The Electoral Hub, an organ of the Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD), has commended the Senate Committee on INEC for rejecting the appointment of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie.
This was made known in a statement signed by Princess Hamman-Obels, Founder and Director of The Electoral Hub, on Thursday.
The statement said, “As a research, documentation and advocacy hub, we are highly interested in the integrity and credibility of the electoral process. We had in an earlier statement recommended that Mrs. Onochie’s appointment be rejected, and we are pleased that this recommendation has been followed.
“The position of National Commissioner is very critical to the operation and the administration of the major electoral management body (EMB) in Nigeria: the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC remains the most important stakeholder in the electoral process of Nigeria after the electorate, and therefore the credibility and integrity of an election in Nigeria is dependent on not only the excellence of INEC in conducting the election, but also the neutrality, fairness, accountability and independence of the EMB in carrying out its duties in the electoral process in the country.”
According to the group, “The neutrality of INEC is well stated in Paragraph 14 (2)(a), Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, which provides that a member of the Commission must “be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity”. By this provision, therefore, a member of INECmust be neutral and free from all political affiliations.
“In this light, the recommendation of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie by the President to the Senate as a National Commissioner is not only unconstitutional but it is also suspicious. The suspicion is that the ruling party, which the said Onochie belongs to, may be using her as a door to INEC which is supposed to be independent and neutral. Moreover, the nomination of the same Mrs. Onochie for the second time and for the same position is a thing of consideration.”
The statement further said, “The Electoral Hub therefore commends the 9th Senate led by the Distinguished Senator Ahmed Lawan for rejecting Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner of INEC. Her nomination was rejected on the ground that it is against the principle of federal character which is an obvious pillar of Nigeria’s federalism and national integration. The Senate, through the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, explained that there is currently a National Commissioner from Delta State where Mrs. Lauretta Onochie hails,and it would be against the principle of Nigeria’s federalism to appoint another person from that state. This action of the Senate is greatly commendable.
“In addition, the rejection of Onochie’s nomination by the Senate shows the power of public opinion and the responsiveness of the National Assembly to the demands and interests of the people, which they represent. This quality of the national legislative arm of Nigeria is not only applaudable but also a right step in the direction. We can therefore say that the people through popular opinion won in the end. This victory, which was welcomed with great jubilation by the people, civil society organizations, political parties, and so on, is therefore a great step in the democratization process of Nigeria.
The group ended its statement by saying it believes in the inclusiveness strategy of the ruling party and the interest of the government to integrate women into the governance of the nation. “However, this cannot be done at the expense of our obvious democratic values. We therefore recommend that the presidency nominate another woman who is qualified and non-partisan as a National Electoral Commissioner. We challenge the presidency to ensure to uphold the democratic cultures and values in its subsequent nominations.”