By Hassan Shehu
President Muhammadu Buhari this afternoon nominated his controversial Special Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commissioner representing Delta State.
The job has integrity as a constitutional requirement to be fulfilled for its nominees. Yet Ms. Onochie was a subject of many social media posts that turn out to be fake news. In September 2018 she posted a picture of a road construction site that she tagged “Nassarawa-Jos Road BUHARI AGAIN!!! Sai Baba” which turnout to be an iStock photo that was uploaded by Getty in 2015 and has nothing to do with any construction site in Nigeria.
In yet another tweet, Ms Onochie posted on her Twitter handle pictures of houses which she said, “Beginning with Zuba, and later Lugbe and Kwali, all in the FCT, N9 Billion has been provided by the FG to build 550 Low Cost Houses, Decent accommodation for the poorest of our nation. Similar low cost housing projects will be replicated across the 36 States of Nigeri. #SaiBaba” These pictures were actually pictures of houses from Rent-to-Own Programme of Lagos State, Sir Michael Oedola Housing Estate, Housing estates on Malaysia and British Columbia.
A July 2019 tweet by her, that carried a picture of stick wielding people, said, “Lives have again, been lost in inter-communal clashes in Cross River State….” The people in the picture were found to be demonstrators against 2012 fuel subsidy removal in Ikorodu, Lagos.
As controversial as she is, this nomination is also not free of controversy. Femi Falana led Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB) has declared Ms. Onochie unqualified to be appointed a commissioner of the Independent Electoral Commission. It said a partisan, card carrying member of a political party is not fit for such role, let alone Ms. Onochie that has been an “unrepentant member of the ruling party.”
Her nomination has generally been seen as a move to undermine the nation’s electoral process.