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NDDC: Lauretta Onochie’s appointment sparks fresh controversy 



Senate confirms Lauretta Onochie as board chairman of NDDC

By Ori Martins

Like a cat with nine lives, the Lauretta Onochie, has become a recurring feature of this government’s apparent disdain for public opinion.

Everything about Mrs. Onochie, President Buhari’s  Special Assistant on New media, is usually measured in controversy.

As one of the presidential spokespersons, her press releases and interviews were wrapped in controversies. She is perhaps the most controversial of all the people managing the president’s public image, and also divisive in nature.

When President Muhammadu Buhari decided to move her in what appeared as a professional elevation, and thus, recommended her  as one of the INEC commissioner, high scale controversy trailed that bid, as she was accused of being partisan and a card carry member of the ruling party, APC. She subsequently dropped.

And again, just recently, it was  controversy when Onochie’s name ruled the airwaves and front pages of the press following her nomination as the chairman of the proposed new board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which recomposition has been demanded by the member-states. It was a surprise move and again controversy has broken out.

Nigerians are at a lose why President Buhari’s obsession with Onochie and the push to strategically position her in the political structure of the country? Is there an agenda behind the Onochie phenomenon, or some mischief makers are simply at their game? While INEC is critical to who becomes president and governors in the country, NDDC has become the cash cow of national political leaders for their political ambitions.

“I never heard of her until she emerged as one of the presidential spokespersons of President Muhammadu Buhari”, said Kemka Echi, a political observer. “Reading her press releases and listening to her interviews on the electronic media, I knew quite early she is  out to defend the president, the presidency and the ruling APC.

“I am not saying she would have antagonized her employers or made the president or the presidency to look stupid. But when you know that your principal has committed an obvious blunder, or there is a national  outrage against the government you are serving, as an image maker, you draw a diplomatic line. That is, you serve the public and pander to your employers.

“But in the case of Onochie, it does not bother her how the public feels or what troubles them. All what she minds is to defend her principal,   even if it means cooking up falsehood”, Kemka Echi, a public affairs analyst, submitted.

Kemka gave the example of when Buhari was away on a medical trip for about 104 days. Rather than Onochie calming down frayed nerves and appealing to the  disillusioned masses who were at that time very much apprehensive about the health as well as the whereabouts of thier president, Onochie, rather cast aspersions on her fellow compatriots.

From the explanations of Kemka, that was the point many Nigerians noticed the controversial bearing of Onochie and vowed to resist and oppose her any other time her name came up for any national appointment.

Just like many Nigerians condemned her for what they called  her “unpatriotic” inclination while Buhari was out of the country on a medical vacation, Onochie’s designated appointment as an INEC commissioner sensationally drew the ire of the people. Many Nigerians, especially civil society groups,  roundly condemned that move.

“We must get this point very clear. Nigerians who called for the removal of Onochie’s name from the list of INEC commissioners never did so because they hated her. No.

“Considering how she carried herself when she was a presidential spokesperson, and looking at the sensitivity of INEC, many Nigerians doubted her unbiased standing on a critical matter like election”, Moses Abuo, a resident of in Owerri, Imo State, responded.

It is hard to find supporters for her; even some members of the president’s party, APC, were ardently opposed to her nomination. Again, the matter is about to repeat itself as even her state government, Delta, has already indicated intention to, not only oppose her representation, but the willingness to challenge it in court, citing procedural error in her nomination, particularly, not coming from an oil bearing community of the state.


Expectedly, when Onochie’s name featured very prominently, recently, as the big boss at NDDC, there were not just mixed reactions to it but total condemnation. The question was: Onochie again. Is she the only woman of her level that can do the job?

According to Mike Ikomma, a public affairs analyst, “there must be something about Onochie that many of us do not know, actually. Why must it be her all the time? As long as the presidency has continued to prop her name up almost all the time for appointment, so long we shall continue to reject her.

“And by the way, what is her track records in her previous duty posts? If it were personalities like Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, late Dora Akunyili, Oby Ezekwezili or any other woman in that level and capacity, then, we wouldn’t be troubling our heads. But this is Onochie who we only know to be a government buddy. She cannot do anything for public good and this is the truth”.

Indeed, her nomination may continue to perpetuate the crisis in the intervention agency for the Niger Delta, which has been troubled since its creation in 2002. It has been riddled with corruption from inception and adjudged to be a monumental failure in performance of its set objectives of improving living conditions in the region.

The agency is believed to have about N11 trillion in abandoned contracts already awarded and some fully paid. Since 2017, the agency has been managed by an ad hoc board under an administrator, which had rankled the member states.

However, a forensic audit was ordered by President in 2019 to unearth the crisis in the agency which deferred the composition of a new board, but the outcome of the audit itself is shrouded in secrecy as many party big wigs, then in the opposition party, were allegedly indicted.

Informed sources hinted that because of unfavorable result of the audit report government may be looking for ways to kill it; and the appointment of Onochie may be the perfect pretext to achieve the objective.

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