A Federal High Court in Abuja says a candidate cannot be disqualified from an election for failure to participate in the National Youth Service Corps scheme. The court made this pronouncement on Wednesday when it struck out a suit brought against the Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, by a former senator, Iyabo Anisulowo.
Details of the judgment were sent to newsmen by Mr Abiodun’s spokesperson. The pre-election suit challenged the eligibility of Mr Abiodun over his failure to participate in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.
The NYSC was established in 1973 and participation is mandatory for all Nigerians who graduate from a tertiary institution in or outside the country before they attain the age of 30. The presentation of the NYSC discharge certificate awarded at the end of the one-year scheme is a requirement for employment into the formal sector in Nigeria.
In the suit against Mr Abiodun of Ogun State, his counsel, Wale Ajayi, had prayed the court to dismiss the case against his client, saying participation in the NYSC scheme is not a requirement for participation in elections. Justice M A Mohammed, in his judgment, dismissed Mr Abiodun’s notice of preliminary objection and proceeded to deliver judgment on the substantive suit.
The judge also noted that the plaintiff failed to establish that Mr Abiodun presented false academic claims to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He held that the NYSC Act does not stipulate that a candidate who failed to participate in the NYSC scheme be disqualified from elections.
The judge pointed out that a candidate can only be disqualified based on Section 177 of the Constitution, and subsequently dismissed the suit.
The section states: “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if: (a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; (b) he has attained the age of thirty-five years; (c) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party, and (d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.”
The court said since Mr Abiodun has not breached any of these provisions, the suit lacked merit.
The implication of the judgment is that candidates seeking election to contest governorship elections in Nigeria no longer need to present NYSC certificates.
The case is the last of a series of pre-election matters filed in court against the Ogun governor. The other cases had been similarly dismissed.
Only on Monday, the Supreme Court dismissed a similar case brought by Abdulrafiu Baruwa challenging the qualification of Mr Abiodun on the ground of failure to disclose all his academic qualifications.