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Nigeria brings in fresher faces to its Parliament

Nigeria youth

The Not Too Young to Run Bills reduce the age that young people can run for elected office. © AFP

Young people are vastly under-represented in political decision-making. Although 51 per cent of the world’s population is under 30, young people under 30 make up less than 2 per cent of the world’s MPs. This is largely due to laws that do not allow young people – although they have the right to vote – to have the right to run for office.

In a historic step, on 31 May 2018, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Not Too Young to Run Bills that reduce the age that young people can run for elected office by five years in each category. The minimum age to become president in the country is now 35; 30 for governor and senator; and 25 for a member of the House of Representatives and the State House of Assembly.

The sponsor of one of the bills is a young parliamentarian himself. Raphael Igbokwe is the President of the Forum of Young MPs in Nigeria and a former member of the IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians. The Forum was set up to enhance youth participation in parliaments, bring together young MPs from around the world, and empower them to influence global and national policy-making to benefit all citizens.

The IPU was one of the original organizations that spearheaded the global Not Too Young To Run campaign that began in Nigeria in 2016. The IPU has been a strong advocate of youth participation in politics for several years, pushing to make parliaments more inclusive of young people and thus strengthening democracy. In 2017, the IPU and the Parliament of Nigeria hosted a Regional Conference of Young MPs of Africa. The Conference called for more youth participation, promoting special measures such as youth electoral quotas and aligning the age to run for office with the age to vote. Another outcome of the Regional Conference was to establish forums of young parliamentarians as support networks and to create links between parliaments, youth and civil society organizations.

Since 2014, the IPU also organizes an Annual Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians. The event brings together approximately 200 young parliamentarians, international organizations, youth associations and civil society to build solidarity, networks, and promote a youth-coordinated approach to international issues. The next one will take place in November.