An intense lobby is reportedly being carried out in the Nigerian Senate for the confirmation of the Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, as a national commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Recall that Senate President Ahmed Lawan had last week Wednesday directed the Committee on INEC to screen Lauretta Onochie and five others as INEC commissioners.
The Senate took this decision eight months after President Muhammadu Buhari sent the list of the nominees to the Senate for screening.
It was gathered that the protests by members of the Peoples Democratic Party in the red chamber hindered the process of the screening.
The opposition party had accused Onochie, who is presently a presidential spokesperson of attacking the party at any giving chance.
PDP also condemned the idea of making Onochie a card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress as an INEC Commissioner to represent Delta State on the board of the commission.
Other names on the list are, Prof. Muhammad Kallah (Katsina); Prof. Kunle Ajayi (Ekiti); Saidu Ahmad (Jigawa); Prof Sani Adam (North- Central); and Dr Baba Bila (North-East).
The panel which is headed by Senator Kabiru Gaya has four weeks to conclude the screening and report back to the red chamber at plenary.
But reports have emerged that a principal officer of the Senate is now spearheading the lobbying for Onochie.
A top source told The Nation that, “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”.