Thank you for your support for women —Gbajabiamila

By Ebunoluwa Sessou, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Victoria Ojeme

The call for an increase in the seats for women at the National Assembly, on Wednesday received a boost as the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, stormed the legislative chambers to drum support for the clamour

Aisha Buhari had lead a delegation to the National Assembly as part of the advocacy for the proposed special seats for women in both the Federal and State legislatures.

In the team were the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, her Women Affairs counterpart, Dame Pauline Tallen and a delegation of Nigerian women.

Mrs Buhari was in the National Assembly to witness the laying of the report of the panel before the two chambers

The first lady was received by the House of Representatives during its plenary session by the Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, who heads the special ad hoc committee for the review of the 1999 Constitution laid the report by the Committee

Inside the report was “a Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Provide for Special Seats for Women in the National and State Houses of Assembly; and for Related Matters”, which was the primary purpose of the first lady’s visit.

One of the amendments to the 1999 Constitution is to create 111 Seats for women in the National Assembly.

READ ALSO: Birthday: We didn’t visit Aisha Buhari in Dubai, we were on her entourage – Govs’ wives

The proposal also includes one additional seat for each state in the Senate; inclusive of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Should the amendment scale through, two additional seats per state will be strictly reserved for women in the House of Representatives.

Aisha’s visit to the Green Chamber as relayed by Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila was to witness the laying of 68 reports by the Special Adhoc Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution.

Gbajabiamila, who expressed appreciation to Mrs. Buhari for various efforts to improve the welfare of women, said she was visiting in her capacity as a woman to show support for the amendment in those areas.

The proposal also includes one additional seat for each state in the Senate; inclusive of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

After laying the report of the 1999 Constitution Review Committee at the plenary by Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase, the Speaker further advised members to ensure their presence at plenary next week for consideration of the report.

“Thank you for a job well done. Let us all be here on Wednesday to vote on these clauses. Everybody needs to be here, otherwise we would not get our two-thirds,” he said.

Leader of the House, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, had earlier moved a motion that the rules be suspended to welcome the wife of the President during plenary.

Aisha Buhari was also earlier present at the Senate to witness the laying of report by the Committee on Constitution Review at the Red Chamber.

This followed Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan‘s suspension of plenary in accordance with parliamentary rules, to receive her.

And in a short remark after the report was laid, Senate President Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan said the visit by the First Lady was to show support for a bill to have more female parliamentarians at the federal and state legislatures.

He said: “The First Lady’s visit is to show support for a bill for more female parliamentarians in both chambers in the Senate and the House and the State Legislatures.

“This, we believe, will help in nation building as such significant participation by our women will add value to not only legislation, but the much desired and needed national development.

“For us as a nation, our motto is Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. We believe that all hands must be on deck to ensure the participation of each and every segment of our society.”

Lawan assured the First Lady that the Ninth Assembly, while voting on the amendments to the constitution as contained in the ad-hoc committee’s report, would ensure women’s participation in governance is commensurate with their population.

“At the moment, you’ll all agree with me that our women have not been able to get that level of participation commensurate with their population as reflected in our demography.

 “Therefore, what we are trying to do (Amendment of the Constitution) will go through voting later to complete the process in the National Assembly,” Lawan said.

He stated that the visit of the First Lady was to show support for a bill to have more female parliamentarians in both chambers of the National Assembly.

He further mentioned that this will help in nation-building; as such significant participation by women will add value to legislation, as well as needed national development.

Aisha Buhari in addressing journalists after the visit, emphasised female inclusion in Parliament. She also stated her expectation on the Amendment of the Constitution scaling through voting on March 2nd, 2022 on completion of the process at the National Assembly.

Both chambers of the National Assembly have recommended 111 legislative seats for female lawmakers beginning from the 10th National Assembly in 2023.

The proposal which had been ratified by the Ad-hoc committees on Constitution review of both chambers was let out of the bag Wednesday during plenary.

Specifically in the Senate, Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, (APC, Delta Central) , while laying the report in the presence of  the wife of the president and her entourage said, in line with the affirmative action and gender inclusivity, 37 seats have been reserved for female lawmakers in  the Senate and 74 in the House of Representatives.

Nigeria women group occupy NASS gate, protest refusal of gender Bills

Meanwhile, Nigeria Women Groups on Wednesday occupied the gate of the National Assembly to protest refusal by the lawmakers to accept all women-related Bills, including the one seeking to give at least 10 slots to women as ministers and commissioners in the federal and state governments.

