Nigeria cuts age limits for political candidates

Nigeria on Thursday reduced the age limits for political office, a move aimed at reflecting the demographics of Africa's most populous nation and ushering in younger leaders.

President Muhammadu Buhari gave his assent to the "Not Too Young To Run" bill.

The legislation was passed by both houses of parliament last year and then won majority approval at state level.

Buhari, 75, signed the bill into law in the presence of young people from all of Nigeria's 36 states and Federal Capital Territory in Abuja.

He told them the legislation would help young people make their mark in politics, as they have done in business, sport, the media, arts and entertainment.

"You are undoubtedly Nigeria's most important resource - not oil, not agriculture, not solid minerals - but you and all of us," he added.

"Your energy, intelligence and talent are what will drive and develop Nigeria, long after we are all gone."

The law means the minimum age for presidential candidates is reduced from 40 to 35, and state governors and senators from 35 to 30.

The minimum age for national and state assembly members will now be 25.

The change in the law aims to increase the participation of young people in Nigerian politics, which has been dominated for decades by an ageing elite.

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More than half of Nigeria's estimated 180 million people are under 30.

The new law could see younger candidates at elections next February at which Buhari is hoping to secure a second, four-year term, despite recent doubts about the state of his health.

Samson Itodo, coordinator of the "Not Too Young to Run" pressure group, said Nigeria had made a "bold statement" by passing the bill.

"The implementation of this law simply means that political space, to an extent, has been opened for young people to participate," he told AFP.

"We are keenly interested in mainstreaming young people into political governance to enhance the quality of democracy and development in Nigeria."

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