Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, says the time has come to review the age limit for political offices in order to ensure that brilliant and exceptional Nigerians are not shut out.
While speaking on Wednesday at a public hearing organised by the House Ad hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution at the National Assembly, Dogara said the parliament would not constitute a stumbling block to the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians for genuine changes in the Constitution.
“We note that the age limit for various offices currently contained in the Constitution is the minimum, not maximum,” he said.
“The wisdom of raising the minimum age for various offices should be appraised further to ensure that brilliant and exceptional persons are not shut out on grounds of age.”
In June 2016, the bill seeking to reduce the age qualifications for interested candidates to contest for the positions of President, governor and senate in the country to 30 years passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill, which also makes provision for independent candidature into the country’s electoral process, further reduces the age qualifications to contest for the House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly to 25 years.
The bill is an alteration to Section 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 constitution; it seeks to open age qualification for the office of President to 40 years and above, governorship and senate 35 and above, and House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly to 25 years and above.
But according to Dogara, the process of amending the 1999 Constitution by the 8th House of Representatives is in phases, and will be a continuous exercise as envisaged by Section 9 of the Constitution.
He stressed that restructuring of the country can only be achieved through the amendment of the Constitution, adding that the House is prepared to play its part in amending the Constitution when consensus has been reached by Nigerians.
The public hearing was organised to get stakeholders’ input on ‘A bill for an Act to alter the constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended) to reflect the proposals initiated by the judiciary’, which was presented to the House by Walter Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria.