By Yusuf Alli, Abuja
The Senate is under pressure to confirm Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, as a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it was learnt on Monday.
A principal officer of the Senate is spearhead the lobbying, according to a source.
After eight months of suspense, Senate President Ahmad Lawan referred it to the Senate Committee on INEC, headed by Sen. Kabiru Gaya, last week.
It was gathered that the controversy over Onochie delayed the screening of other nominees .
Other nominees are Prof. Mohammed Sani (Katsina); Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti), Seidu Babura Ahmed (Jigawa), Prof. Sani Mohammad Adam (North Central) and Dr. Baba Bila (North East).
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “What delayed the screening of Onochie for eight months was to allow for horse-trading and consultations with the Presidency on the observations by some Senators, the opposition and other stakeholders.
“The chamber made behind-the-scene representation twice to President Muhammadu Buhari to replace Onochie, but the President stick to his decision.
“Apart from defending her principal(President Buhari), Onochie, many top officials of the presidency believe, didn’t engage in partisan politics.
“We have no choice than to leave Onochie’s fate to the Senate Committee on INEC to determine. And we have left stakeholders who have reservations about her nomination to approach the committee.”
Giving insights into the nomination game in the Senate, a ranking senator said the Senate is under pressure to clear Onochie.
”Many people and some governors have been reaching out to APC and PDP Senators to clear her.
“For some of us, they have reached out to our leaders to prevail on us to accept her nomination, “ a source said.
The source added: “What some of us are saying, including some APC senators, is that we should take cognizance of Section 14(2a) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution( as amended) . We do not want to set bad a precedent.”
The section says: “A member of the commission shall be non-partisan and a person of unquestionable integrity.”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media, Sen. Ajibola Basiru said the plenary will determine Onochie’s and other nominees’ fate.
“Onochie’s nomination has been referred to the Senate Committee on INEC to consider her suitability or otherwise for the job. The same template applies to all other nominees.
“The ultimate decision on Onochie is left to the plenary, based on the recommendations of the committee.
“Don’t forget that the screening committee will only act, based on the information and representation before it. Whatever it is, the plenary is in charge of final decision”.
Yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) said it would go to court to challenge Onochie’s nomination.
It National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbodiyan, said: “We are already doing a memo to the Senate Committee on INEC. Apart from that, we will go to court to challenge the constitutionality of her appointment.
“We are aware she is a registered member of the All Progressives Congress(APC) in a ward in Aniocha Local Government Area of Delta State. We have her card number and other evidence.
“As for our members in the Senate, they are not silent. We have engaged them to oppose her nomination because it is unconstitutional. We also know that some APC members are opposed to her nomination.”
A PDP senator said: “There is no need hiding behind one finger. We have all the partisan tweets of Onochie. For instance, in a tweet on January 13th, 2015, Onochie said: ”Issues in Nigeria. Hope is here. Vote Buhari/Osinbajo. Vote APC. Improved infrastructure, reduce poverty, equip school.”
“Tweeting with APC flag at the background on June 24, 2020, Onochie said: ”There is definitely an APC e-NEC meeting tomorrow. We are going through a growth process. Thank you, everyone.”
“It will be sad for our chamber to confirm her. We will try our best to resist her nomination, despite pressure on APC and PDP senators.”