As Senate defies protests; screens Onochie, others as INEC National Commissioners
By Henry Umoru
THE Special Assistant on New Media to President Muhammadu Buhari, Lauretta Onochie, Thursday denied the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, three times, saying she is not a member of the party.
Onochie who denounced the party three times when she appeared before the Senator Kabiru Gaya, APC, Kano South-led Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for screening as a National Commissioner, told lawmakers that she stopped being a card-carrying member of APC in 2019, two years ago and almost soon as President Buhari was re-elected for the second term.
Onochie arrived at the venue knowing the odds she would be up against when she appeared before the Senate Screening Panel.
Even without being prompted Onochie herself brought up the allegation of her membership of the ruling APC admitting her romance with Buhari’s campaign organisation working for the election victory of President Buhari in 2015 before being rewarded with a portfolio as one of his aides on social media against an affidavit dated 30th June 2021, she swore to at an FCT High court, and admitting her membership of Buhari Support Organisation and the APC.
However, the affidavit she swore to last month suggested otherwise wherein she confirmed that she is still an active member of APC Onochie’s support for Buhari was still quite visible in many of her post on social media in 2020.
The Senate Committee on INEC led by Senator Gaya Thursday defied protests from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Civil Society Groups, others to screen Onochie as one of the National Commissioners of INEC.
Among those that were screened were Senior Special Assistant to President on Social Media, Onochie Lauretta, Delta, Prof Mohammed Sani, Prof Kunle Ajayi, Ekiti, Saidu Ahmad, Jigawa, Prof Muhammad Kallah, Katsina, Dr Baba Bila, North-East, and Prof Sani Adam, North-Central.
Onochie arrived at the Senate wing of the National Assembly at about 11 am; accompanied by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare.
Soon after she was immediately ushered into the office of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabri Gaya.
Moments after, Onochie re-emerged from behind closed doors and headed to Hearing Room 211 new venue for the screening exercise after the initial venue was changed.
Recall that President Buhari had last October nominated Onochie, provoking public outcry not only from the opposition but also from society groups within and outside the country calling on the Senate not to approve Onochie’s appointment.
During the screening, Senators were divided over Onochie’s nomination, especially from the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP asking her to excuse herself from the appointment and preserve her integrity.
There was, even more, torn apart by Senator Opeyemi, APC, Ekiti Central, asking that they place Onochie on oath after she denied her APC membership.
The other issue that stood against Onochie, centered on whether or not her nomination as a second candidate from Delta State does not violate the principle of Federal Character. Responding Onochie told the Senate that her nomination is in order because the other commissioner purported to be from Delta State.
Mary Agbamuche is actually occupying the slot for Cross River State.
At the end of the day, the Senate Committee Chairman said that his committee would take a good look at all the documents and reach a decision, and five others screened.
Also recall that the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus had last week stormed the National Assembly with other members of the National Working Committee, NWC to protest against the nomination of Special Assistant on new media to President Muhammadu Buhari, Lauretta Onochie as one of the National Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC).
The Leadership of the opposition PDP who defied the rain had described Onochie as a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC who should not be saddled with such a very sensitive position against the backdrop that she would compromise and work for her party, to the detriment of democracy and the country.
Secondus, the PDP NWC members and supporters who stormed the MOPOL Gate of the National Assembly at about 12:30 pm to kick against Onochie’s nomination had asked the Senators to throw away the name by not confirming her as a National Commissioner.