Lauretta Onochie is down, but she's not out of future consideration for INEC position

The senator who recommended Onochie's rejection says she's qualified for INEC position.

Lauretta Onochie [Vanguard]

The rejection of Lauretta Onochie's nomination as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commissioner (INEC) has drawn a sigh of relief from Nigerians, but her defeat might not be as permanent as first thought.

There is speculation that President Muhammadu Buhari will sooner or later re-nominate his personal assistant of six years for the sensitive role, and the Senate's reason for rejecting her gives life to that speculation.

Onochie's nomination had been widely rejected based on her history of membership with the All Progressives Congress (APC) and vocal support for the party.

However, when he presented the report of the Senate Committee on INEC to plenary on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, Senator Kabiru Gaya said her nomination only violated federal character principles.

The senator said INEC already has a serving National Commissioner appointed from Delta, the same state Onochie was nominated to represent.

The committee's report was adopted by senators, and Onochie was rejected.

Many critics hailed the decision as the correct one to keep INEC non-partisan and trustworthy, but Gaya said after plenary that the committee believed that Onochie was qualified for the role.

"That one is no issue because she clearly told us she's not a card-carrying member and nobody submitted a petition with a copy of her party card.

"On that basis, we have to agree that she's not a card-carrying member.

"Therefore, she's qualified to be electoral commissioner; but because of the issue of federal character, she had to be disqualified," he said.

That technicality will stop being a problem when the tenure of May Agbamuche-Mbu, Delta's current representative, expires this December.

INEC has a total of 12 Commissioners with two each drawn from the six geopolitical zones; and Agbamuche-Mbu's exit would give Buhari two slots to fill from any of the states in the South South.

Even though the Senate has pressed on the president to nominate a replacement without baggage, the president has appeared keen on Onochie, as he's nominated her twice already.

If he nominates her again to replace Agbamuche-Mbu, it's very likely that her appointment would sail through, despite the legitimate protests against her.

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