By Titilope Fadare
OrderPaperToday – Hundreds of Nigerian Youths on Tuesday embarked on a protest to the National Assembly asking for inclusion in political offices as the two chambers of the National Assembly commenced debate on the amendment of the 1999 constitution.
Part of their demands is that a minimum of 72 Senators and 240 members of the House of Representatives vote YES for the Not Too Young To Run NTYTR bill.
A Coalition of youth group campaigning for the passage of the NTYTR bill had alleged that both chambers of the legislature dropped the proposed law.
The Senate and House of Representatives however responded in the affirmative, saying that the bill was never dropped adding that it is among the bills that are scheduled to be amended .
The youths who gathered at the Unity Fountain in Abuja were seen with Placards with inscriptions like: “Remove age limit for running for office, “Invest in youth, “Make history by voting for NTYTR”, “Save the NTYTR bill,” “Stop criminalisation of young people’s ambition,” “If I can vote at 18 I should be eligible to run for office,” among others.
The bill seeks to promote youth inclusion in decision making and deepen intergenerational dialogue through the removal of constitutional age limits for running for elective office.
Addressing the protesters, Speaker of the Nigeria Youth Parliament, Ayodele Obe said: “Our colonial masters did this at our age or probably younger, so for us to salvage this generation from what it is now to what we desire it to be, we need to take this down to the National Assembly.
“We can tell you that from our own part, Nigerian youth parliament, we stand with this movement and by the grace of God we shall win.”
The former chairman, Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu also addressed the youths.
“We cannot lose the Not Too Young To Run bill, we are in a country with medium age of 19 but people who want to save Nigeria’s unity have an average age of over 60.
“Who are they saving the country for? People are being invited across the country as leaders of thought, who are they thinking for? The average age of the Nigerian youth given our life expectancy, we are already in the middle age and life expectancy for women is 51 and falling, for men it’s 49 and falling.
“So if you are in your 20s, you are in your middle age, people like me are already in an injury time and people like us should be seeking to replace ourselves with the kind of people who are leading the Not Too Young To Run movement.
“Because we are going to die and life expectancy is short, we must replace ourselves with better people, when I look at young Nigerians I’m reassured that this country has a future. That is one promising thing about us. So today let us go and take the National Assembly asunder if we must.
“We need to create inconvenience, if we don’t create inconvenience, nobody knows you are demonstrating. Let us cause some inconvenience, let Nigerians know young people matter. For the sake of this country, we need young people in office, we need young people in power, we need young people taking control,” he added.
It would be recalled that both chambers of the National lAssembly had said the NTYTR bill will be reviewed among other bills starting from Tuesday.
The age reduction proposal specifically seeks to amend Sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the Constitution. The sections deal with age qualification for the Senate, House of Representatives; state Houses of Assembly; President; and governors.
The age bar on other leadership positions like Vice-President, state governors and members of the National Assembly, according to the proposal, will also be lowered.
Under the extant Section 65, the age requirement to contest an election to the Senate is 35 years. For the House of Representatives, it is 30 years.
In Section 106, the age requirement to contest a state House of Assembly seat is 30 years.
For the office of the President, the extant provision in Section 131 is 40 years.
For the office of the governor of a state, the qualification in the extant Section 177 is 35 years.