9 July 2021
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PRESIDENTIAL aide, Lauretta Onochie on Thursday disavowed the All Progressives Congress during her screening by the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Committee.
Onochie, was among those being screened for confirmation as National Commissioners for INEC. The nominee who had prior to her nomination swore to an affidavit affirming her membership of the party, claimed she stopped being a member years ago.
Other nominees, who appeared for the screening include: Professors Muhammad Kallah (Katsina); Kunle Ajayi (Ekiti), Saidu Ahmad (Jigawa), Sani Adam (North Central), and Baba Bila (North East).
Onochie arrived the Senate wing of the National Assembly at about 11 am accompanied by the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Babajide Omoworare.
She was immediately ushered into the office of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabru Gaya.
Trouble started after the screening of the professors and Onochie, who was the last to be screened, was ushered in to the venue.
Onochie in her opening remarks, acknowledged the series of petitions against her which bordered on her membership of the APC and the fact that someone from her state was already on the board of the INEC.
She, however, denounced the party thrice before the Senate Committee.
She admitted being part of the Buhari’s campaign organisation in 2015 before her appointment as the Special Assistant on social media.
She also admitted swearing an affidavit at an Abuja Federal High court that she was a member of the APC.
Onochie said, “I have learned over the years to stand with the constitution and due process but not on partisanship or sentiments.
“Since 2019, I have not had anything to do with any political organisation, including Buhari support groups.
“When APC was doing re-validation of party members, I did not take part in that exercise.
“As I’m sitting down here, I’m not a member of any political party in this country.
“I’ve no partisanship in my blood. I have seen many petitions against my nomination not only from the PDP, but also from some APC members.
“I’m not partisan; they know. It is about the law. No one has any reason to fear for my nomination as INEC commissioner representing Delta.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m madam due process. That’s why all the attacks. I follow due process; I follow the law.”
However, an affidavit dated 30th June, 2021, she swore to at an FCT High Court, attached to one of the petitions against her, contradicted her claims.
She deposed to the affidavit at the High Court of the FCT in a case involving her as Plaintiff and Emeka Ugwuonye (Defendant).
Onochie in her witness statement on oath on paragraph three stated, “That I am also engaged in active politics and a member of Neighbourhood Watch and has also contested the local government elections under the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom.
Senators Ifeanyi Ubah, Seriake Dickson, Istifanus Gyang and Ike Ekeweremadu, in their separate questions asked Onochie again to confirm her membership of the APC.
Onochie, denied her membership of the APC thrice. Meanwhile, a suggestion by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central) that Onochie be placed on oath after she denied her APC membership, was supported by Senator Lawal Gumau (Bauchi South).
The suggestion was frustrated by two PDP senators, Ike Ekewremadu and Seriake Dickson.
They both argued that the Senate Rules did not allow them to put any nominee on oath during screening.
The Chairman of the panel, Kabiru Gaya, ruled in favour of Ekweremadu and Dickson saying that Onochie would not be placed on oath so as not to run afoul of the Senate Rules.
Gaya subsequently adjourned the proceedings and said the report of his panel would be submitted to the Senate at plenary next week for consideration and possible approval.