Sunday Aborisade, Abuja
The Senate may have suspended the screening and confirmation of the nominees of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for appointment as Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission, due to the inclusion of Ms. Lauretta Onochie, on the list.
Onochie, from Delta State, is the Special Assistant to the President on New Media, who has been defending the All Progressives Congress-led government with passion.
Apart from Onochie, other nominees on Buhari’s list were, Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah (National Electoral Commissioner), Katsina; Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (National Electoral Commissioner), Ekiti; and Saidu Babura Ahmad (Resident Electoral Commissioner), Jigawa.
The Senate Minority caucus last week faulted Onochie’s appointment claiming that Buhari’s action was a violation of the Nigerian constitution.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan did not send Buhari’s official communication to the Committee on INEC saddled with the responsibility of screening the nominees before the Senate went on a three- week break on Tuesday.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the Senate President Ahmed Lawan decided not to forward the list of nominees following stiff opposition by a majority of senators opposed to Onochie’s nomination across party lines.
A senator who spoke with our correspondent on the issue, on condition of anonymity on Thursday said “The Senate President would have referred the nominees’ list to the INEC committee but had to halt the process when it was obvious that majority of us advised him to maintain status quo pending when Onochie’s replacement will be sent to the Senate.”
Another Senator who also spoke on condition of anonymity said “Onochie’s representative in the Senate, who is also a principal officer, expressed shock when the Senate President read the letter announcing her as one of the nominees.
“The Principal officer has mobilised his colleagues in the leadership to oppose Onochie’s nomination and the Senate President had no choice than to put the entire screening process on hold.”
The Spokesperson for the Senate, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, however, said “That (screening) is not the priority issue for the Senate now. Our priority now is on how to ensure peace and stability in the country and we are seriously working towards achieving that.”