Election

REQUIREMENTS/CONDITIONS FOR CONTESTING OF ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA

Even if you are living under a rock in Nigeria, you should know that there is an election fever in the air, the all-consuming news cycle of alliance breaking and allegiance of strange bedfellows, the controversial Muslim-Muslim ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the trading aspersion casted by candidates to fellow candidates.

This election cycle so far has been unlike the previous cycle Nigeria has experienced during its democratic epoch, although Nigeria practice a multi-party system, the previous election cycle has been a two-horse race with other political parties just occupying space. This election cycle has been unique in the sense that there is a charismatic third and fourth party in the persons of Peter Obi and Rabiu kwankaso. It has been the most exciting election cycle in recent years

Before I go further, it is pertinent to at this juncture to define what an election is.

An election can be defined as a process in which people vote to choose a person or group of persons to hold an official position

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has stipulated certain requirements aspirants and candidates must meet before contesting for political positions in Nigeria.

These requirements include.

  1.  Citizenship,
  2. Age,
  3.  Education and
  4. Party affiliation

CITIZENSHIP

For one to run for any of the positions in Nigeria, either for the office of the President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria, The Governor of any of the states in Nigeria, the National Assembly, or The state House of Assembly, He/She must be a citizen of Nigeria by Birth, Naturalization or Registration by the meaning of Sections, 25, 26 and 27 of the 1999 of The Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria.

AGE

Amongst all the stellar accomplishments of the present administration of President Muhamadu Buhari’s, one of the most praiseworthy is the passage of the not too young to run bill, on the 29th day of May 2018

The bill sought to reduce the age limit for running for elective office in Nigeria, the bill aimed to amend sections 65, 106, 131, and 177 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. The bill reduced the age requirements for aspirants to political positions in Nigeria.

National Assembly

Senate:

Section 65 (1) (a) provides thus:

  • Subject to the provision of section 66 of this constitution, a person shall be qualified for election as a member of-
  • The senate, if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of thirty-five;

The amendment to the Not Too Young To Run Bill did not change the original age requirement   

House of representative

Section 65(1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution Of The Federal Republic of Nigeria provides as follows

  • Subject to the provisions of section 66 of this constitution, a person shall be qualified for election as a member of-
  • The House of Representatives, if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of twenty-five years:

The Not Too Young To Run Bill reduced the age requirement from thirty years old to twenty-five years old.

House of Assembly  

For a person who is a Nigerian citizen to be qualified to contest for election as a member of a House of Assembly, section 106 (b) of the 1999 Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria provides as follows:

106. Subject to the provisions of section 107 of this constitution, a person shall be qualified for election as a member of a House of Assembly if –

(b) he has attained the age of twenty-five 

The Not Too Young To Run Bill reduced the age requirement from thirty years old to twenty-five years old.

The president

For a person who is a Nigerian citizen to be qualified to contest for election as the President of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria, section 131 (b) of the 1999 Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria provides as follows:

131. A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the president if

(b)he has attained the age of thirty-five years;

The Not Too Young To Run Bill reduced the age requirement from forty years old to thirty-five years old.

Governorship.

For a person who is a Nigerian citizen to be qualified to contest for election as a Governor in a state of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria, section 171 (b) of the 1999 Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria provides as follows:

177. A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a state if

(b) he has attained the age of thirty-five years;

The Not Too Young To Run Bill did not change the age requirement to contest for the position of Governor

EDUCATIONAL QUALIFICATION

The educational requirements contestants must possess before contesting elections are the same all across the board, sections 65(2) (a) section 106 (c), section 131(d), and section 177(d) the requirement is at least a school certificate or its equivalent.

The interpretation section of the constitution, Section 318 (1) defines school certificate or its equivalent thus

School certificate or its equivalent means

  1. A secondary school certificate or its equivalent, or Grade II teacher’s certificate, the city and Guilds certificate or
  2. Education up to secondary school certificate level; or
  3. Primary six school leaving certificate or its equivalent and
  4. Service in the public or private sector in the federation in any capacity acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for a minimum of ten years
  5. Attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for  periods totaling up to a minimum of one year
  6. Ability to read, write understand and communicate in the English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission
  7. Any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

what this entails is that candidates do not need to produce a certificate indicating that they passed the secondary school examination, all that is required is proof of being educated up to the secondary school level

For one to meet the qualification under (b) candidates must do so using testimonials, reference letters, and “affidavits”

PARTY AFFILIATION

Aspirants must belong to a political party as no one can run or contest as an independent in Nigeria unlike the situation in the united states of America I refer to sections 65 (2) b for house of representatives, sections 106 (D) for house of assembly, section 131(D) for the presidency and section 177( c ) for governors.

