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Women group asks NASS to strip president, govs of appointing powers

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Low representation of women in elective position not good for Nigeria,says INEC

By Joseph Erunke

ABUJA – A group, League of Women Voters of Nigeria,has appealed to the National Assembly to review the system of appointing the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission,INEC chairmen of State Independent Electoral Commission.

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The group’s call came as INEC said it was not impressed with the low number of women in elective positions especially the performance of women in the recently conducted 2019 general elections in the country.

Both made their positions known, Wednesday,at the 2019 Convention of the League of Women Voters in Nigeria,held in Abuja.

Founder and National President of the group,Dr Esther Uduchi, delivering a welcome address at the occasion, said the review of appointment of INEC chairman and chairmen of State Independent Electoral Commission,SIEC.

According to her, stripping of the powers from the president and State governors would sanitise electoral system and guarantee free and fair elections which she noted,had been plaqued by fraud.

She said:”At whatever level, however, the elections will only be fair and just if the umpire body is appointed not by governnent but by independent bodies and in all cases,we advocate that women should be allowed to have a great input-they should nominate their representatives on the Commission rather than governnent nominating for them.”

“Free and fair elections can only be possible if the elections at the local level in particular,are removed from the hands of state governors.

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“It is our recommendation that at whatever level, whether local,state or federal,our democracy will grow better and our elections will be sanitised only if the system of appointing electoral umpires is reviewed and democratized in all cases women must have a great say,”she added.

Speaking further,she regretted that:”At the last election,the women formed the large queues and they cast the majority of the votes in all the elections yet only very few women got elected. We believe that together with the youths we can bring about the required change to our democracy and our country, Nigeria.”

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She spoke further:”We believe that the Executive must work with the Legislature to ensure that the 35 percent affirmative action is not only on paper but is put into action. We are appealing to members of the National Assembly especially the incoming ones to craft and pass a law to this effect-a law that makes it mandatory for a number of seats in each st to be reserved in rotation for women in addition to the seats they can struggle for and win by themselves.

“We believe that INEC also has a big role to play in this regard and working with the political parties, they should be able to produce a robust guideline in line with such a law that should guarantee this access and right for the women.

“The League in due course, will submit a memorandum detailing the ways and means to make it work and engage the executive and legislature as well as well as the political parties and INEC to achieve this purpose.

“To all women,our message is that we must work together, support ourselves and synergize so that we can be in good position to dialogue and negotiate with the men. Our number is our strength and we must use our number to negotiate. We must not demean ourselves in order to get any position. We are bigger than wearing Aso-Ebi, dancing and clapping for the male aspirant and relying on their bags of salt and rice or cloth to get them elected yet on getting there,many of them forget that they were able to get there because of your votes.

“Going forward,we are going to reshape, reorganize and re-strategise for the future.

“This convention has been organized to review the performance of women in the last elections and work out effective strategies for improvement and the way forward for women to progresd contribute to the development of Nigeria.

“Amongst other things,the convention will fill through election all existing positions and consider plans for the future. We shall mobile and educate our women at the grassroots from now to ensure that at the next local government council elections in Nigeria, about 774 local government areas will be women.

“We enjoin our state chapters to carry out an aggressive advocacy and mobilisation to ensure that this is achieved. We must start at this level and use it as springboard to get to more women elected into parliament and state government.”

Speaking at the event, the Chairman of INEC,
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, represented by the Head (Gender Division), Blessing Obidiegwu, while delivering his goodwill message,said the commission was concerned that only 62 women were elected out of the 2,970 who contested for different political offices in the 2019 general election.

The commission expressed disappointment over the low participation of Nigerian women in politics, describing it as constraint to growth and poverty reduction.

A breakdown of the figure, according to the INEC boss, showed that while only seven women were elected into the Senate during the 2029 elections, the House of Representatives.

Also, while four women were elected as Deputy Governors, 40 women were elected into the 36 State Houses of Assembly.

He said:“It is common knowledge that the number of women elected to public offices in Nigeria, unfortunately dwindled despite efforts made ahead of the general elections to enhance women participation in the electoral process by various stakeholders.

“The INEC held several programmes and activities to sensitise and mobilise more women to participate in the electoral,process with the ultimate goal of having them elected to more public offices. These programmes held country-wide at the urban areas, as well as grassroots levels.

“Sadly, out of 2,970 women who contested for different political offices, only 63 were elected. The above data shows 41.1 per cent women representation in the 2019 general elections, as against 5.65 per cent elected in the 2015 general elections in the National Assembly.

“The figures shown above indicate without equivocation that a lot still need to be done to give women more access and visibility to participate actively in politics. Thus scenarios needs to be vigorously interrogated to improve women’s participation in the electoral process.”

Noting that the development of any nation required the participation of both men and women, Prof. Yakubu regretted that a huge gender equality was still existing in the political leadership of Nigeria.

He, however,said more women were becoming aware of the gains of their active involvement in public affairs and are taking ownership of the process as a result of the interventions of various stakeholders.

This, he said, was demonstrated by the number of women who were on the ballot during the 2019 elections.

“Considering the importance of women in decision-making positions, this convention should have a conversation around what women did right or wrong, identify the gaps and re-strategise to change the narrative. Women are not yet where they ought to be, but they are no longer where they were in the past,”he said.

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