence.
“We also call on Muhammed Buhari to as a matter of urgency, withdraw the nomination of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie in the public interest and in furtherance of stated and repeated commitment to continue a legacy of a truly independent electoral commission that enjoys the trust and confidence of citizens and electoral stakeholders.
“Uphold the federal character principle in re-nominating a non-partisan, neutral, and competent Nigerian to represent the South-South region as INEC National Commissioner.
“Observe the principle of diversity and gender inclusivity in nominating candidates
who are non-partisan and competent as INEC National Commissioners.
“We believe that as custodians of the Nigerian Constitution, the Senate will ensure that the Constitution is upheld in the appointment of National Commissioners.We firmly believe that the Senate will continue to nurture our democracy by protecting the sanctity of INEC and the credibility of our electoral process.