The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has asked the senate committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reject Lauretta Onochie’s nomination as a commissioner of the electoral body.

Onochie was nominated as an INEC commissioner by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2020.

Eight months after her nomination, Ahmad Lawan, senate president, asked the committee on INEC to commence the screening process.

Reacting to the development, Ene Obi, convener of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, condemned Onochie’s nomination, saying she is partisan and a “staunch member” of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Quoting the 1999 constitution, Obi said section 156(1) forbids “a member of a political party to be an appointee at INEC”.

“Her nomination amounts to a major attempt at undermining efforts to build credibility for an improved electoral process in the country,” Obi said in a statement released on Thursday.

“Situation Room calls on the Senate Committee on INEC to whom the nomination was referred to by the Senate Plenary to recommend her rejection as INEC National Commissioner.

“Situation Room also calls on the Senate to reaffirm the integrity and independence of Nigeria’s Electoral System by rejecting the nomination of Ms. Lauretta Onochie, as INEC National Commissioner.

“Situation Room wishes to remind the Federal Government of the State Resident Electoral Commissioners of INEC whose tenures runs out at the end of the year, to begin to think of nominations of persons within the set criteria.

“The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room again expresses concern with 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 the South-South.

“Ms. Onochie is a political appointee and staff of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress. Her utterances, statements, demeanour and carriage has always conveyed and communicated political bias and partisanship in support of the ruling party APC. While we do not criticize her loyalty to her party, we highlight that these traits are not suited for the position of a non-partisan agency.

“Section 156(1) of the Constitution makes it mandatory that an appointee at INEC shall not be a member of a Political Party. It is immaterial that such a person in anticipation for appointment quickly resigned his or her membership of a political party.

“Item F, paragraph 14 of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria forbids a partisan politician as a member of INEC – a body charged under the Constitution to unbiasedly conduct free and fair elections. The claim of partisanship is glaring and has been exhibited orally and in writing.”

Obi added that Onochie’s confirmation “will jeopardize the integrity of our electoral process and reduce the trust both domestic and international stakeholders have built over time in our election management body”.

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