The national assembly joint committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is recommending that married underage girls be recognised as eligible voters.
Nigeria’s constitution currently pegs the eligible age for voting at 18.
The national assembly joint panel made the recommendation to a technical committee which will work on the new electoral act proposed by the federal lawmakers.
The technical committee is made up of lawyers, lawmakers, INEC officials and civil society organisations (CSOs).
At a public hearing organised by the joint panel about two weeks ago, some stakeholders recommended that married underage girls should be considered as voters.
Speaking at the inauguration of the technical committee in Abuja, Kabiru Gaya, chairman of the senate committee on INEC, said the recommendation is a unanimous decision by the joint panel.
“The joint committee has proposed that if a lady who is not up to 18 years is married, she should be considered to be mature enough and be eligible to vote,” Gaya said.
But Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, said the issue of voting age is a constitutional matter, adding that the law also recognises 18 as marriageable age.
In response, Aisha Dukku, chairperson of the house of representatives committee on INEC, said the recommendation cannot be thrown out because it was suggested by stakeholders at the public hearing.
“It is already in the electoral act amendments submitted in the last assembly, so it cannot be thrown away just like that,” the chairperson said.
“We should look at it and come up with something instead of throwing it away. It is not from us but from the stakeholders on the day of the public hearing held in the 8th assembly.”
Thereafter, Yakubu said INEC would work with the federal lawmakers to amend the country’s electoral act before the first quarter of 2021.
Electronic voting will be backed up by law if the national assembly passes this amendment and the president assents to it.