Nigeria

PDP mocks Lauretta Onochie for denying membership of APC

One of the Presidential media aide, Lauretta Onochie, has denied before the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Committee that she is not a member of the All Progressives Congress.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Thursday came hard on Lauretta Onochie and mocked the president’s aide for saying she stopped being a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019. Onochie’s denial, according to the PDP is a desperate attempt to be appointed as a national commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

President Muhammadu Buhari first sent the names of six nominees, including that of Onochie, who was his senior special assistant on social media to the Senate on October 12, 2020 but her nomination was greeted with outrage from Nigerians citing partisanship. Early this year again, the president renominated her alongside other nominees and the Senate president referred the matter to the Senate Committee on INEC.

On Thursday, the Senate Committee on INEC, led by Senator Kabiru Gaya screened all the six nominees whose names were sent to the Senate. Nominees screened along with Onochie were Professor Muhammad Sani Kallah, (Katsina); Professor Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti); Saidu Babura Ahmad (Jigawa); Professor Sani Muhammad Adam SAN ( North Central) and Dr Baba Bila (North East). Addressing the committee, Onochie admitted to being a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress.

She, however, claimed that she ceased being a member after President Buhari was returned to office in the last general election held in 2019. She disclosed that she served in the Buhari Campaign Organisation but had stopped working for the group. “I have seen the petitions written against me. It is instructive to note that it also came from members of the APC.

“Nobody has anything to fear, if I get this role because I will be working for the people of the South South to ensure that their votes count, irrespective of religion or political affiliations. I am for due process. That’s why the attack is coming because I follow the law, I follow due process.”

Senators took her to task on her capacity to discharge her functions without bias in INEC if cleared by the red chamber. Onochie maintained that the nation has nothing to fear as she further claimed that she refused to participate in the APC membership registration and revalidation exercise in order to properly exit herself from politics.

However, the PDP in a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, its national publicity secretary, in response to Onochie’s statement at her screening on Thursday, said Onochie disowned APC because of her desperation to become INEC commissioner at all cost.

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“Nigerians were amused to watch Lauretta Onochie, a nationally known APC front runner, as she spewed falsehood before the Senator Kabiru Gaya-led Senate Committee on INEC in denial of her membership of the APC.

“With her lies, Lauretta Onochie, a dyed-in-the-wool APC member, whose name appears as number 2 on the ward 4 register of the APC in Aniocha Local Government Area of Delta State, has further demonstrated her lack of integrity to be trusted with the position of a national commissioner in INEC.

“Lauretta Onochie in her escapade in the Senate may have forgotten that the lawmakers and Nigerians, in general, are aware of her subsisting oath filed in a pending suit in court affirming her membership of the APC, which she further reinforced and adopted under cross-examination in the same matter very recently. “With such proclivity to desperate denials in the face of the truth, allowing Lauretta Onochie anywhere near INEC would pollute the commission as well as the conduct of elections by the commission.

“Now that the facts of Onochie’s partisanship have been further laid bare before the Senate, the PDP urges the Senator Gaya Committee on INEC to stand on the side of the constitution and the sanctity of our electoral process by rejecting outright the nomination of Lauretta Onochie as INEC commissioner”, the statement said.

Earlier during the screening, senators were divided on whether Onochie should be cleared or her nomination is rejected. Former Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu called her attention to petitions which faulted her nomination since Delta state was already represented in the commission. He argued that confirmation of her nomination would breach provisions of the Federal Character Commission as enshrined in the Constitution since it makes provision for all states to be adequately represented in federal government agencies.

“The problem is that your nomination doesn’t respect the right of other states in the South South to be represented. The second issue is about your membership of the APC. Former Bayelsa state governor, Senator Seriake Dickson spoke in similar vein.

“I would have loved to speak in her favour. The first reason is that she is a woman, the second reason is that she is from my region and she will be representing my people. “But there are issues with respect to your capacity to be impartial. That’s the situation.

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“You talk about due process and the law. But the constitution requires that you don’t belong to any political party. Besides that, it requires you to be impartial.

“Again, the zone you represent is made up of six states, the Delta you are supposed to represent already has a commissioner. Your nomination is therefore not proper since there are other states in the zone.” She, however, refuted the claim over double representation for Delta state. The nominee disclosed that Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Legal Services of the Commission is from Delta but married to a citizen from Cross River State.

“Yes, I am from Delta just like May Agbamuche-Mbu. But she is representing Cross River, not Delta. Her husband is from Cross River State.

“Another question is my capacity to be impartial. “Since 2019, I have removed myself from politics. “Since then, I haven’t had anything to do with BMO. I didn’t take part in the APC revalidation exercise. As I am sitting down here, I don’t belong to any political party.”

Confronted with an affidavit she swore to before the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja Division on June 30, 2021, where she admitted to being a member of a political party, Buhari’s Personal Assistant on Social Media, insisted that she longer belongs to the APC. Senator representing Bauchi South, Lawal Yahaya Gumau and his counterpart representing Anambra South, Ifeanyi Ubah, however, dismissed allegations against Onochie as mere sentiments.

Their counterpart representing Ekiti Central and chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, asked the Senate to put her on oath to deny her membership of the APC and leave the rest to the committee to decide. His colleagues from the main opposition party however objected to the idea. Senator Ekweremadu said there was no provision in the Senate rule to compel nominees or anyone invited to swear on oath. Senator Dickson aligned with the argument as he said the committee is not an investigating body. Chairman of the committee, Kabiru Gaya assured that the committee would be fair to all nominees in its report to be submitted to the Senate.

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