Nigerian lawmakers oppose bill to raise bar for academic qualifications for presidential, governorship candidates

The majority members of House of Representatives on Tuesday opposed a bill seeking to raise the academic qualifications for positions of President, Governors, and National Assembly members to a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

Penpushing reports that the bill, was sponsored by Hon Oriyomi Onanuga  of All Progressives Congress(APC), Ogun State,  who sought  to amend sections 65, 106, 131, and 171 of the 1999 Constitution

The debated bill, after two hours of deliberation on the floor of the House, was stepped down by Onanuga after members vehemently opposed the content of the bill, while it is recalled that the female lawmaker sponsored the same bill in 2022; but did not see the light of the day until the end of that assembly

Penpushing further reports that Onanuga leading discussion on the bill said the bill would raise the education qualifications to contest elections in Nigeria to a minimum of a university degree and its equivalent.

The federal and female lawmaker urged her colleagues to support the bill, noting that the action is long overdue, and also speaking in favour of the bill, the Minority Leader, Hon Kingsley Chinda of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rivers State said the constitution must conform with the current realities in the country.

‘What we are discussing is whether elected officials should have wisdom and knowledge. Are you telling me that a school certificate holder in 1960 is the same thing as today? In the past, primary school students were drafted to be teachers. Can a primary school holder get a job in private establishments? We must say that education is important. We should do the proper thing,” he said.

Penpushing also reports that contrary to support given by some other members for the bill, Hon Aliyu Madaki of New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), Kano State said the bill could create an elitist society where only a group of people is allowed to participate in politics, stressing that the bill would not affect him or his children, but laws should be made in the interest of the greater majority.

‘Your leadership quality is not determined by education. I have three grown-up children; they are all in universities. What we are trying to do is about all Nigerians. The level of education is not in the constitutions of some states. In the case of INEC, what we saw the professors do is terrible. As a person, I hold an MBA, but it is not about the individual. It is about the collective. I believe we should allow that section of the constitution to stay,” he said.

Penpushing reports that number of lawmakers spoke against the bill, citing exclusion as the reason for their positions against the bill, and notable among them include Hon Kabir Maipalace of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP, Zamfara State, Hon Ahmed Jaha of All Progressives Congress(APC), Borno State, Hon Bello Kumo of All Progressives Congress(APC), Gombe State.

The presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Ben Kalu subsequently stepped down the bill, amidst  the opposition, hence, Onanuga bowed to the pressure and requested to step down the motion for further consultation.

Penpushing further reports that education qualification in the 1999 Constitution in Sections 65, 106, 131, and 171 of the 1999 Constitution provide a school certificate or equivalent as the minimum qualification for elective positions in Nigeria.

“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,” section 65 of the 1999 constitution reads. Section 318 interpreted the school certificate as follows.

“School Certificate or its equivalent” means (a) a Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent, or Grade II Teacher’s Certificate, the City and Guilds Certificate; or (b) education up to Secondary School Certificate level; or (c) Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and –

(i) 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, and

(ii) attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be acceptable to the Independent National Electoral Commission for periods totalling up to a minimum of one year, and (iii) the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English language to the satisfaction of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and (d) any other qualification acceptable by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Penpushing also reports that the proposed amendment seeks to delete section 65(2a) and replace it with “he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.” Section 131 provides the basic qualification for a candidate to run for the office of the President. A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if – “he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.

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