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Onochie: A Litmus Test For The Senate

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In recent times, not many issues in the public domain have raised more opprobrium, vehemence, and even angst and disgust, amongst diverse and varied competent, well-meaning and very critical stakeholder groups, individuals and organisations in the electoral process than President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of Ms Lauretta Onochie as federal commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the Senate for confirmation.
On Wednesday, June 9, the senate president, Ahmad Lawan, at plenary, referred President Buhari’s request to confirm Prof. Muhammad Sani Kallah (Katsina Laureetta Onochie (Delta); Prof. Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti); Saidu Babura Ahmad (Jigawa); Prof. Sani Muhammad Adam (North-Central) and Dr Baba Bila (North-East) as national commissioners of INEC to its committee on INEC for screening. The committee was given two weeks to conclude its assignment and report back to plenary on the request that was first sent to the senate in October, last year.
While it is not clear whether the committee delayed work on the assignment, it is manifestly evident that the committee has taken more time than was allotted and lay its report before the upper legislative chamber in plenary for final debate and confirmation.
However, there has been a floodgate of reactions from a wide range of the Nigerian public over the appearance of the name of Ms Onochie on the list of those to be considered at all. The opposition and rejection of Ms Onochie began from the floor of the senate itself when the Minority Leader, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe, whose statutory function it was to second the motion moved by the Majority Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, declared his reluctance in seconding the motion on account of the presence of the name of Ms Onochie.
Those who see the appointment of the Delta State born Ms Onochie as inappropriate and therefore unfit for the office cite the fact that the person in question is already a political office holder as the Special Assistant to the President on Social Media. To this, they add that she is also strongly believed to be a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), in its reaction to the issue, registered its objection to the nomination and implored the senate to reject Ms Onochie as an officer of INEC. Idayat Hassan, Director of CDD, said in a statement that Ms Onochie’s appointment to serve in such a non partisan portfolio could jeopardise Nigeria’s democratic principles if allowed by the senate.
“First, Ms Onochie is from Delta State, the same state from which Barrister May Agbamuche-Mbu, a current national commissioner, hails. Barrister Agbamuche-Mbu’s tenure is not ending until December 2021″, the statement said, adding that “Also, Mr Mike Igini, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, hails from the same state and his tenure will end in August 2022. Neither Mrs Agbamuche-Mbu nor Mike Igini has been removed from office”.
Consequently, the CDD argued that Ms. Onochie’s consideration for confirmation would not only contravene the Federal Character principle of the 1999 constitution, but as well constitute inequity and an unfair treatment of the other South-South states who are also qualified to be appointed into INEC.
According to the CDD, “ Secondly, Ms Onochie does not hide her partisan support for the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and she is likely a card-carrying member of the party.
“It is also important to realise that her partisanship is the reason she was appointed to her current role as an aide to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Media.
“This, therefore, precludes her from being appointed into INEC. Section 156 (1)_ and item F, Paragraph 14 of the Third Schedule of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, forbid an appointee to INEC to be a political party member or a partisan individual.
“There is no doubt that Ms Onochie will continue to protect the interest of the APC if confirmed by the Senate. Moreover, CDD believes strongly that she will represent political baggage that could damage the commission’s legitimacy. Any election she oversees will likely be subjected to multiple litigations, even in a genuine win by the APC and other parties”, the organization said among others.
On Tuesday this week, a coalition of nine civil society organisations took their opposition to Ms Onochie’s appointment a notch further by instituting a legal action against President Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the Senate and Kabiru Gaya, chairman of theSsenate committee on INEC.
The CSOs which include the International Press Centre, Centre for Citizens with Disability, Nigerian women Trust fund, Incorporated Trustees of Albino Foundation, Incorporated Trustees of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Incorporated Trustees of Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa, Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Media and Society and Incorporated Trustees of YIAGA Africa Initiative are praying the court to declare the nomination of Ms Onochie as “wrongful, illegal, null and void and same nullified”.
In the suit filed before a Federal High Court in Abuja and marked FHC/ABJ/CS/604/2021, the CSOs are asking the court to determine whether the president “can nominate a card-carrying member or members of his political party or any other political party in Nigeria, as a national electoral commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission” contrary to Sections 14 (29), 14 (3), 14 (36), 14 (4) and Section 154 (1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended ).
Among other reliefs, the applicants are asking the court for an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the 3rd and 4th defendants (the Senate and Kabiru Gaya) from referring, considering, screening, deliberating or confirming the nomination of Ms Lauretta Onochie”.
In the affidavits deposed to by the applicants in support of the originating summons, the CSOs insisted that “Onochie cannot be a fair and unbiased umpire to serve in the Independent National Electoral Commission” owing to her close working relationship with President Buhari and his administration.
However, in a move that appeared to be intended to undercut the progress of the case, and in brazen indifference to the massive and overwhelming outpouring of stiff, strident and unrelenting rejection of the appointment of Ms Onochie, the senate, yesterday, began the screening of the six nominations into INEC national commissionership position including the embattled presidential aide.
If, at the end of the day, Ms Onochie gets the nod of the APC dominated red chamber, there are many Nigerians who will not only feel disappointed but also register the 9th Senate as being there to serve the interest of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC as against the more sacred interest of the Nigerian people and that of the constitution.
Yet, even if the senate rejects the nomination, Nigerians will not stop to question the rationale, the wisdom and what the president intended to achieve by his preference for such a defective, obnoxious offensive, provocative and embarrassing choice. The only way to pacify Nigerians and assure them that the entire Onochie saga was not plotted to take them for granted is for the president to render an unreserved apology to his compatriots.

