- Dons, CSOs tackle parliament
- It’s prerogative of legislature — Lawyers
Tongues have continued to wag over the resolution of the Senate to screen Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media Lauretta Onochie and five others as commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Senate, on Wednesday, asked its Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to screen Onochie and five others, eight months after Buhari forwarded a request to the Red Chamber to confirm the nominees.
President Buhari had on October 12, nominated Onochie (Delta), Professor Muhammad Sani Kallah (Katsina), Professor Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti), Saidu Babura Ahmad (Jigawa), Prof. Sani Muhammad Adam (North Central) and Dr. Baba Bila (North East) as national commissioners of the INEC.
Onochie’s nomination had sparked outrage from the opposition lawmakers and some of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and civil society groups, who argued that she was “too partisan” to be a commissioner in an institution like INEC.
Opposition senators had said that by nominating Onochie, Buhari had “willfully gone against the constitution he swore to uphold,” and urged him to retract.
Seconding the motion that the nominations be referred to the Senate committee for screening, the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, expressed surprise that Onochie’s name resurfaced again as INEC national commissioner nominee after the widespread opposition against her nomination.
Varsity dons, CSOs tackle parliament
In his reaction, a professor of political science at Bayero University, Kano (BUK), Kamilu Sani Fage, said the government ought to have considered the opinion of the public against the nomination of Onochie.
The former Vice President of the Nigerian Political Science Association (NPSA) said “under a democratic dispensation, people’s opinions are supposed to be the yardstick of judging the performance of the government.
“If there are allegations that the person is a card-carrying member of a party, I think the government ought to have respected the public or at least listened to the views of the people and tries to establish the veracity or not of their claim. I don’t know whether the government has done its homework on this,” he said.
Another lecturer of political science in the same institution, Dr. Aminu Hayatu, said while the president has discretion in such appointments, the nomination of Onochie was condemnable.
“It is really a condemnable act and that was the same thing the APC was accusing the PDP of when the latter was the ruling party. It is condemnable and we should not expect neutrality from such appointees,” he said.
On his part, the executive director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said the action was objectionable and condemnable.
“To introduce brazen partisanship into the electoral system is to create further loss of confidence in a system that is already very much distrusted,” Zikirullahi said.
Also, the Convener, Good Governance Team (GGT), Mr. Tunde Salman, said without casting aspersions on nominee competences, INEC needed people who are not overtly partisan to repose the confidence of the people in the electoral management body.
On his part, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said since the nomination of Onochie, Nigerians have widely reacted against it.
He cited Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution as amended which states that a member of the commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.
He said Nigerians have noted Onochie’s support for the President and other members of the APC and in that regard, she was regarded as partisan and thereby fallen short of the requirement of the Nigerian constitution for appointment to the INEC.
It’s prerogative of parliament to screen nominees – Lawyers
Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) said it is the prerogative of the National Assembly in the process of screening to sieve the wheat from the chaff and confirm only qualified candidates for appointment to INEC.
“For instance, it is clearly known that for anybody to be qualified, either as a member or chairman of INEC, the person must be non-partisan. Therefore, if a person is discovered to belong to a party, it is the responsibility of the National Assembly to withhold their ratification of the nomination,” he said.
Also reacting, Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq said the law presumes the nomination of the commissioners to be valid except there is anything contrary in the relevant laws guiding the process.
He said the controversies surrounding the personality of the nominees would also form part of their screening before final confirmation by the National Assembly.
However, the Senate spokesman, Senator Ajibola Basiru, has urged any Nigerian who felt that Onochie’s nomination was inappropriate or that she was not qualified for the job, to petition the screening panel.
Basiru, in a briefing after plenary, said the fact that a nomination has been referred to the committee did not mean that the panel will affirm it.
By Abdullateef Salau, Abbas Jimoh, John Chuks Azu (Abuja) & Clement A. Oloyede (Kano)