BUJA – Delegates representing the youth groups at the National Conference on Wednesday decried the alienation of the youth by the constitution through placing of age limitation for some political offices.
The delegates, during the debate on the report of the Committee on Social Sector, described Section 65 of the 1999 Constitution as inhibiting youth’s participation in the political processes.
They called for the removal of the age limitation or lowering of the bar to allow for increased youth participation in the political process.
Section 65 (1) of the Constitution provides that a person shall be qualified for election as a member of: (a) the Senate, if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of 35 years.
Section 65 (b) provides for “the House of Representatives, if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of 30 years’’.
Section 106 (b) provides that “a person shall be qualified for election as a member of a House of Assembly if he has attained the age of 30 years’’.
Similarly, Section 131 (b) also provides that “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if… he has attained the age of 40 years”.
President of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Mr Abdullahi Abdulmajeed, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the youth fought for the independence of the country.
“The constitutional limitation that inhibits young people from participating in the political processes and governance early enough is a distortion of the principle of one’s franchise.
“If we can vote at the age of 18, why can we not be voted for at the age of 18.
“Two key recommendations that we have proposed, which we believe that the whole world will hearken to, are the removal of the age limitation or lowering the age bar.
“It is on record that so many of these elderly people, the doyens of this country’s politics, became what they were at ages as low as 26.
“Some became presidents at ages not up to 35. Why should the reverse be the case for our generation
“So it is either you remove the age bar and make it a full franchise whereby once I am entitled to vote, I should also have that dual entitlement of being voted for.
“If you find that to be outrageous, then let us lower the bar. We have 18 and 19 year-olds in some African countries that are members of the parliament.
“If we make that of Nigeria 20 or 25 years for House of Representatives and that of the senate to be 30 years, we do not see that as anything outrageous,” he said.
In his contributions, another youth delegate, Mr Charles Ibiang, contented that leadership had nothing to do with old age.
“For us youth, we feel that a bar on anything that has to do with leadership should not be an issue with age.
“My generation just wants to make this passionate appeal that we should look very seriously at those sections that limit our capacity and capability and remove them.
“As long as any citizen attains the age to vote, he or she should also have the right to be voted for. It will be a good start for youth.
“This particular section of the constitution is very primitive and offensive,” Ibiang said.
He, therefore, appealed to the conference to remove the age bar completely so that any Nigerian that attained the age to vote can also seek to be voted for. (NAN)