Section 65 and 66 of the 1999 Constitution: Qualification for Membership of National Assembly

Qualification

The 1999 Constitution

Section 65 (1)(a)(b)

Subject to the provisions of section 66 of this Constitution, a person shall be qualified for election as a member of:

a. the Senate, if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of 35 years; and

b. the House of Representatives, if he is a citizen of Nigeria and has attained the age of 30 years;

(According to the wordings of this section, only a Nigerian citizen is qualified to contest election for the Senate and the House of Representative. A Nigerian citizen means a man or a woman who have acquired Nigerian citizenship either by birth, marriage or other means. In addition, before a person must be 30 years and above to contest for a seat in the House of Representative and 35 years and above to contest for a seat in the Senate.)


Section 65 (2)

A person shall be qualified for election under subsection (1) of this section if:
(a) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent; and
(b) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that party.

(This means that a person must belong to a political party and be the candidate of that political party before s/he can qualify to contest for a seat in the Senate and House of Representative. Therefore, anybody contesting on his or her own without belonging to any political party cannot be lawfully elected into the Senate or House of Representative. Thus, from the provision of this section, we can see that the minimum educational requirement is a School Certificate Level. This is quite broad and can include the WASSCE, NECO, GCE, First School Leaving Certificate and a School Certificate obtained outside Nigeria. )


Section 66 (1)

No person shall be qualified for election to the Senate or the House of Representatives if:

(This section provides a list of circumstances where a person would be disqualified from election into the Senate and House of Reps. The following category of persons are disqualified from election into the Senate and House of Reps.)


Section 66 (1)(a)

subject to the provisions of section 28 of this Constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, has made a declaration of allegiance to such a country;

(A person who has voluntarily acquired citizenship of another country. 

This however does not apply to persons who are Nigerian citizens by birth. This is because Section 28 of the Constitution allows for dual citizenship for persons who are Nigerian citizens by birth. However, if a person is a Nigerian citizen by other means such as marriage, that person cannot contest for election to the Senate or House of Representatives if s/he has another citizenship. 

In addition to citizenship, where a person declares allegiance to another country, such person cannot contest election to the Senate or House of Representatives.)


Section 66 (1)(b)

under any law in force in any part of Nigeria, he is adjudged to be a lunatic or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind;

(A person who is a confirmed lunatic or not mentally stable. 

Please note that with respect to section every person is presumed to be mentally sound until proven otherwise by the court.)


Section 66 (1)(c)

he is under a sentence of death imposed on him by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria or a sentence of imprisonment or fine for an offence involving dishonesty or fraud (by whatever name called) or any other offence imposed on him by such a court or tribunal or substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him by such a court;

(A person who is under a death sentence or a sentence of imprisonment or fine for any offence, especially one relating to fraud and dishonesty.

Note that the difference between c and d is that in c, the person is currently undergoing the sentence, but in d, the person may have already completed the sentence, especially where the period of imprisonment was less than 10 years.)


Section 66 (1)(d)

within a period of less than 10 years before the date of an election to a legislative house, he has been convicted and sentenced for an offence involving dishonesty or he has been found guilty of a contravention of the Code of Conduct;

(A person who has been convicted and sentenced for a crime relating to dishonesty 10 years before the date of the election. 

Note that the difference between conviction and sentencing is that in conviction, the court only declares the person guilty of the crime but no punishment has been passed. Sentencing is the process of declaring the type of punishment to be observed by the guilty party. This punishment can be death, a period of time [imprisonment], or a fine. Another related factor for disqualification is a breach of the code of conduct.)


Section 66 (1)(e)

he is an undischarged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in any part of Nigeria;

(A person in debt, declared by the relevant authority as unable to pay such debt and has not been cleared by that authority as being able to pay such debt.)


Section 66 (1)(f)

he is a person employed in the public service of the Federation or of any State and has not resigned, withdrawn or retired from such employment 30 days before the date of election;

(A person still employed in the Public Service 30 days before the election.)


Section 66 (1)(g)

he is a member of a secret society;

(A member of a secret society)


Section 66 (1)(h)

he has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by Judicial Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a Tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a Tribunals of Inquiry Law or any other law by the Federal or State Government which indictment has been accepted by the Federal or State Governments respectively; or

(A person who has been formally accused or charged with embezzlement or fraud.

Note that here the person does not need to be declared guilty of such embezzlement, bringing a formal accusation at the right judicial commission, administrative panel or tribunal of inquiry is enough to satisfy this provision.) 


Section 66 (1)(i)

he has presented a forged certificate to the Independence National Electoral Commission.

(A person who presents a false certificate to the INEC.)

Section 66 (2)(a-d)

Where in respect of any person who has been-
(a) adjudged to be a lunatic;
(b) declared to be of unsound mind;
(c) sentenced to death or imprisonment; or
(d) adjudged or declared bankrupt,
any appeal against the decision is pending in any court of law in accordance with any law in force in Nigeria, subsection (1) of the section shall not apply during a period beginning from the date when such appeal is lodged and ending on the date when the appeal is finally determined or, as the case may be, the appeal lapses or is abandoned, whichever is earlier.

(This section relates to cases where the issue for disqualification is that the candidate is judged to be of unsound mind, is under a court sentence or is an undischarged bankrupt. In such a situation, if there is an appeal to a higher court on the above cases, such person will not be regarded as a person of unsound mind, an undischarged bankrupt or a person under a court sentence, until the final decision is given by the higher court.)


Section 66 (3)

For the purposes of subsection (2) of this section “appeal” includes any application for an injunction or an order certiorari, mandamus, prohibition or habeas corpus, or any appeal from any such application.

(An appeal referred to in 66(2) is not restricted to an appeal to a higher court, it also includes other forms of applications made during the course of the proceedings in court and before the final decision is given by the court. For example, if during a court proceeding to determine whether a candidate is of unsound mind, a party files an application to stop the other party from posting news on social media that the “candidate is mad or crazy”, such application will be regarded as an appeal and the effect of 66(2) will apply in such situation.)

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