Their agitation was that the National Assembly; 1, ‘Declined citizenship to the foreign-born husband of a Nigerian woman while, 2, a Nigerian man’s foreign-born wife gets automatic citizenship; 3, Deny Nigerians in the Diaspora right to vote; 4, deny women the ability to take indigeneship of their husband’s state after five years of being together; 5, deny 35 percent appointed positions for women; 6, deny women 35 percent affirmative action in party administration and leadership and 7, reject specific seats for women in the National Assembly.

The groups, which consist of over 230 women groups demanded that all rejected gender bills should be reconsidered, saying they were disappointed despite having assurances from the leadership of the House on the Bills.

Those present at the protest were the United Nations Population Fund, UNPF, Federation of Muslim Women Association, FOMWA, Women Organisation for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, WOCAN, Association of Women in the Arts, AWITA, Women In Business, WIMBIZ, Action Aid, Yiaga Africa, the Islamic Youth League, among others.

Recall that the lawmakers had on Tuesday rejected all women-related bills including the one seeking to give at least 10 slots to women as ministers and commissioners in the federal and state governments failed at the upper legislative chamber.

The bill for special seats for women was defeated in the Senate with 58 votes out of 91 while in the House of Representatives 208 out of 290 lawmakers voted against it.

In support of the bill, the wife of Vice-President Osinbajo, Dolapo attended the plenary on Tuesday. She, however, left disappointed after all the bills related to women in the constitution amendment failed.

Also speaking on the outcome, the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, said the situation was a show of shame.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday evening, March 1, some of the women group held an emergency virtual press conference to discuss modalities for the protest on Wednesday.

Speaking at a meeting, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director at Ward-C, who spoke for the groups which are signatories to the statement, said Nigerian women were disappointed by the actions of the lawmakers.

Her words: “Nigerian women, therefore, demand that all gender Bills be reconsidered. Ultimately, our demands will benefit not just women but Nigeria as a whole. “More women in governance will only bring progress and respect for Nigeria in the comity of nations. We cannot, in 2022, be negotiating the rights of women and the sanctity of the dignity of girls. We call on the National Assembly to represent these Bills as a matter of urgency and ensure that they are passed.”

The groups also said they were “disappointed and aggrieved at the actions of the 9th National Assembly to have denied women the opportunity of inclusion and representation in governance by voting against the gender bills”.

The statement further read, “The NASS has spoken loud and clear that they do not want progress for society: for mothers, aunties, sisters, wives, and for daughters. “It is particularly sad that in a month globally dedicated to celebrating women worldwide, our NASS has chosen to deny women basic human rights particularly, the right to identity and belonging.

Also, Executive Director, Adegbite, Women in Management, Business and Public Service, WIMBIZ, representing female professional and business networks in the country advocated for greater participation of female governance and women’s citizenship rights.

“It is important to state that women are asking for seats not to take over but to make over Nigeria,” Hansatu , stated on behalf of the organisation.

“We have seen from the business community that when women have seats at the table, the return on investment is higher.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nkiru Onyejiocha who championed the bills for creation of the additional special 111 seats for women in the parliament and offices in the hierarchy of political parties has said she was outraged that the pieces of legislation were killed.

It will be recalled that the two bills and yet another one on indigeneship for a foreign spouse of a Nigerian woman were all ejected on Tuesday during voting on the amendment clauses in the 1999 constitutional review.

Though the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila deployed some dexterity to get the House eventually pass the bill on giving some percentage to the women in the ministerial and commissionership appointments, all the bills failed woefully in the Senate during the voting exercise.

Reacting to the development, Hon. Onyejiocha who represents Isikwuato/Umunneochi federal constituency of Abia State in a press briefing on Wednesday said there was a conspiracy against inclusion of women in political participation.

She said that Nigeria was losing out from the gains that accrued from the 35 percent affirmative action.

Onyejiocha added that it was unacceptable that Nigeria was still ranked 184 out of 187 countries in the women’s political representation index.

Expressing disappointment, the lawmaker explained that it was worrisome that most male lawmakers who co-sponsored the bill turned around on the voting day to kill the bill.

She said: “Everybody saw what transpired on the floor of the House, even the Senate yesterday. To say the least, I am very disappointed. Disappointed not because people shut down the bills but because the bills that were shut down have taken this country backwards. Take it from the basics. Number one. God Himself created Adam and removed a rib and made Eve and said this is your help mate. Nigeria as we speak is boasting with their women who are doing wonderfully well. And of course, you saw that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala contested with world powers and she made it. That’s our blood. Look at Amina Mohammed, to mention but a few. We boast of being the giant of Africa, yet we are the least as far as women representation is concerned. I am also worried because we are losing a lot in terms of resources because a lot of nations do not give us the grants that are meant for us because representation. You can get those fact from the UNDP. They have the records.

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