By: Opaka Dokubo

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Analysts Downplay Tinubu, Atiku Educational Certificates Controversy

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The controversies surrounding the educational certificates of some presidential candidates who will be contesting the 2023 presidential election, have been described as a non-issue by some lawmakers and activists.
Those who spoke with The Tide over the issue, noted that such controversy was not new to the political system of Nigeria.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had claimed in the forms he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that his primary and secondary school certificates were stolen by unknown persons, who invaded his home during the military junta of the ‘90s when he fled the country over his support for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
For that, many Nigerians who had raised concerns over the development called for the disqualification and prosecution of the former Lagos State governor, whom they alleged lied under oath over academic qualifications.
A non-governmental organisation, Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy recently issued an ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police to arrest and prosecute Tinubu for allegedly supplying false information to INEC.
Legal Adviser of the group, Mr Kalu Agu, at a press briefing in Abuja, said that the alleged offence committed by the former Lagos State governor breached both the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
In the same vein, Tinubu’s running mate, Kabiru Masari told INEC that his original certificates are missing.
Reports had it that Masari in particulars submitted to INEC deposed to an affidavit on the loss of his primary and secondary schools certificates.

He, however, said that he attended Masari Primary school, Katsina State between 1972 and 1978 and obtained a Grade 2 Certificate from Katsina Teachers College in 1982 and a Higher Certificate in 1995.
Masari in the sworn affidavit for ‘Loss of Some Original Documents’, obtained from Divisional Police Headquarter, Wuse Zone 3, Abuja attached to the particulars he submitted to INEC, said, in January 2021, that, while on transit within Wuse, Area FCT, Abuja, he lost his Certificate of Grade 2 Certificate from Katsina Teachers College and First Leaving Primary School Certificate issued by Masari Primary School, Katsina State, (1972-78).
He also said that all efforts made to trace the items proved abortive.
On his part, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had a few questions raised about his academic credentials.
Atiku, who served as the country’s Vice President from 1999 to 2007, was said to have not provided information on his primary education.
The 1965 West Africa School Certificate (WASC) result presented by him, allegedly identified the student as Siddiq Abubakar.
While reacting to the issue, a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Olanrewaju Oshun said the issue of certificates as far as he was concerned, is a non-issue and unfounded.
Oshun, the member representing Lagos Mainland Constituency 2, said, “This is a man that worked with Mobil and he was recruited from his school. If he didn’t have that qualification, how was he recruited from the school? Are we saying Mobil didn’t check his qualification?
”He was a Senator and he was governor of Lagos State for eight years. All these shouts about him not having certificates are mere political gimmicks.
“If you say he doesn’t have primary and secondary school certificates, how was he able to attend a prestigious university abroad.
“You can’t be admitted into any university in Nigeria without a secondary school certificate not to talk of attending a university abroad. This is not new. They said the same thing in 2015 about Buhari.”
A United States based public affairs analyst, Prof. John Oshodi said, “At no point did Tinubu say he had no primary or secondary school education.
Even if he is not able to show the concrete certificates, whether due to being lost or accidentally damaged, how does that show he has no basic educational background?
“One thing is certain: He is a Nigerian-educated person who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business and Administration with a major in accounting from Chicago State University in 1979.
“In past election seasons, through media hysteria, President Buhari, also an American trained military scientist with post-secondary education, was said not to have a WAEC certificate and, so, he is not eligible to vie for any elective position.
“Let’s say that Buhari’s basic educational certificates were with the military, like he said, or they could not be located, what cannot be denied by the American government is that Buhari holds a diploma from the United States Army War College.
“On the part of Atiku Abubakar, the media has it that he holds a secondary school education, although not of the highest level.
“He has post-secondary education in hygiene science and a diploma in law, and in recent times, he has worked hard and now has a master’s degree in International Relations from the United Kingdom.
“What is most stunning about the current uproar is that a basic education such as a primary or secondary school certificate is required to be president, as in the case of Tinubu.
”In 2019, it became a settled matter when the Supreme Court held that Buhari, per the constitution, is not required to possess a secondary school certificate to be qualified to run for the presidency and does not have to submit it to INEC to run for the presidency.
“Yet in a society where lawlessness and lack of respect for operating laws are rampant, you in the media and the people should be asking the presidential candidates about how they will handle monumental problems like crime and security, poverty, unemployment, poor electricity, infrastructure and road hassles, illegal substitution of candidates’ names, and human rights abuses,” Oshodi added.

