A Bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution to fix the age limit to contest political offices in Nigeria suffered a setback in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The Bill, sponsored by Bede Eke (PDP, Imo), was roundly rejected by the lawmakers who continuously shouted him down as he made to defend his position.
Eke was later compelled to step it down “for further consultation”.
The Bill set the maximum age for the President and Vice-President at 70; the governor, deputy governor and senators at 65 years, while the House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly is 60 and 50 years.
It also sought to put the minimum age for contesting elections into the Senate at 30; House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly at 25; President and Vice-President at 35; governors at 35 and deputy governors at 30 years.
It provided that those elected into the various offices before attaining the stipulated age would serve out their term and would no longer be eligible to contest the next election, whether they did first term or second term, as stipulated by the Constitution.
When Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who wanted to fast-track the business of the day, put the question on whether to adopt the Bill for second reading, members shouted a resounding nay.
This forced the Speaker to put the question two more times.
But when Eke was given the floor to lead the debate, other members refused to listen to his argument on why the Bill should be allowed to scale through the second reading.
It was thus referred to the Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review.
The law also sought to increase the educational qualification for the office of President, Vice-President and governors from the current Senior Secondary School Certificate to Bachelor’s degree, Higher National Diploma (HND), or its equivalent.
The Bill was silent on the qualification for senators and the House of Representatives members.
Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila told Eke that if the Bill was allowed to sail through and passed to law, some of the lawmakers currently in the House would not be eligible to contest the 2023 elections.
Eke said he had the youths in mind when he conceived the Bill, especially given the EndSARS protests that occurred in October 2020 across the country.
According to him, since youths are the future of any society,
He said: “This Bill is about the EndSARS protest by our youths and their demands. If passed, the youths will celebrate this House. I am not retiring anybody. This Bill is a buffer to the Not Too Young To Run Act, which the Eighth Assembly passed and Nigerians were overwhelmed and celebrated us for passing that Bill.”
Minority Leader Ndudi Elumelu noted that allowing the Bill would amount to discriminating against some Nigerians against the spirit and letters of Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Jimoh Olajide (APC, Lagos) asked Eke to withdraw the Bill.
But Nkem Abonta (PDP, Abia) said Eke’s intention was to protect the nation’s teeming youths to get a place in the national polity.