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Nomination of Government Partisan Threatens INEC’s Independence

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The nomination of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, as a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is continuing to create ripples and raise concerns. At the sitting of the Senate on Wednesday, June 9, the Senate President had announced the referral of her nomination to the Senate Committee on INEC for consideration. This has spread concern among election stakeholders including civil society, the media and citizens. The Constitution of Nigeria specifically prohibits the appointment of partisan politicians into the election management body – Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Her nomination was first made towards the end of 2020. The Senate Committee on INEC refused to consider it and stepped it down. The nomination has again, been received and there are concerns that the Senate dominated by President Buhari’s party men in the All Progressives Congress (APC) may be able to muster their party members in the Senate to overwhelmingly vote for her nomination. Election observers have always worried that the principles and thresholds established for free and fair elections in Nigeria have often been trampled upon. No doubt, appointing a partisan political appointee into what should be an independent electoral management body could significantly heighten concern about free and fair general elections in 2023.