ELECTION AS PRESIDENT AND DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE, SPEAKER AND DEPUTY SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IN NIGERIA

Do you plan on contributing to Nigeria in a capacity that involves public service? More directly, do you plan on running for President, Vice-President, Governor, Deputy-Governor? Or being elected as a President or Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, or Speaker or Deputy-Speaker of a State House of Assembly? Well, there are provisions for all of these in the laws of Nigeria.

Over the next few weeks, we will consider exactly what is involved and what it takes to hold such offices in Nigeria.

The basic laws guiding election into political offices in Nigeria are:

  • The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)
  • The Electoral Act, 2010

This post is targeted at the election into the office of the President and Deputy-President of the Senate; and the Speaker and Deputy-Speaker of the House of Representatives. It addresses what this involves, who is eligible for such posts, the age at which a person becomes eligible, how long a person can hold such posts and on what grounds does a person cease to hold any of these posts?

The National Assembly of Nigeria which is the Federal lawmaking body of Nigeria is divided into two houses: The Senate and the House of Representatives. The President and Deputy-President of the Senate are elected by the members of that House from among themselves. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives are elected by members of that House from among themselves.

ELIGIBILITY

Age

A person is qualified for election as a member of the Senate if he is a Nigerian Citizen and has attained the age of thirty-five years. For the House of Representatives, a person is qualified for election as a member of the House of Representatives if you are a Nigerian Citizen and have attained the age of thirty-years.

Academic/Professional requirement

Apart from the two general qualifications on age and citizenship, one must be educated to at least the School Certificate level or its equivalent. The person must also be a member of a political party and must be sponsored by that party.

All of these requirements are however subject to certain conditions which may cause a person to be disqualified from being elected to the Senate or House of Representatives. Although these conditions may seem like a lot, they are clearly stipulated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

A person is disqualified from being a member of the Senate or House of Representatives where:

  • He has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country other than Nigeria or has made a declaration of allegiance to that other country (except as prescribed by the National Assembly).

The position of the law is that a person will forfeit his Nigerian citizenship where he is not a Nigerian citizen by birth and then he goes ahead to voluntarily acquire or retain the citizenship or nationality of another country. Although it should be noted that where a person renounces that other citizenship or nationality within not more than twelve months after its registration or when it was granted, then he need not forfeit his Nigerian citizenship.

  • He is declared a lunatic or of unsound mind by a law in force in Nigeria
  • He is under a death sentence imposed on him by a competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria
  • He is under a sentence of imprisonment or fine for an offence involving dishonesty or fraud or any other offence imposed on him by any competent court or tribunal.
  • He is disqualified if, ten years before the date of an election into a legislative house, he was convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or he has been found guilty of contravention of the code of conduct.
  • He has been declared bankrupt under a law in force in Nigeria and by reason of this, he is an undischarged bankrupt.
  • He is employed in the public service of either the federation or the state and has not resigned, withdrawn, or retired from such employment before the date of the election. This provision is basically to the effect that you cannot have your cake and eat it.
  • He is a member of a secret society he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Although it should be noted that if there is an appeal against the decision of a competent court or tribunal which has declared a person to be a lunatic or of unsound mind, or has sentenced him to death or imprisonment or has declared him bankrupt, that person who has appealed is not disqualified from election for the period between when his appeal is lodged and when the appeal ends or lapses or is abandoned, whichever comes first.

Term of office

The Senate and the House of representatives each stand dissolved at the expiration of four years starting from the date of the first sitting of the house. Although the President or Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker or deputy speaker of the House of Representatives need not vacate his office where there is a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives. Rather, he vacates office when the house of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that house.

Under what grounds does cessation of office occur?

The President or Deputy President of the Senate or the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate such office:

  • If he ceases to be a member of the Senate or of the House of Reps for any reason other than because there was a dissolution of the Senate or house of representatives. This means that there is no cessation of office on the ground that the Senate or the House of representatives has been dissolved.
  • At the first sitting of the House of which he was a member after any dissolution of the house (Note that the Senate and House of Representatives both stand dissolved at the expiration of four years starting from the date of the first sitting of the house)
  • If he is removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.