…Lauds rejection of Lauretta Onochie

By Dirisu Yakubu

Famous rights group, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for listening to the voices of Nigerians by dropping his aide, Lauretta Onochie as national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and replacing her by renewing the appointment of constitutional lawyer, May Agbamuche.

This is even as the group urged the Senate to waste no time in confirming the appointment of the legal egghead and other nominees.

HURIWA said the acceptance of the voice of the people by President Muhammadu Buhari and the eventual dropping of Lauretta Onochie as commissioner designate saved INEC from the imminent implosion that would have followed should President Muhammadu Buhari insisted on foisting her on Nigerians.

In a statement signed by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA said there is already a precedent where the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government appointed the then senior Director at the National Human Rights Commission as substantive Executive Secretary “in the person of Tony Ojukwu who then went on to bag the professional title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria in office as head of the Human Rights Commission.

Vanguards recalls that President Buhari had in December last year re-appointed May Agbamuche-Mbu as a National Electoral Commissioner, INEC, for a second term of five years.

Other nominees are Mohammed Haruna (Niger State, North Central), May Agbamuche-Mbu (Delta State) and Okeagu Nnamdi (Abia State, South East).

Also nominated are Maj. Gen. A.B. Alkali (Adamawa State, North East), Rada Gumus (Bayelsa State, South South) and Sam Olumekun (Ondo State, South West).

Ms Agbamuche-Mbu, whose first tenure expired in September, was in acting capacity when the President appointed Lauretta Onochie to take her place.

9Onochie’s controversial appointment had generated public outcry from individuals, civic groups and opposition parties who wrote petitions, staged protests and called on the Senate to reject it.

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The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria said the Fifty-six-year-old Ukeagu is the first serving or even retired INEC employee to be appointed as National Commissioner since the Commission was created in 1999.
Ukeagu, from Abia State, aside being a sociologist, has acquired many training in electoral management both within and outside Nigeria, including in the U.S, the bastion of democracy. His career in INEC spans over 30 years, cutting his teeth as a member of the National Youth Service Corps in the Commission from where he rose through the ranks to become an electoral manager especially in electoral logistics.
He worked on several election rounds as Electoral Logistics Officer at the INEC Headquarters, Abuja.
He was Director Logistics in Electoral Operations and used his technical experience and electoral managerial skills to assist to ensure the smooth conduct of general elections in 2011, 2015, and 2019.
To his credit, Mr. Ukeagu developed logistics plans for procurement and delivery of materials required for electoral activities including those used in 2003 general elections.

HURIWA further noted that national commissioner nominee, Mr. Ukeagu “developed the transportation plan for the nationwide deployment of men and materials for the conduct of voters’ registration exercise for the 2003 general elections.”

He continued: “Ukeagu designed ballot papers and result sheets used for the conduct of the 2007 general elections and successfully handled deployment of men and materials for the elections.

“He also developed advisory architecture for securing men and materials deployed for the 2007, 2011 and 2015 general elections.
He introduced customisation of ballot papers and result sheets deployed for the 2011 and 2015 general elections.

“This innovation reduced time spent in result management at the end of polling as well as cost of materials as they were produced to reflect the actual number of political parties participating in the elections.”

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