House Steps Down Bill to Change Minimum Requirement for President, Deputy, Others

•Urges FCT CJ to halt recruitment into FHC

Juliet Akoje in Abuja

The House of Representatives, yesterday, stepped down a bill seeking to change the minimum  requirement for election into the Offices of President, Vice President,  National Assembly members, governors  and other political offices from first school leaving certificate to a university degree or its equivalent.

In another breath, the House has also urged the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to halt the recruitment process into the Federal High Court until there was compliance with the federal character principle and quota system.

Section 131 (d) of the 1999 Constitution as amended provides  that a person shall be eligible to contest the office of the president if such a person is educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.

But a bill for an act to alter the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to change the Educational Qualification for Elections into Certain Political Offices and for Related Matters was sponsored by Hon. Adewunmi Onanuga.

Onanuga, while presenting the bill, argued that the constitution of Nigeria should be amended to make it compulsory for elective office holders to have a university degree or its equivalent as against the current provision which allowed a First School Leaving Certificate holder to vie for the highest office in the land.

The bill, which enjoyed support from House Leader, Julius Ihonvbere, Babajimi Benson, Kingsley Chinda and  others also received criticism from other lawmakers.

Onanuga called on the House to interrogate the educational qualifications of political office holders, noting it had become necessary to peg a university degree or its equivalent as the basic minimum educational requirement to vie for political offices.

Benson, who supported the bill said, “Anyone who is going to oppose this bill should tell us if his son or daughter is in the university or not. I can’t  believe that in this modern age, some people will say ‘don’t go to school but yet go and be the president”

Contributing, the House leader, Ihonvbare said “We all know what the world is today. A world where knowledge is power, we see leaders of other nations who make excellent presentations but here, we have leaders dodging debate.

“I don’t think this requirement should apply to all political offices. For local governments, it might not be required but the president, vice-president, national assembly members should be required to own a degree”

Leke Abejide added that, “The world has moved, Nigeria should not be left behind. If we put a mediocre candidate to head an important political office, we will end up in disaster.”

Alfred Iliah described educational qualification as very important even as he called on the lawmakers to take the Bill seriously.

Mustapha Aliyu, who said the proposed amendment as long overdue stressed that, “Education is the bedrock of  development in any society. Those contesting for executive seats should have a degree. However, the jump from leaving school to degree is too wide. I will propose that there should be a middle course.”

Criticising the bill, Hon. Aliyu Madaki, said the leadership quality of a political office holder is not determined by one’s level of education,

“Your level of education is never a determinant of what you will do when you are put in a position of leadership. Let us allow everybody to contest and allow that section of the Constitution the way it is.”

Usman Bashir said, “We were privileged to go to university,  but we have less privileged Nigerians, who couldn’t afford to go to the university. I propose that we allow the minimum requirement for political office holders to remain the school certificate.”

Ahmed Jaha argued that, “Qualification alone is not a true taste of knowledge. We are doing laws for good governance and for peace in this country. We will not do laws that will favour only a few number of Nigerians.”

“How many Nigerians are degree holders? America that we refer to have done greatly in educating her citizens but here in Nigeria, what have we done in improving our education system?”

Hon. Inuwa Garba said, “The mover of this bill is not aware of what is happening in some part of this country. Some schools in some parts of the country have been shut down for a while now. Certificate is not a true test of knowledge. The bill is discriminatory against some people”

As a result, Onanuga stepped down the bill, pledging to lobby more of her colleagues preparatory to having it presented on the floor of the House at a later date.

“It appears some of our colleagues need further lobbying. I will move to step down the bill for now”

Meanwhile, on the recruitment process into the Federal High Court until compliance with federal character principle and quota system, the house has referred the matter to its Committees on FCT and Judiciary for the purposes of investigating the federal character approval granted for the purpose and the extent of compliance thereto.

These resolutions followed the adoption of a motion on the urgent need to re-examine the list of proposed states to fill the 12 vacancies created to the disadvantage of others in the high Courts of the Federal Capital Territory moved by Hon. Igariwey Iduma Enwo at plenary on Tuesday.

Iduma noted that the High Court was one of the judicial bodies in the Federal Capital Territory judiciary established by Section 255 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

He further noted that in the past few days, the media and the civil Society Community have expressed serious concerns and protestations over the proposed list of states to fill the 12 vacant positions in the High Courts of the Federal Capital Territory.

The lawmaker recalled that information in the public space was to the effect that the proposed list was expected to be sent to the National Judicial Council by the 19th of February, 2024, for vetting by the NJC, and subsequently to the Senate for confirmation.

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