An opinion/concept note by The Oyemaja Institute of Law
They say age is just a number and quite frankly, this may be true in certain circumstances. For instance, your age does not tell you exactly how many years you have left to live. Also, many milestones and major life achievements are not age specific. However, when this statement is placed side by side with our present day social realities, it becomes clear that there might actually be a lot more to a person's age than just "numbers."
In our society today, age is equated with a lot of things; from productivity to experience, maturity, learning capacity, wisdom, independence and decision making. This explains why many jobs, social media platforms, recreational facilities as well as political and legislative positions have age restrictions.
In the spirit of "modern problems and morden solutions", the practice of "age falsification" is fast becoming a go-to solution to beat age restrictions. Age falsification refers to the deliberate misrepresentation of a person's age to suit their purposes or to take advantage of a prevailing situation.
Nigeria as a country has a "not so good" reputation when it comes to the practice of age falsification even in the International scene. In 1989 for instance, Nigeria was banned from all international fixtures for two years by "FIFA" after inconsistencies were discovered in the birth dates submitted by a number of players.
Similarly, in the Nigeria of today, we can easily point to countless allegations of "forgery, personation and perjury" among the Nigerian civil servants and politicians. Some even go as far as deposing to an oath or making an affidavit bearing a wrong age and then subsequently rewriting, erasing, doctoring and forging documents to back up their falsified age claim.
Why should society be concerned about age falsification?
Firstly, economic productivity- The workforce in every given society is essential to economic development, hence, employers of labor invest so much in the workforce in terms of salaries and employment benefits in anticipation of high productivity. This goal is however defeated where the workers are in reality way past their productive ages but remain in the workforce because they have falsified their ages.
Closely linked to this is the problem of unemployment. Nigeria has a very high unemployment rate compared to other African countries. The unemployment rate is significantly higher among youths.
According to Global Business and Economics Research Journal Vol 3 (1) on page 80, the presence of over aged workers in the workforce is a major contributing factor of unemployment as Nigeria produces more graduates than there are job opportunities.
Similarly, Nigerian politics has not been bubbling with young bloods either. Despite the "Not Too Young To Run" bill passed into law in 2018, the Nigerian has practically been recycling the same set of leaders. This leaves little room for innovation and visionary leadership.
What can be done to check this unfair practice?
Nigeria has rightly identified the issue of age falsification as an issue of National concern. Many civil servants including sitting judges have lost their jobs due to age falsification. Similarly, the Criminal Code criminalizes forgery (falsifying documents) in society, Section 479 making it a felony punishable by imprisonment for three years.
The Penal Code on the other hand takes a more holistic approach and prescribes punishment ranging from 6 months to 14 years for the offense of age falsification (Sections 1, 139, 140, 156, 158, 162, 163, 164, 362, 363, 364, 366, 368, of Penal Code Law.)
In addition to these, the Public Service Rule of Nigeria clearly provides that any Public Servant who is investigated and proven guilty may face summary dismissal from the civil service.
Other measures include compulsory retirement, sensitisation etc
In practice, these measures have not exactly been effective in curbing "age falsification". This is due to the presence of social and individual factors that generally make people predisposed to committing the crime of age falsification.
These factors may include poor record keeping, inadequate welfare services for retired officials,policies of employers of labor that do not take into consideration the peculiarities of Nigerian society such as strikes and so on as well as ambition and the need to attain certain heights in order to have a fulfilled professional career.
What should be done?
The responsibility of curbing age falsification lies not only on birth can the government, but also on employers of labor and individuals. The aim should be to create a work environment with realistic age restrictions and attractive retirement benefits . Age falsification, when perpetrated should also be adequately punished when perpetrated so as to deter others from committing such acts. Finally, the members of the public should be sensitized on the dangers inherent in such practice.
Yours in opinion,
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