DISQUALIFICATION

The 1999 Constitution Of The Federal Republic of Nigeria particularly sections 66 for the National Assembly, Section 107 for the House of Assembly, Section 137 for the office of the President, and Section 182 for the office of the Governor list certain factors which will disqualify a candidate from contesting elections in Nigeria.

  1. He voluntarily acquires citizenship of another country
  2. Adjudged to be a lunatic or declared to be of unsound mind
  3. Is under a death sentence or serving life imprisonment
  4. He has in the last 10 years prior to contesting been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty
  5. He has been found guilty of breaching the code of conduct
  6. He is an undischarged bankrupt
  7. He is a member of a secret society
  8. He presented a forged certificate to the independent national electoral commission
  9. He has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a judicial committee of inquiry  

Additionally for the election into the office of a Governor, section 182 (1) (b) provides as follows:

182(1). Nos person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a state if –

B he has been elected to such offices at any two previous elections;

QUALIFICATION FOR ELECTION INTO AREA COUNCIL

Section 101 The Electoral Act, 2022 prescribes the conditions that must be met before a person can be qualified to contest in elections for Area Council

  1. He must be a Nigerian citizen
  2. He must be a registered voter;
  3. He must have attained the age of 25 years for Councillor and 30 years for Chairman and Vice Chairman;
  4. He is educated up to at least School Certificate Level or its equivalent;(as explained on page 3-4)  and
  5. He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party

DISQUALIFYING FACTORS FROM CONTESTING INTO AREA COUNCIL

Section 102 (1) of The Electoral Act, 2020 lists certain factors which will prevent a Nigerian citizen from contesting elections into Area council; they include

  1. He voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country
  2. Adjudged to be a lunatic or declared to be of unsound mind
  3. Is under a death sentence or serving life imprisonment
  4. He has in the last 10 years prior to contesting been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty
  5. He has been found guilty of breaching the code of conduct
  6. He is an undischarged bankrupt
  7. He is a member of a secret society
  8. He presented a forged certificate to the independent national electoral   commission
  9. He has been dismissed from the public service of the Federation, State, Local Government or Area Council; 
  10. He has been elected to such office at any two previous elections in the case of a chairman.

EXCEPTIONS

Section 102 (2) provides certain exceptions to the factors which disqualify a candidate from contesting in Area Council elections as enumerated subsection (1)

  • Where in respect of any person who has been –
  • Adjudged to be a lunatic
  • Declared to be of unsound mind;
  • Sentenced to death or imprisonment; or
  • Adjudged or declared bankrupt, any appeal against the decision is pending in any court of law in accordance with any law in force in Nigeria, subsection (1) shall not apply during a period beginning from date during a period beginning from the date when such appeal is lodged and ending on the date when the appeal is finally determined or, as the case may be, the appeal lapses or is abandoned, whichever is earlier

However, it should be pointed out at this juncture to know the body(s) responsible for the conduct of elections in Nigeria. These bodies are:

Independent National Electoral Commission:

This body is established by virtue of section 153 (1) (f) of the 1999 constitution.

This is the body responsible for conducting, organizing, and supervising elections into the offices of the President, the Governor, and Deputy Governor of a state and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the House of Assembly of each state of the Federation.

The powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission are stated in Part 1 of the third schedule section 14 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

State Independent National Electoral Commission.

This body is established by virtue of section 197 (1) B of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  This body is responsible for the conduct, organization, and supervision of elections into the offices of a Chairman and not less than five but not more than seven other persons.

The powers of the State Independent Electoral Commission is stated in Part II of the third schedule, section of the 4 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

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About Joshua Owie

Joshua Owie is a legal practitioner with 5 years post call experience in litigation, He currently is an associate of legal assent, a full service law firm with practise that spans across: Election petition, Human rights law, Commercial Law, Arbitration and dispute resolution, Labour law etc Joshua holds a masters' degree in Investment law from Nasarawa state university, A bachelor of Laws from the Nigerian law school and a LL.b from Igbinedion University okada, Edo state