President Muhammadu Buhari has been dragged to court over the nomination of his media aide, Lauretta Onochie, as commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Nigerian leader was sued by a coalition of nine Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) after Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, asked the committee on INEC to commence the screening process.
In a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/604/2021, filed before a federal high court in Abuja on Tuesday, 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 commissioner or resident electoral commissioner for the independent national electoral commission”, contrary to Sections 14 (2a), 14 (3), 14 (3b), 14 (4) and Section 154 (1) of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended in 2011).
In the originating summons, the applicants are asking the court to declare the nomination of “Lauretta Onochie, a well-known Member of the All Progressives Congress and current serving personal assistant on social media to the 1st defendant (Buhari), as a national commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission”, as “wrongful, illegal, null and void and same nullified”.
Amongst other reliefs sought, they are also 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 by Ezenwa Nwagwu, board member of the incorporated trustees of YIAGA Africa Initiative, in support of the originating summons, the plaintiffs submitted that considering the close affinity with Buhari and his administration, “Onochie cannot be a fair and unbiased umpire to serve in the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
“That her criticism and constant denigration of political opponents cannot allow such opponents to be at ease seeing a member of another political party presiding as a supposed unbiased umpire,” they added.
“That based on the various baseless, bigoted, and inaccurate activities of Ms Lauretta Onochie, especially on the social media, she is not a person of integrity capable of occupying a sensitive and trusted position as that of a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission.”
The CSOs 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, and Incorporated Trustees of Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa.
Others are Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, Incorporated Trustees of Centre for Media and Society, Incorporated Trustees of YIAGA Africa Initiative.
Aside from Buhari, other defendants in the suit are the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), the senate of the federal republic of Nigeria, and Kabiru Gaya, chairman of the Senate committee on INEC.