There was uproar in the Senate yesterday following a submission by Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, that she was not a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Onochie appeared before the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for screening as INEC National Commissioner nominee representing Delta State.
The screening came nine months after President Muhammadu Buhari forwarded a request to the Red Chamber to confirm Onochie and five others.
Section 1 (A) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) prohibits anyone holding membership of any political party from taking an INEC appointment.
On Onochie’s party membership controversy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu), during the screening, read a letter the nominee wrote to the committee chairman, which suggested her membership of APC.
“In paragraph five, line three, you said, ‘a register was opened and we all put down our names as members of Buhari Support Organization and APC’,” Ekweremadu read.
Also, Senator Istifanus Gyang presented an affidavit Onochie swore to in the FCT High Court, in which she allegedly stated her membership of APC.
Paragraph three of the affidavit reads, “I (Onochie) am also a member of the All Progressives Congress and a volunteer at the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO).”
Responding, the presidential aide said she stopped being a member of any political party since 2019.
“I have learned over the years to stand with the constitution and due process but not on partisanship or sentiments. Since 2019, I have not had anything to do with any political organisation, including Buhari support groups.
“When APC was doing re-validation of party members, I did not take part in that exercise. As I’m sitting down here, I’m not a member of any political party in this country,” she said.
The session became rowdy when Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) suggested that Onochie be placed on oath to swear that she was not a member of a political party.
Bamidele’s suggestion was backed by Senators Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP) and Lawal Gumau (APC, Bauchi).
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business explained that there was no provision in the Red Chamber’s rule that allows that a nominee is put on oath during screening.
But the PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan asked Onochie, to “stop denying her life in desperation to be appointed as a national commissioner in INEC.”