If there was anything we learned on Monday, it is that nobody is above political breakfast. The Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi got his in the form of a ₦50 million lawsuit from an activist, Wale Ojo-Lanre, on the use of a toddler, Chioma as a “poster child” in his political rally in Lagos.
According to Lanre, he decided to be a voice for the voiceless and fight for the rights of this toddler as a “concerned Nigerian and a friend of litigation.”
However, Obi doesn’t have to bear the cross alone, as his comrades were also mentioned in the suit. They include the mother (Queen), the Labour Party, the Federal Government, and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
But that’s not all, folks. Not only does Lanre want N50 million from Obi’s pockets, but he also decided to make some other demands:
- Peter Obi and the Labour Party should delete their tweets and several other posts on their social media accounts about the underage girl-child.
- The Federal Government and Attorney-General are to separate the mother and daughter and the girl should be placed in welfare custody.
But was Peter Obi wrong in the eyes of the law?
Here’s what the law says.
Sections 29 and 33 of the Child Rights Act of Lagos State, states that anyone who exploits a child in any form or way not already mentioned in this Part of this Act which is prejudicial to the welfare of the child commits an offense.
The punishment is either a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment of up to five years. Even though the amount charged may sound like a hefty sum, count Obi out if you think he’s going to choose imprisonment when he wants to be president.
The use of underage children in politics
Sadly, this is not the first time underage kids will be used in the course of political ambitions. It is quite common during election season.
In 2018, Umar Ganduje, a Kano State governor was accused of using schoolboys in Kano. This was in response to a viral video of him receiving a $5 million bribe. The boys were seen campaigning for Ganduje and asking viewers to vote for him. But INEC later checked it out and decided that the video was from Kenya and not Nigeria.
In 2012, a video went viral in Sokoto showing dozens of kids and teens voting with fake voter cards.
Recently in November 2022, underage kids were spotted as registered voters in INEC’s online voter registration. This is a crime under the 2023 Electoral Act of Nigeria.
Keep in mind that according to INEC, the ideal age for voters is from 18 years and above.
Why are underage children used in elections?
Some electoral officials claim that sometimes the children are used because their parents insist they are up to 18.
They also claim that they allow children to vote because any attempt to stop them could lead to violence in these usually “volatile” parts. But what violence is an underage child capable of?
What can INEC do?
If an underage child is used illegally for a rally, or in the polls, it is the duty of INEC to specifically investigate such rallies and polling units and take necessary action.
INEC, we are waiting for you to do your job.