NotTooYoungToRun: Youth Engagement in the Constitution Review Process

by Ibrahim Faruk
Constitution review is a continuous process and has been on the front burner of national discourse since 1999. The 6th Assembly successfully passed three sets of alterations (amendments) to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the review process from 2007 - 2011.

The 7th Assembly, however, was not as successful as its predecessor despite the constituency hearings organized by the House of Representatives and the six zonal hearings held by the Senate to collate memoranda and views of Nigerians on what amendments should be made to the constitution.

According to Section 9 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), an Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of the Constitution not being an Act to which section 8 applies shall not be passed in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the two-third majority of all members of that House and approved by the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all states.

The process of amending the constitution is a complex one. It is also a highly political and sensitive process, with its unique challenges and opportunities.

The Nigerian National Assembly is currently on its annual recess which began in July and would end in September. Before going on break the House of Representatives passed for second reading a bill for an amendment of the constitution for the reduction of age qualification to enable young people get elected into public offices.

The #NotTooYoungToRun bill was referred to the House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review. The bill with gazette number HB 544 seeks to alter Sections 65, 106, 131, 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

The momentum being gained by the #NotTooYoungToRun Campaign provides an opportunity for youths and youth organizations to engage the 8th Assembly in the Constitution Review process in the spirit of public participation, inclusiveness, representation and national ownership. Inclusivity in the Constitution Review process is for the most part beneficial to the longevity and viability of the Constitution. More so, when citizens feel a sense of ownership in the process of Constitution Review, they are more likely to protect it and exercise their duties under the new constitutional order.

The United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Mr. Ahmed Alhendawi, joined other youth across the continent to endorse the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill during a recent visit to Nigeria. While participants at the Africa Union Regional Youth Consultation in Accra, Ghana joined their voices with the youth in Nigeria to demand inclusion and participation in support with the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill in Nigeria.

The #NotTooYoungToRun bill currently needs the full support of the House of Representative ad-hoc committee on Constitution Review. The Committee was constituted by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dogara Yakubu on Thursday, 17th December 2015, in consultation with the principal officers of the House and formally inaugurated on Thursday 21, January 2016. This 49 member ad-hoc committee has one representative from each state of the federation and the FCT, nine principal officers, and special representatives of women.

The full names of members of the 8th Assembly House of Representatives Ad-Hoc Committee on Constitution Review include:
Hon. Yusuf Suleiman Lasun (Chairman), Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Hon. Ado Garba Alhassan, Hon. Umar Buba Jibril, Hon. Pally Iriase, Hon. Leo Ogor, Hon. Umar Barde Yakubu, Hon. Chukwuka Wilfred Onyema, Hon. Binta Bello, Hon. Sunday Karimi, Hon. Funke Adedoyin, Hon. Zephaniah Jisallo, Hon. Gyang Istifanus Dung, Hon. Abubakar Chika, Hon. Emma Udende, Hon. J. G. Gaza, Hon. Sani M. Abdu, Hon. Aisha Jibir Dukku, Hon. Zakari Y. Galadima, Hon. Mohammed Nur Sheriff, Hon. Sadiq Ibrahim, Hon. Rimande Kwewum Shewulu, Hon. Alhassan Bala Abubakar, Hon. Abubakar Hussaini Moriki, Hon. Sunday Marshall, Hon. Rabiu Garba Kaugama, Mohammed Ali Wudil, Hon. Adullahi Umar Faruk, Hon. Murtala Isah, Hon. Nkem Uzoma Abonta, Hon. Eucharia Azodo, Hon. Nwazunkwu Chukwuma, Hon. Kingsley Ebenyi, Hon. Jerry Alagbaoso, Hon Diri Douye, Hon. Henry Okon Archibong, Hon. Bassey Eko Ewa, Hon. Daniel Reyenieju, Hon. Nnam Obi Uchechukwu, Hon. Akpatason Peter Ohiozojeh, Hon. Babajimi Benson, Hon. Yinka Ajayi, Hon. Isiaka Ayotunre, Hon. Kehinde Agboola, Hon. Olemija Stephen, Hon. Segun Ogunwuyi, Hon. Asabe Vilita Bashir, Hon. Onyemaechi Joan Mrakpor and Hon. Stella Ngwu.
The bill also needs at least two-thirds of the House of Representatives (240 Members) and the Senate (72 Senators) to agree to the amendment; and at least two-thirds of the State Houses of Assembly (24 state houses of assembly) to concur to the amendment for it to become law.

Youth engagement in the Constitution Review process is varied. A few of the ways that youths and youth organizations can engage the Senate and House Committees on Constitution Review include:

Contact your legislators and ask them to support and vote for the #NotTooYoungToRun bill. You can call, SMS or send a letter to your representative in the National Assembly. Contact your legislator on social media (Twitter or Facebook) and ask them to support the #NotTooYoungToRun bill.

Participate in public hearings and constituency engagement on constitutional amendment. Prepare and submit a memorandum to the National Assembly Committees on Constitution review in support of the bill.

Organize an advocacy visit to your legislator; mobilize youths and youth organizations for a rally to the National Assembly or State House of Assembly; debate the principles of the Bill within your networks using online and offline platforms.

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations buttressed the importance of youth not only as future leaders, but as actors of society today, with a direct stake in the development process when he said, “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts itself off from its youth severs its lifeline; it is condemned to bleed to death.”

- Ibrahim Faruk is a Senior Program Officer with the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, 
Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Abuja. He can be reached 
via fibrahim@yiaga.org. He tweets via @IbrhmFaruk