The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, warned the National Assembly not to confirm Lauretta Onochie, President Muhammadu Buhari’s aide as a member of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Christian group her appointment would amount to a violation of the constitution, being a card carrying member of the ruling political party.
It would be recalled that Buhari forwarded Onochie’s name to the Senate for confirmation as a member of INEC.
In a statement issued on Thursday by its president, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, CAN said Onochie’s appointment would plunge the nation into a constitutional breach and affect the nation’s electoral process.
The statement by CAN president reads:
The leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has condemned in strong terms the nomination of a Presidential aide, Lauretta Onochie as a member of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) describing it an executive recklessness, a dirty slap on the populace, and a gross violation of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended).
When President Muhammadu Buhari said he wanted to leave a legacy of free, fair and credible election behind, all right thinking Nigerians were happy and CAN has been praying for God to grant him the grace to do so. But the nomination of his personal aide to such a sensitive position may have revealed the type of electoral legacy the President is working on.
We hereby call on the Senate to reject the nomination of Lauretta Onochie as a member of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for these reasons:
According to Section 156 (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) Act No 1, 2010, a member of the INEC “shall not be a member of a political party.” Whereas Onochie is reportedly said to be a card carrying member of the ruling party. That disqualifies her from being nominated and appointed to serve in INEC.
Furthermore, although the President has power to appoint members of INEC whenever there are vacancies, he is expected to abide by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in doing so. He is required to consult with the Council of State as stated in section 154 (3) of the Constitution and we have no record that this had been done before forwarding Onochie’s name to the Senate.
If this observation is correct, then the President erred in law by forwarding her name to the Senate as demanded by Section 154 (1) of the Constitution which says the appointment of the members of the Independent National Electoral Commission shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
As far as CAN is concerned, Onochie suffers objectivity, justice and fairness that are mandatory for every member of INEC as a result of her partisan membership of a political party and by being an appointee of the ruling party. We are equally opposed to her nomination because of her unguarded remarks, public insults on credible individuals and the use of vulgar language and unprintable words against people who express their displeasure to some actions and policies of the government of the day, especially, her principal. Our Association and her leadership had been a victim of her unguarded statements since her appointment as the Special Assistant to the President on Social Media. A person like her by her utterances does not have the character to occupy a position of unbiased umpire in national elections in Nigeria.
Additionally, CAN calls on the distinguished Senate to do a thorough investigation of other three nominees to ensure that they are truly qualified and competent for the appointment and that they do not belong to any political party. This would prevent unnecessary interference in the conduct of elections and ensure conduct of credible elections for our general good. It is shameful, disappointing, disheartening, unacceptable that our elections in recent years have been far from being free, fair and credible. This may not be far from the partiality of the election umpires, among others.
We appeal to the Senate to save the nation from constitutional breach and crises during elections that can consume the nation.
May God bless you richly as you allow the fear of God and the love of this country to guide you in this task. We give you assurances of our prayer support and our door is opened to the leadership and the membership of the National Assembly for godly counsel and prayers whenever you desire them.