The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has listed underage politicians as candidates for February 14 elections into the two arms of the National Assembly, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
According to the final list of candidates released by the Commission January 13, and posted on its websites, 22 contestants who are below the stipulated age of 35 years, from about 13 political parties, were cleared for the Senate poll.
Another 25 candidates below 30 years were cleared to contest the House of Representatives election.
The candidates submitted their forms to the electoral body through their parties last year, which means they will be a year older in 2015.
Section 65 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that “Subject to the provisions section 66 of the Constitution, a person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of (a) the Senate if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of thirty-five years of age; and (b) the House of Representatives, if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of thirty years.”
Section 65 (2) says a person shall be qualified for election under subsection 1 of this section if (a) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent; and (b) he is a member of a political and is sponsored by the party.
According to the list, parties presenting underage candidates are the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Alliance for Democracy, AD, National Conscience Party, NCP, Advance Congress of Democrats, ACD, Mega Progressive Peoples Party, MPPP, New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Labour Party, LP, Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, African Democratic Congress, ADC, Progressives Peoples Party, PPA, United Peoples Party, UPP, Independent Democrats, ID, and Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN.
None of the two major parties, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressives Congress, APC, had an underage candidate in the list.
The AD is presenting the youngest of the lot. He is Fidelis Gaddama, a 25-year-old man who is vying for the Adamawa Central Senatorial District seat. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
Mohammed Gusau, 28, is contesting the Zamfara North Senatorial District election on ACD ticket.
Ugochukwu Ogbonnaya, who is running on the platform of United Progressives Party, UPP, to represent Enugu West, currently represented by the deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP, Abdulrahman Shehu of the AD, who is contesting for the Zamfara West seat and Sulaiman Abdullahi running on ADC platform for the Kwara Central seat currently occupied by former Governor Bukola Saraki, are all 30 years.
Others are Dan Maliki Mustapha, 33, APGA, Zamfara West; Ibrahim Nasiru, 32, NCP, Zamfara North; Rhab Bulus Sabo, 31, MPPP, Taraba North; Zainab Aliyu, 33, NCP, Sokoto South; Muhammadu Abubakar, 32, NNPP, Sokoto North; Sanusi Abubakar, 34, LP, Sokoto North; Nasiru Habibu, 31, NCP, Sokoto East; and Ahmed Bukola Faslat, 34, ID, Kwara South.
Also on the lists are Anjorin John Temitayo, 33, PPN, Kwara Central; Bello Ajayi, 34, PPA, Kogi West; Janet Taiwo, 32, MPPP, FCT; Oluebube Frank Umuekoro, 32, UPP, Enugu North; Urata Ugochukwu John, 31, ACPN, Ebonyi South; Lady Imarhiagbe Ukamaka, 34, ACPN, Ebonyi North; Offor Patience Amaka, 33, UPP, Delta North; Atata Hanna Odibo, 34, ACD, Delta Central; and Mohammed Abdulrahman Tabata, 34, PPA, Borno North.
The list of 950 senatorial candidates also showed that seven of them are over 70 years. The oldest is a former governor of Kwara State, Shaba Lafiagi, who is seeking re-election to represent the northern senatorial district of the state on the platform of the APC. He is 74.
The others are Kasimu Ibrahim PDM, Katsina, 72; Agboola Oladimeji, PPA, Osun Central, 70; Elon Mamuno, Kowa, Adamawa South, 72; Olawumi James, UDP, Osun West, 70; Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, PDP, Plateau North, 70 and a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Jerry Useni, PDP, Plateau South, 71.
The list also showed that no fewer than 150 of the aspiring senators, including a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu and a senator seeking re-election, Hope Uzodinma, are holders of only secondary school certificate. These include West African School Certificate, General Certificate of Education and National Examination council, NECO or teachers grade two certificates.
Mr. Uzodinma is currently the Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation.
The youngest candidates for the House of Representatives, according to the list, are Onwumere Leticia Amechi and Saifullahi Bello Wadata. They are both 22 and are contesting for the seats of Orumba North/South Federal Constituency of Anambra State on the platform of Accord Party and Yabo/Shagari Federal Constituency of Sokoto State on APGA ticket, respectively.
Twenty-three year old Abdullahi Kabiru wants to represent Illella/Gwadabawa Constituency of Sokoto State on the platform of APGA.
Orizu Milchan (Ogbaru, Anambra State), Nsikak Celestine (Etinan/Ubium, Akwa Ibom) and Mohammed Abubakar Umar (Dala, Kano), all 24 years, are running on the ticket of Accord, NCP and AD, respectively.
While only one of the candidates, Shuaibu Haruna Shuaibu of Sokoto State, is 25, two others are 26 years, 10 are 27 years and three others 28. The only 29 years old is Akinyoade Adedapo Oladimeji. He wants to represent Abeokuta South Constituency of Ogun State.
Interestingly, many of them are holders of Secondary School Certificate, SSCE.
In an apparent mistake, the Commission listed Agbade Abdulrahman, a Diploma holder, who wants to represent Ifo/Ewekoro Constituency of Ogun State on the ticker of ACPN, as a four year old man.
The oldest candidate for the House of Representatives is 79 year old Samuel Adeniyi Ayesa, a lawyer. He is vying for Akoko North Constituency seat of Ondo State seat on the platform of Social Democratic Party, SDP.
He is followed closely by Julius Adenle Fakunle, who is 70. Mr. Fakunle, who holds a B Sc in Economics, is contesting for the seat of Kosofe Constituency of Lagos State on AD ticket.
When contacted on the clearance of the underage candidates, Kayode Idowu, the spokesperson to the INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, said he was not aware of the development.
INEC’s Director of Voter Education, Publicity, Gender and Civil Society Liaison, Oluwole Uzzi, also denied knowledge of the underage approvals.
Mr. Uzzi however told PREMIUM TIMES that part of the reason the lists were published was to allow anyone who has objections to any information provided by any candidate to do so in line with Section 31 of the Electoral Act. The law admonishes such concerns to be redressed in court.
Section 31 (5) of the Act states that, “Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false may file a suit at the federal high court, High Court of a state or FCT against such person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false.”
Section 31 (8) adds that “A political party which presents to the commission the name of a candidate who does not meet the qualifications stipulated in this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000.00.”
The National Chairman of NCP, Yunusa Tanko, also told this newspaper that the submission of candidates under the required ages by parties could not have been deliberate.
“If it is true, it was not deliberate. You know parties like ours that do not have that widespread can make such mistakes. Some of these parties, which will be happy to have candidates in these constituencies, can make such mistakes,” he added.
Mr. Tanko, who is the Chairman of Interparty Advisory Council, IPAC, the umbrella body of all political parties which serves as advisory body to INEC, assured that “we will take it up with INEC.”
The National Secretary of the ADC, Said Abdullahi, also claimed he was not aware.
He said he delegated the duty of clearing the list at the party secretariat before it was sent to INEC to junior official, but assured he would launch investigation into the matter.
Mr. Abdullahi requested this reporter to send him the names of the underage person cleared by the party to enable him conduct his investigation.
Also speaking in a telephone interview, the National Secretary of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, Rafiu salau, who is also the party’s presidential candidate in the February 14 election said “it must have been a mix up.”
Section 33 of the Electoral Act (2010) debars political parties from changing their candidates whose name had been submitted according to Section 31 of the same law, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.