At last, Senate C’ttee screens Lauretta Onochie amidst heated debate over party membership

By Haruna Salami
The controversy that trailed the nomination of Lauretta Onochie by President Muhammadu Buhari as a National Commissioner Independent National Commission, INEC manifested itself during her screening by Senate INEC Committee on Thursday.

Although the Committee screened six nominees for appointment as INEC commissioners, none generated any disagreement among the Senate INEC Committee except that of Lauretta Onochie. 

In fact, the Committee anticipated this because of the outcry that greeted her nomination from many quarters in Nigeria and beyond and scheduled her as the last to be screened.

One of the contentious issues raised in the many petitions before the Committee was whether the Presidential Aide is a member of a political party.
The senators flashed the affidavit see swore to in the Federal High Court, Abuja affirming her membership of Buhari Support Group and All Progressive Congress, APC.

However, when the question was put to her she said flatly that she is no a member of a political party.
This made a member of the Committee, Bamidele Opeyemi, who is also the Chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters to move that Lauretta Onochie be put on oath to repeat what she said. This was supported by Senator Lawal Gumau, but opposed by some members since the screening was not an investigative hearing neither was she on trial.

Senator Gumau said he supported putting Lauretta on oath to lay the matter to rest once and for all.

Lauretta Onochie said, after President Buhari was re-elected in 2019, she withdrew from political party activities, which was why she did not “revalidate” her membership of APC during the last exercise.

Speaking with journalists after the screening, Gumau said “I didn’t know Lauretta Onochie and I have never seen her until today”, but likened her case to that of Kemi Adeosun, former Minister of Finance, who was chased out of office because she didn’t have NYSC certificate only to be vindicated by a Court of law.

“We must look for Kemi to apologise to her because I was a member of Finance Committee that investigated her. She told us she has no NYSC certificate and we pressurised her to go. Only yesterday, a Court of law ruled that she can serve without NYSC certificate.
After listening to both opposing sides, Chairman of the Committee, Kabiru Gaya told Onochie that the Committee will look into her written and verbal presentations and write their report to the Senate at plenary.

Other nominees screened before Onochie in a very conducive atmosphere include Professors Muhammadu Sani Kallah (Katsina), Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti), Sani Mohammed Adam (North Central), Dr. Bala Bila (North East) and Saidu Babura Ahmad mni (Jigawa).