Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, has denied her membership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) three times.
This followed her grilling by senators to determine her suitability for appointment as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Onochie, who appeared before the Senate Committee on INEC, said she parted ways with the APC and stopped her volunteer work with the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) in 2019.
She said those opposed to her nomination were after her because of her “due process stance” and belief in the rule of law.
President Muhammad Buhari had, on October 12, 2020, nominated Onochie (Delta), Professor Muhammad Sani Kallah (Katsina), Professor Kunle Cornelius Ajayi (Ekiti), Saidu Babura Ahmad (Jigawa), Prof. Sani Muhammad Adam (Northcentral) and Dr. Baba Bila (Northeast) as National Commissioners of INEC.
In her opening remarks, the presidential aide said she was aware of petitions against her, especially those about her membership of the APC and the fact that someone from her state was already on INEC’s board.
She admitted being part of the Buhari campaign organisation in 2015 before her appointment as Special Assistant on Social Media.
Onochie also admitted to having sworn to an affidavit at a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Abuja that she was a member of the APC.
The presidential aide claimed she stopped being a member of the party after the 2019 polls. “I have learnt 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 the 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.”
On the petitions urging the Senate not to clear her for the job, Onochie said: “I have seen many petitions against my nomination, not only from the Peoples Democratic Party (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.”
But an affidavit she swore to at an FCT High Court, dated June 30, 2021, and 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).
Paragraph three of Onochie’s witness statement on oath reads: “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.
“I am also a member of the APC and a volunteer at the Buhari Support Organisation.”
Onochie further told the committee that May Agbamuche, a serving INEC National Commissioner from Delta State, is actually representing Cross River on the board of the electoral umpire.
Opposition Senators Ifeanyi Ubah, Seriake Dickson, Istifanus Gyang and Ike Ekeweremadu, separately, asked again to confirm her membership of the APC.
Onochie, three times denied her membership of the ruling APC, telling the committee that she stopped being a card-carrying member of the party in 2019 (two years ago) as soon as Buhari was re-elected for a second term in office.
But a suggestion by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele that Onochie be put on oath after she denied her membership of the APC was supported by Senator Lawal Gumau (Bauchi South).
Ekewremadu and Dickson opposed the move, saying the Senate Rules did not support any nominee being placed on oath during screening.
Committee Chairman Kabiru Gaya overruled the suggestion to avoid breaching the provisions of the Senate Standings Orders on screening of nominees.
Gaya said the panel’s report would be submitted to the Senate at plenary next week for consideration and possible approval after he adjourned sitting.