The House of Representatives has passed for first reading a Bill seeking to lower the constitutional age requirement for contesting for elections in Nigeria. The Bill with gazette number HB. 544 was read and passed for the first time at the House plenary session on Wednesday, May 26th, 2016. Hon. Tony Nwulu representing Oshodi/Isolo II Federal Constituency of Lagos state sponsored the bill otherwise referred to as the #NotTooYoungToRun bill.
The bill seeks to alter the Section 65, 106, 131, 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to reduce the age qualification for the office of the President from 40 years to 30 years; Governor 35 to 30, Senate 35 to 30, House of Representatives 30 to 25 and State House of Assembly 30 to 25. The Bill also seeks to mainstream independent candidacy into Nigeria’s electoral process.
Recently, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara publicly advocated for a downward review of age criteria for running for certain elective offices when he played host to students at a dialogue session in the National Assembly. In his words ‘I think it may not be out of place to lower the age qualification for certain elective offices in the next constitutional amendment exercise”. Charging the youths to take the gauntlet and constructively organize for the age review he said ‘This country belongs to you but it’s under the stranglehold of men and women of a generation that have overreached itself. The truth is that nothing will be ceded or conceded to your generation without a fight’.
These developments from the House of Representatives signal commitment on the part of the 8th National Assembly to open the democratic space for increased youth participation. It is an indication that the 8th Assembly is responsive to the yearnings of its vast youthful population.
The constitutional amendment bill if passed will address the legal challenge posed to young people seeking to run in elections thereby guaranteeing inclusion in our political process. The amendment will not only create a level-playing field for young people, it will enhance the competitiveness of electoral politics in Nigeria due to the innovative, creative, dynamism and resourcefulness that youths bring to the electoral process. Furthermore, the Bill will deepen intergenerational dialogue as more youths will gain access to the political process for more adult-youth engagement and partnership.
The youth community welcomes this development with excitement and renewed hope in the legislature. We recognize Hon. Tony Nwulu for sponsoring this important Bill. We urge all legislators in the National Assembly to support the quick passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill to pave the way for more youth inclusion in the political process. This is the time for Nigeria to take its rightful place in the comity of nations as a country guided by the principles of inclusion, freedom, equality and justice.
Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA) and the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign