After a siege on the National Assembly on Tuesday, a group of Nigerian youth was given audience by the National Assembly, and assured that the required ages for elective offices in the country would be slashed.
The youth had held a rally before proceeding to lay siege at the entrance to the National Assembly to demand audience with the lawmakers on the issue.
The rally was held at the Unity Fountain by the members of ‘I support #NottooYoungToRun’ movement seeking constitutional amendment to enable young Nigerians vie for elective positions.
The protesters arrived the main entrance of the National Assembly after about three kilometres trek from the Unity Fountain in the Central Business District of Abuja.
Chanting ‘Solidarity Forever’, they raised placards demanding youth inclusion in governance.
‘Remove Age Limit for Running For Office’ one of the placards reads.
The protesters had blocked the roads and refused vehicles exit or entrance to the National Assembly after security operatives blocked their path to the complex.
However, addressing the angry youth later, Dino Melaye, accompanied by Abdulazeez Nyako, on behalf of the Senate, told the protesters they brought a special facilitation of the Nigerian Senate to them.
“Today, I want to assure you that we have one Senate, irrespective of who is addressing you, we are here to speak to you on behalf of the Nigerian Senate. As I speak to you, we are already sitting and the Senate President is also on seat. In fact, within the premises of the National Assembly, the entire Senate have mandated us to address this very important organ of our national life.
“The youth of this country are important to the Nigerian Senate and the National Assembly and I want to say anyone who neglects the Nigerian youth has neglected the future of Nigeria,” Mr. Melaye said.
He said the Senate has tremendous respect for the age brackets the protesters are competing for in the Constitution, stressing that the Nigerian youth will play a prominent role in the revival of democracy in the country.
Mr. Melaye, representing Kogi West Senatorial district, stressed that the bill had received expeditious attention in both chambers of the National Assembly.
“As I speak to you, there is already a proposal that will be debated between today and tomorrow in the National Assembly in the ongoing constitutional amendment that is going on.
“The ages for the House of Representatives and the State House of Assembly have been proposed and reduced from 30 to 25 years. I also want to say that for the Senate and the Presidency of Nigeria, governorship has been reduced from 40 to 30 years, while the presidency has been reduced from 40 to 35 years.
“This is the proposal we are going to debate. It is not concluded yet but we are going to listen to your own proposal, then we will go in during our debate to let our colleagues know that this is your own proposal and it will be debated to make sure that presidency of this country would be reduced from 40 to 35 years”.
Otive Igbuzor, in solidarity with the ‘I support #NotTooYoungToRun’ campaign, urged the Nigerian youth to develop themselves in order to effectively run and govern Nigeria.
“As you can see from my appearance, I am not affected by the constitutional limitation of people to run. By age, I am qualified by the constitution for president. But I support #NotTooYoungToRun. There are reasons why I support it”.
Mr. Igbuzor lambasted the old people that have been running the country, stressing that they ran Nigeria into problem and the current recession confronting the country.
“I feel pained that what our parents did to us, we are not able to give it back to the younger generation. And what has happened in this country is that there is a progressive under-development of young people. But if the elders have conspired to under-develop you, you must not under-develop yourself.
“Firstly, you must develop yourself for you to run and govern this country properly. All the knowledge you have should not be from text messages and know that power is not given consciously, you must struggle for it.
“Secondly, endeavour to turn this #NotTooYoungToRun movement into a movement of young people to bring about development, to fight against corruption, ethnicity, religious bigotry and to bring about a new Nigeria”.
Mr. Nyako, in his remark assured the protesters that the senate would urgently debate the bill Tuesday.
“This bill is coming at a time when it is needed the most and I can say it is one of the fastest bills ever considered in the Senate and I assure you, it has the support of the senate president and the speaker. I’m congratulating the youth because this a clear case of democracy working.
“This bill was initiated by the youth because it is an extract from the brief that was submitted by the youth leaders,” he said.
Chido Onumah, an activist and newspaper columnist, stressed the need for Nigerian youth to clamour for elective positions.
“I am here to stand in solidarity with the young people of Nigeria. When we were their age, about 30 years ago, we did the same thing; we fought the military dictatorship of Babangida and Gen. Abacha. Those who were much older than us fought the dictatorship of Gowon and Obasanjo and those who stood against the colonial masters to get our independence were in their 20’s and 30’s.
“It is the mission of this generation to expand the frontiers of democracy in Nigeria. In 1999, the country returned to civil rule and unfortunately those of us who were in the trenches fighting for democracy abdicated that space for all the charlatans who have occupied it today and have run down this country.
“If you can vote at 18, I see no reason why you can’t be voted for. If you can make a conscious effort to know who to vote for, there’s no reason not to be voted for.
“The most exciting aspect of this campaign is not just the age barrier, it is the independent candidacy part of the campaign to demystify the political system and the notions of godfathers and what you can bring to the table.
“The problem doesn’t end at getting the votes of the lawmakers. When this campaign succeeds, we’ll get into the proper channel of fixing the country, i.e., the issues of restructuring Nigeria and dealing with many other ailments or crisis that confront us as a people,” Mr. Onumah added.