Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Hundreds of young Nigerians marched on their country’s parliament on Tuesday, calling for MPs to remove age barriers on political posts, including the presidency.

Nigeria’s 1999 constitution stipulates that the president has to be at least 40 years old, while senators and state governors have to be aged 35 or above. With an increasingly young demographic in Africa’s most populous nation and a majority of voters (55.4%) in the 18-to-35 age group, the restriction is seen as unfair.

AFP reports that about 500 protesters, wearing white T-shirts and brandishing placards proclaiming #NotTooYoungToRun, marched to the National Assembly, where a sit-in is planned until MPs vote on a constitutional amendment to lower the age.

The amendment proposes that the age qualification for the presidency be reduced to 35, the senate and state governorships to 30 and for election to the house of representatives and house of assembly, from 30 to 25.

Protest leader Samson Itodo said a two-thirds majority in the 109-seat senate and 360-seat house of representatives was required for the amendment to pass. "We are saying ‘remove the age limit completely’. If you are eligible to vote, you should be eligible to run for office. That is full franchise. What we currently enjoy is partial franchise."

Nigeria had a "youthful population", so it was crucial young people were more involved in the political process, he said.

Nigeria’s head of state is President Muhammadu Buhari, a 74-year-old former military ruler who has been out of the country on indefinite medical leave since May 7.

Buhari’s age is not an exception in Africa, where many elderly presidents remain in power, including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who is still president at 93 and has vowed to run again. SA’s Jacob Zuma is 75, but is constitutionally ineligible for a third term when his second runs out in 2019.

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