 

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INEC Laments Poor Turnout For CVR In Katsina

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The Independent National  Electoral Commission (INEC) says some newly registered polling units in Katsina State have not recorded any registered voter.   In July 2021, INEC upgraded 1,750 voting points to polling units in Katsina State.

Speaking in an interview with journalists on Friday, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state,  Jibril Zarewa,  said there has been low turnout for the continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise across more than 60 percent of the new polling units.

He, however, said one of the reasons for the poor turnout could be the suspension of telecommunication services in some LGAs of the state due to insecurity.

“In May 2022, when we did analysis, we realised that out of the 1,750 newly established polling units, about 1,200 units did not have more than 50 people who registered in each of them,” The Tide source quoted him as saying.

“This registration involved transfers. Some of the polling units have zero registration; some have only one; some five, while some have not more than 50 people who registered.

“Although this can be attributed to the suspension of telecommunication networks in 17 of the 34 LGAs for about five months due to the security problem.

“Since the resumption of the exercise in March, out of the 1,750 polling units created, about 1,200 don’t have up to 50 people that registered in each of them.

“We are appealing to the people of those areas where the new polling units were created, to go and register, as INEC is always ready for them.”

Zarewa said initially, there were 4,902 polling units in Katsina, but with the creation of new ones, there are now 6,652 polling units in the state.

“The reasons for the creation of additional polling units are to serve the areas and decongest the congested polling units,” he added.

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My WAEC Certificate Is Missing, Okowa Tells INEC

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The Vice Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections and Governor of Delta State, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, has told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that his WAEC certificate is missing.
Okowa, in an affidavit, said he enrolled and sat for the West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in the year 1974 but the original certificate issued can no more be found.
The affidavit of loss of original certificate was obtained from the High Court of Justice, Delta State, in the Asaba Judicial Division on October 3, 2006.
Okowa, however, attached a Higher School Certificate obtained in 1976. According to the certificate, obtained at Edo College, Benin City, in 1976, the governor sat for four subjects, namely, General Papers (Grade B,) Physics (Grade B), Chemistry (A) and Biology (B).
The affidavit read in part, “I, Ifeanyichukwu Arthur Okowa, adult, male, Christian, medical doctor and Nigerian citizen of House No. 4, Commissioners’ Quarters, Asaba, Delta State, do hereby make oath and state as follows:
“I personally enrolled and sat for the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in the year 1974 at Edo College, Benin City, in now Edo State.
“That I passed the said examinations and was subsequently issued the said certificate therefore. That the original of the said certificate issued to me is now missing, lost and cannot be found.
“That I make this oath for the records and do so knowing and believing the same to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Law of the Bendel State as applicable to Delta state” according to a document sighted by The Tide source.
Okowa will be the fourth politician running for the 2023 presidential election that could not present his WAEC certificate to the electoral umpire for verification and eligibility.

 

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