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Reps approve bill to raise academic qualification for Public offices

The House of Representatives has passed for second reading, a bill seeking to raise the academic qualification for the seat of President of Nigeria, governor of a state and other elective public offices to university degree or its equivalent.

The bill, sponsored by the lawmaker representing Ikenne/Sagamu/Remo North Federal Constituency in Ogun State, Adewunmi Onanuga, is seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution and raise the qualification from school certificate to degree or its equivalent.

The legislation, which passed first reading on Tuesday last week and second reading this week, is titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Cap. C23 Laws of the Federation 2004, to Review the Required Educational Qualification for Election into Certain Political Offices; and for Related Matters.’

The explanatory memorandum on the legislation reads, ‘This bill seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Cap. C23 Laws of the Federation 2004, to review the required educational qualification for election into certain political offices.’

The bill seeks to specifically alter Sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the Constitution.

Leading the debate on the bill on Tuesday, Onanuga stated her belief that the proposal, if it becomes law, would “among other things, place more value on education in our nation and its importance when considering politics.”

The sponsor said, “This is not a bill targeted at stifling the interest of Nigerians in politics, rather it is a bill that will help Nigerians to sufficiently prepare for the humongous task of political leadership.

“As we have begun to see, the race for elective offices at the state and national levels has become increasingly competitive. While this is good as a tenet of universal suffrage, it can also be counterproductive if people who are not sufficiently prepared educationally get into these elective offices.

“All the political offices affected by this amendment are very strategic in their own right. The state legislators are important for making laws to govern the state in the interest of the people. The office of the governor is the highest political office in the state. The federal legislators are important for making laws in the interest of the nation. The office of the president is the highest political office in the land.

“If a managing director who holds an equally strategic position in a company within this country cannot be employed without a university degree or its equivalent, why should the above political offices be held by people without a university degree or its equivalent?”

Onanuga added, “We all know that after a university degree or its equivalent in this country, comes the compulsory National Youth Service Corps, without which it would be difficult to get into any employment especially within the public sector.

“Invariably, by leaving the qualification of these political offices to remain at School Certificate level, we are implying that the NYSC is not a requirement to hold political offices but it is a requirement to secure a job in the Public Sector.

“This bill will reflect the premium this 9th Assembly places on the quality of education that interests our youths vis-à-vis their desired political ambitions; and it will in turn affect the quality of candidates who run for elective offices in this country.

“Otherwise, how do we place value on education if I say to my son who wants to be a doctor that he needs a university degree or its equivalent to achieve his dream and then say to my daughter who wants to be president someday that she only needs to have a School Certificate?”

The sponsor stressed that studying up to a university degree anywhere in the world would have afforded any individual certain other knowledge, skills and preparedness that cannot be gotten at a School Certificate level.

“This is not saying that only those with a university degree can lead well; all we will be saying is that we will rather start from there. And I believe we can all agree that a university degree is a good place to benchmark the educational qualification into certain political offices. To agree otherwise will in the long run do our polity and youths a great disservice.

“The bill, therefore, proposes to review upward to a minimum of university degree, the required educational qualification of some elective offices within the country,” she noted.

Before Onanuga began the presentation, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, who presided over the session, had remarked, “Members will like to hear what you are proposing in the amendment. It is very sensitive; I believe so.”

After Onanuga made her presentation, the Deputy Speaker noted that the intent of the bill was clear and he put its passage for second reading to voice vote and it was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers.

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