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Senate rejects bill seeking voting rights for underage girls

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A bill seeking voting rights for married underage girls has been rejected by the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya, made this known at a press briefing on Tuesday in Abuja, saying the proposal which was presented at a public hearing on electoral reforms could not sail through.

The bill which was proposed in December 2020 by Gaya and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Aisha Dukku, was presented to the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC Matters.

The committee was expected to review a provision in the Electoral Act which pegged the eligibility of a voter at 18 years.

While presenting the bill, Gaya said:

“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.”

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He added that the amendment to the Electoral Act No 6 of 2010 would not confer voting rights on underage, but married girls often referred to as child-wives.

He argued that the issue had raised a lot of dust when it was presented in a memorandum submitted to a technical committee set up on the reforms.

“One of the people who came to the public hearing submitted the memorandum and argued that the word underage was not his, but that any woman or man that is married should be considered as an adult,” the lawmaker added.

Gaya’s position was supported by Dukku, who said the recommendation should not be thrown out because it was suggested by stakeholders at the public hearing.

At the inaugural session of the technical panel which also had in attendance the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the two lawmakers said the proposal was a unanimous decision of the Joint Committee of the National Assembly.

But at Tuesday’s press briefing, Gaya said the bill had been rejected and would no longer be considered in the future.

He said some groups had demanded the change of election days from Saturday, adding that the same argument would be made if elections were fixed for Friday or Sundays.

“If we move elections to Fridays, some people will say it is their worship day; if we move it to Sundays, some other people will say it is also their worship day. So, that suggestion was also thrown out,” the lawmaker concluded.

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