Election and age falsification

Falsification of age for election purposes must relate to circumventing the age limit to contest the election.

 

Agi v. PDP & Ors [ 2017] 17 NWLR (Pt. 1595) 386 at 456, paras. B-H, per Ogunbiyi, JSC:

“I have restated earlier in this Judgment also that the nature of the allegation lodged against the 3rd respondent by the appellant is firmly rooted in criminality and which must be proved beyond reasonable doubt as rightly held by the lower court… In proving falsification of age beyond reasonable doubt, it is not enough for an appellant qua plaintiff to demonstrate the act of falsification of age, it is also incumbent on him to establish that the act was intentional. In other words, that it was done with the intention to gain an advantage by the alleged act of criminality. As rightly submitted on behalf of the 3rd respondent, this again brings us to the provisions of section 1777(b) of the 1999 Constitution where mens rea in falsification of age for eligibility to contest election as Governor must, of necessity, relate to circumventing the age prescription of 35 years to contest election…. For all intents and purposes, the appellant did not lead any evidence to show that the purported false declaration in age alleged against the 3rd respondent were falsified with the criminal intent of meeting the constitutional age limit of 35 years set by the Constitution.”

Blogger’s Note:

In the case, the Appellant and the 3rd Respondent along with 8 other aspirants had contested the primaries for nomination to be the flag bearer of the PDP, 1st Respondent, at the 2015 gubernatorial election in Cross River State. The 3rd Respondent won the primaries and eventually became the Governor. The Appellant unsuccessfully challenged the outcome of the primaries on grounds which included alleged falsification of age by the 3rd Respondent. Based on the above quoted pronouncement, the Supreme Court found no merits in the Appellant’s case regarding the issue.

The implication of the position of the apex Court appears to be that even if you falsify your age, it is immaterial for purposes of disqualification to contest an election so long as your original age meets the required age limit.

Lying about age

Interestingly, in a recent report, President Muhammadu Buhari was quoted as saying that he thought he was 74 years but was told he was 75. Although the report generated controversies as some believe the President may well be above 75, the issue however has no implication on his qualification to contest for the position of the President as he was above the 40 years prescribed by Section 131(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by the time he contested and won the presidential election. Therefore, the report simply calls into question the integrity of the President amidst other controversial issues surrounding him prior to the 2015 election up till this time.

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