The basic qualifications to conduct elections into any of the political offices in Nigeria are enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. An electioneering process in Nigeria is a way of choosing representatives through a free and fair election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The basic qualifications to qualify as an aspirant to the office of the president or vice president apply to other political offices in the country with little variations. The office of the President is filled periodically every four (4) years by an election process conducted nationally by INEC. The constitution provides for the basic requirements to be met by a candidate to be eligible for an election into the office of the president and vice president.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is established by the virtue of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) with a mandate to organize, undertake, and supervise elections into various political offices in the country.
Qualification for Election in Nigeria
The basic qualifications to be met by political aspirants into the political offices at the Federal and State levels of governments must be in line with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. These basic qualifications for the various categories of the election are provided under Chapter VI, Part 1, Section 131 of the 1999 Constitution and it is common to all Elective Offices in the Federal and State Government levels with little variations.
The Constitution provides that a person is qualified for the election to the office of the President or the National Assembly if;
- Citizenship- to qualify to contest for any political office, the aspirant must be a Nigerian citizen by birth.
- Age– the age requirement to qualify as a political aspirant into any political office is different as follows;
– To qualify for the office of the President and Vice-President, the age requirement is 40years and above.
– Office of the Governor/Deputy-Governor- 35 years and above.
– Senate- 35 years and above.
– House of Representative- 30 years and above.
– State House of Assembly- 30 years and above.
– Chairman of Area Council- 30 years and above.
– Local government/ Councillor of Area Council- 25 years
- Education- the basic education requirement to qualify as an aspirant for an electoral position in any area of government is School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent.
- Party- to qualify as a political aspirant to contest for the office of the President and other political offices, the aspirant must be a member of a political party and be sponsored by that political party.
- The candidate must be of sound mind
- The candidate must have no death sentence or imprisonment or fine for offences involving dishonesty or fraud.
- To qualify as an aspirant for any political office, the candidate must not be convicted within the period of 10 years for offences involving dishonesty or contravention of the code of conduct.
- An additional qualification is that the candidate has evidence of tax payment for three (3) years immediately preceding the year of election.
As earlier stated, all the basic qualifications for the President listed above also apply to the qualification for the office of the vice-president of Nigeria. Section 142 of the constitution provides that the provisions relating to the qualification for election, disqualification shall also apply in relation to the office of the vice-president.
Basic Disqualification for Elections in Nigeria
According to the provisions of Section 137 of the 1999 Constitution, a person will be disqualified to be elected as a political aspirant if he does not meet the above qualifications and where he is found wanting of the following;
- He has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or has declared allegiance to such other party.
- He has been elected to the office of the President or Governor at any two previous elections.
- Under the law in any part of Nigeria, he has been adjudged to be a lunatic or declared to be of unsound mind.
- The candidate is under a sentence of death imposed by a competent court or tribunal in Nigeria or is under a sentence of imprisonment or fine for an offence involving dishonesty or fraud or for any other offence imposed on him or her by any court or tribunal and no appeal is pending in respect of such a conviction.
- Within a period of less than ten (10) years before the date of the election to the office of the President, they have been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty.
- Has been found guilty of contravention of the code of conduct
- He is an undischarged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in Nigeria or any other country.
- Being a person employed in the civil or public service of the federation or state and does not resign, withdraw or retire from the employment at least 30 days before the date of the election.
- Is a member of any secret society
- Has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a judicial committee of inquiry or an administrative panel of inquiry or a tribunal and which the indictment has been accepted by the Federal or state government.
- Has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
- Has been dismissed from the public or civil service of the Federation or of a State or of a Local Government or Area Council.
- Has been found guilty of an offence involving narcotic drugs or any other psychotropic substance by any court or tribunal in Nigeria or any other country or
- Has been adjudged guilty of treason or treasonable felony by any court or tribunal in Nigeria.
In conclusion, any person who is disqualified for any reason stated above will not be eligible to participate in the electoral process as a political aspirant in Nigeria. In the case of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) & 2 Ors. v. Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo & 3 ors (2020), the Supreme Court disqualified and nullified the election of both the gubernatorial candidate (David Lyon) and his deputy (Biobarakuma Degi-Eremienyo) on a ground that the deputy did not qualify for the election. The Supreme Court’s decision in the aforementioned case reinforces the importance of qualification for election by a candidate and gave a proof that where a candidate not duly qualified for an election is fielded by a political party, the electoral victory of such a candidate is liable to be set aside.
By Political & Election Law Team at Resolution Law Firm