BY NAJIB SANI
Nigerian law makers have been called upon to amend the electoral act in the constitution in order to allow all citizens from the age of 18 upward to elect and contest for any elective offices in the nation.
The National Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign [ERC] Mr Hassan Taiwo Soweto made this call recently while delivering a paper titled ”Elective posts: A comparative analysis of Nigeria and other countries of the world” at a workshop organized by the United Kingdom [UK]’s Organization called Actionaid for youths activists drawn from the 36 states of the federation under the aegis of ‘Activista Nigeria’.
According to him, sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, stipulates that a person must be at least 40 years of age to be elected President or Vice President, 35 to be a Senator or State Governor, and 30 to be a member of the House of Representative.
The constitution he quoted also states that one must reach the age of 30 years to be a Chairman of Area Council and 25 years to be a Councillor of Area Council lamenting that such age restriction has continued to be major challenge faced by the teeming vibrant Nigerian youths willing to partake in governance.
He claimed that the constitutions of other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany etc are more favourable to the youths as they permit anybody from the age of 18 and above to vote and be voted for into all elective positions.
” Endeavor to take a look at the age qualifications in other countries: In the UK (other than in Scotland) a person must be aged 18 or over (16 in Scotland) to stand in elections to all parliaments, assemblies, and councils at the European, UK, devolved, or local level”.
”In Australia, any person 18 years of age or older may stand for election to public office at federal, state or local government level. The youngest ever member of the House of Representatives was 20-year-old Wyatt Roy elected in the 2010 federal election after the Electoral Act 1918 was amended to reduce the age of candidacy for that office from 21 to18”. He pointed out.
Soweto who decried that Nigeria has one of the highest age requirements for elective posts in the world said very few people aged 40, 35 and 30 years are likely to become Presidents, Senators, Governors or House of Representative members now in the country.
”But this does not tell the whole story of how the youth and other social groups like the working class and poor are disenfranchised. Also, citizens within a certain income bracket are not likely to hold elective posts or be in position to shape government policies. This is because of the heavy monetization of politics amidst other obstacles erected in the political process which has prevented the emergence of genuine and truly representative democracy in the country”.
”For instance in the 2015 general elections, the All Progressive Congress (APC) sold its nomination form for president for N27.5 million while the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) sold its own for N22 million. Similar huge amounts were demanded for the nomination forms of other elective positions”.
He therefore appealed to the national assembly to review the age restriction in the electoral act and political parties to give tickets to the youths for various offices in future election asserting that the youths constitute more than 60 percent of the country’s population.