“We want to contest too, remove the age barrier” – Youth Alliance tells National Assembly

by Stanley Azuakola

The National Assembly would soon embark on another constitution review process. On the 11th, 12th and 13th October, the senate would hold public hearings on the review in Abuja while zonal hearings will hold on 25th, 26th and 27th October.

This time around, young people are simply not content with sitting back and watching things happen; they are demanding to have their own view points heard and favourably considered.

Some Nigerian youth under the auspices of Youth Alliance on Constitution Review have resolved to engage the constitution review process in a strategic and organized manner. Determined to ensure youth issues are mainstreamed into the constitution review, they are hosting a National Youth Conference on Constitution Review on 11th– 12th October 2012 at Rockview Hotel, Abuja.

The conference, which has the backing of the Democratic Governance for Development project of the United Nations Development Program UNDP/DGD, National Democratic Institute NDI, and International Republican Institute IRI, is expected to bring together about 400 youth from various states across the nation.

At the conference, young people and other key stakeholders would discuss and advocate issues around constitutional and electoral reforms; and their inputs would be brought to the attention of key stakeholders like the National Assembly, politicians, political parties and civil society.

The conference is a continuation in a series of technical meetings, consultations and debates being put together by the Youth Alliance on Constitution Review to streamline and highlight priority youth concerns that require constitutional re-engineering.

In August 2012, with the support of partners like the Democratic Governance for Development Program of the United Nations Development Program UNDP/DGD, they put together an e-Conference on twitter which had over 50,459 participants discussing issues on constitution review for 2 hours online.

The youth alliance expressed their displeasure at members of the National Assembly for disregarding its earlier Youth Memorandum which it presented to them, as well as to President Goodluck Jonathan. Electronic copies of the memorandum are available online at www.wethepeopleconstitution.org. They described as unacceptable, the way youth issues are being downplayed in the discourse on constitution review.

The Youth Alliance declared that young Nigerians desire a modern constitution which provides equal opportunities for. In their opinion, some issues pencilled down for review like state creation, state police, role of traditional rulers and rotation of offices, does not reflect the needs and desires of young people.

They therefore demanded the following:

– A constitutional definition of the youth age in accordance with the African Youth Charter, National Youth Policy and Nigerian Youth Manifesto which defines the age of youth as 18-35 so as to address the unending political exclusion and marginalization of young people.

– The establishment of full franchise to make any person who has attained the voting age of eighteen eligible to contest in any election provided such a person satisfies the criteria for contesting in that election.

– Removal or Reduction of age criteria for qualification to contest election for political office.

Alternatively, the Youth Alliance proposed that the Constitution should be amended to reduce the age qualification of contesting election to the office of the President from 40yrs to 35yrs, Governors and Senate 30yrs, House of Representatives to 25yrs and State Assemblies to 25yrs. They also are demanding that qualified young persons who do not wish to join any political party for ideological or personal reasons should have the right to run for elections as independent candidates. Also, they called on the legislators to remove the concept of indigeneship from the constitution and replace it with residency rights.

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