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‘Underage married girls will not vote’ – Senator Gaya

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Senate committee on INEC, Sen. Kabiru Gaya (APC-Kano) has rejected a suggestion that Under-18 married girls should have the right to vote.

Gaya, who made this known on Tuesday in Abuja, while fielding questions at the NAN Forum, the flagship interview programme of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said the suggestion was made at the public hearing on electoral reforms.

He said the on-going amendment to the Electoral Act No 6 of 2010 would not confer voting right on underage, but married girls referred to as child-wives.

Gaya said the issue 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.

“That was his reason. Our own resolve is that if a woman is at the age of 16 and she gets married, she should not be allowed to vote.

“Generally there was a lot of noise about. It was in a memorandum submitted by a group of people and they have their rights as Nigerians.

 “But when we came to the committee, we discussed a lot on that and at the end of the day, we felt we could not go along with that suggestion and it was dropped,’’ he said.

Sen. Gaya said there was another suggestion not to hold elections on Saturdays as some faithful observe the day as their holy day.

He added that the same argument would be made if elections were fixed for Fridays 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,’’ Gaya said.

-Pay local govts directly to reduce unemployment-

In the same manner, Gaya also said that granting full autonomy to local government councils will help tackle security challenges in the country, because the lack of local government autonomy had resulted in lack of jobs for youths as most of them get involved in criminal activities because of being idle.

“I think part of the problem of unemployment in this country has to do with lack of funds in the local government councils.

“Apart from the Boko Haram crisis, there is also a lack of funding for local councils, and this creates a situation in which most youths have nothing to do most times.

“So when any organisation or group invites them to join for the purpose of engaging them in anti-social activities that they will gladly join,’’ he said.

He said that during the 7th Senate, he sponsored a bill on local government autonomy, arguing that funds should be released directly to local councils rather than state governors.

This, he said, would enable them to have funds to execute projects in their communities.

“The issue of local government independence is very important, and if we do that, I think we will reduce issues of insecurity in the country, so therefore, I am still clamouring for local government autonomy,’’ he said.

Gaya added that if a local council got an allocation of N200 million in a month, it would be able to disperse that money to the community by executing grassroots projects.

According to him, It would enhance the community’s position positively and keep youths busy.

He noted that if local councils were only given funds for salaries, most youths would remain unemployed.

Gaya said he had to abandon his earlier struggle for local government autonomy because most states were opposed to it.

“When the National Assembly was working on the bill for local government autonomy in the last amendment of the Constitution, we were able to get support from 19 states. We needed 24.

“So we said let’s go and lobby other states to agree with us, so we can get all the 24 states.

“While we were in the process of lobbying to get five more states, we received a letter from three states, saying that they have changed their decision, meaning they are no longer supporting us.

“So when the 19 states now came down to 16, we felt we couldn’t continue, and we had to abandon the matter,” he said.

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