NIGERIA: Lawyer Sues FG, N’Assembly for Barring Youths from Elective Positions

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A lawyer, Chukwunonso Daniel Ogbe, yesterday filed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit before the Federal High Court to contest the constitutional provisions  barring Nigerian youths within the age bracket of 18 and 29 years from contesting elections in the country.

The lawyer is specifically challenging the combined provision of Sections 65(1)(a)&(b), 106(b), 131(b), 177(b) and 117(2) of the Constitution, which disqualify Nigerian youths within the said age bracket from contesting elections into State House of Assembly, House of Representatives, the Senate, governorship seat and presidential seat.

The suit was brought pursuant to the provisions of Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, 2009; Sections 12(1) and 42(1)(a)(b) of the Constitution and Article 1(2) of the African Youth Charter, 2006.

The applicant, who claimed to have filed the suit on behalf of Nigerian youths, listed the Federal Attorney General, Bello Adoke; National Assembly comprising House of Representatives and the Senate; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega.

According to the suit, Ogbe wants a declaration of the court that Sections 65(1)(a)&(b); 106(b); 131(b) and 177(b) of the Constitution were in conflict with Section 42(1) of the Constitution, which he argued, had higher flavour and strength than the former.
He is also seeking an order directing the National Assembly to amend the Constitution, in order to domesticate the provisions of the African Youth Charter.
He further wants the court to declare that Nigerian youths, who have attained the age of 18 years, being the age of maturity, are entitled as of right to stand for election into political offices in Nigeria.     

Besides, the applicant who said he had planned to contest election into Enugu South Rural Constituency seat of Enugu State House of Assembly, equally urged the court to restrain INEC from  disqualifying him from vying for the election on the account of age come 2015, and by extension, any other Nigerian youth within the age bracket of 18 and 29 years.

Finally, the applicant wants the court to direct the federal government and the National Assembly to offset the cost of filing the suit, which he estimated at N20 million.

According to the grounds upon which the suit was filed, the applicant recalled that the Nigerian Government, under the leadership of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, gave Nigerians a Constitution on May 29, 1999, but that the said Constitution could never be deemed to be the people’s Constitution, as it never evolved through the normal process.
As a result, he pointed out that the Constitution contained many deficiencies that have made it difficult for the Nigerian nation to be governed without much socio-political hitches.

One of such deficiencies, according to the applicant, was the provision bordering on the age one has to attain before one can vie for an election into a political office in Nigeria.
He lamented that the constitution provides that Nigerians who have attained age of 18 are adults, yet the same constitution bars adult who fall within the age bracket of 18 and 29 from vying for elective positions in Nigeria, and that the constitution also recognised that no one should be made to suffer discrimination based on political opinion.

He added that Nigeria signed and ratified the African Youth Charter, which is an international treaty meant for the empowerment of Nigerian youths, but the government has failed to embark on steps needed to bring into force the provisions of the Charter, including amendment of the constitution to allow youths to vie for political offices.

The fresh suit is yet to be assigned to a judge and no date has been fixed for hearing.

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