By Henry Umoru, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Victoria Ojeme, Funmi Ajumobi & Ebunoluwa Sessou
The House of Representatives may have buckled under pressure from women across the country, rescinding its resolution on three gender bills it earlier threw out during voting on 68 clauses of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The House took the decision after an executive session, yesterday.
The decision came as women again stormed the National Assembly, yesterday, in protest against the rejection of the bills in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
Women from all walks of life had been protesting against the rejection of the bills, asking the National Assembly to reconsider the bills, which they argued would give women a leverage in the political development of the country.
This is even as wives of the 36 state governors, yesterday, vowed to occupy the National Assembly to express their disdain and disappointment over the rejection of women-related bills.
It will be recalled that the bills failed to fly last week during voting on 68 amended clauses in the 1999 constitutional amendments.
The bills to be reconsidered are Indigeneship Bill, Citizenship Bill and the 35 per cent affirmative action on Political Parties’ bill.
The speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who announced the decision of the House, said the bills would come up for voting in four weeks.
He said: “That action is to rescind three of the decisions that were taken on that day (March 1). In the next four weeks, they will come up for voting.”
Gbajabiamila said in a situation where there was a difference in the voting results, he would rely on the constitution to rule on the harmonisation since the constitution allowed the House to regulate itself.
“Let me just quickly touch on the clause. If we at that point have a difference, we will go for harmonisation. The constitution section allows the House to regulate its procedures. I will rely on the Constitution to harmonize,” he said.
He called the chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubarkar Fulata, to move that the decision of the House be rescinded.
Fulata later moved the motion and it was seconded by the deputy minority leader of the House, Toby Okechukwu.
The voice vote called by the speaker on the development did not witness any dissensions.
Again, women storm National Assembly over rejected bills
Meanwhile, scores of women groups, yesterday, continued their protest at the main gate of the National Assembly, blocking many people from accessing the complex.
They had vowed not to leave the scene until the bills were reconsidered.
The women, under the aegis of Nigerian Women Groups, had last week protested against the action of the lawmakers and promised to return if the decision was not reversed.
They made good their promise as they returned in larger numbers yesterday, promising to continue the protest until the lawmakers bowed to their demands.
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They said the marginalisation suffered by women must stop in the country, and also demanded an apology from the lawmakers, while vowing to get the names of those who voted against the bills and publish their names for the world to see.
Govs’ wives vow to occupy NASS over rejected bills
Meanwhile, wives of the 36 governors of the federation also, yesterday, vowed to occupy the National Assembly to express their disdain and disappointment over last week’s rejection of women-related bills at plenary.
In a statement signed by the Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Wives Forum, NGWF, and First Lady of Ekiti State, Mrs Bisi Fayemi, to mark International Women’s Day, they condemned in very strong terms what they described as brazen discrimination against Nigerian women.
The first ladies said as those who formed half of the population of the country, their voices and lives matter, stressing there could be no development without the full and equal participation of women in all spheres of life.
They added that any country that continue to deliberately undermined the advancement of women was simply stifling its own advancement.
Mrs Fayemi promised that the wives of the governors would continue with ongoing engagement with a broad range of stakeholders to support the proposed constitutional amendments that would give them a gender-friendly constitution in Nigeria.
According to her, as wives of state executives, the first ladies will mount pressure on federal and state lawmakers to do the right thing and be true representatives of the people, with women constituting at least 50 per cent.
Recall that last week, a bill seeking to give at least ten slots to women as ministers and commissioners in the federal and state governments failed at the upper legislative chamber.
A total of 88 senators registered to vote. 44 senators voted yes, while 43 voted no, and one abstained.
The bill, which was meant to guarantee the inclusivity of women in governance, failed as it could not garner 73 votes needed for it to be passed.
The statement read: “Every March 8, communities around the world gather to commemorate International Women’s Day, IWD. It is a time to reflect on the status of
women and highlight the many areas in which their rights are still being undermined and assess progress made.
‘’It is a day for governmental and non-governmental actors, corporate bodies, development partners and social movements to make commitments to close gender gaps and address the many challenges women still confront in public and private.
“Over the past three electoral cycles (2011, 2015, 2019) the number of women in the National Assembly has been in steady decline. There are currently 109 senators in Nigeria, with only seven women.
‘’The House of Representatives has 360 members with only 13 women. There are at least 14 state Houses of Assembly with no women at all. There are no female governors. These disturbing statistics show that there is a deep-rooted bias against women holding leadership positions, and if urgent steps are not taken, this picture will continue to go from bad to worse.
“On March 1, 2022, Nigerian women received very disappointing news from the National Assembly. The ongoing constitutional amendment currently has 68 amendments up for debate. There are five bills that seek to ensure gender justice and fairness.
‘’The Bills are: A Bill to create additional seats for women to increase women’s representation in the Senate and House of Representatives. This Bill will level the playing field and lead to a significant number of women in the National Assembly, which currently stands at 5 per cent. The bill was rejected.
“A bill to enable Nigerian women transfer citizenship to foreign husbands, a right that every Nigerian man married to a foreign spouse enjoys. The bill was rejected.
“A bill to ensure affirmative action of at least 35 per cent in political party administration and appointive positions across federal and state levels. The bill was rejected.
“A bill to ensure a minimum of 20 per cent ministerial or commissioner nominees are women. The bill was rejected. A Bill to allow a woman to become an indigene of her husband’s state after five years of marriage. The bill was rejected.
“Our interpretation of what transpired with this pattern of voting at the National Assembly on March 1, 2022, is that the progress of Nigerian women has been rejected. All the proposed constitutional amendments were meant to end bias against women and ensure the minimization, if not total removal, of barriers millions of women face on the basis of their gender.
‘’We hereby condemn in no uncertain terms this brazen discrimination against Nigerian women. As half of the population of the country, our voices and our lives matter.”
Women can no longer be deprived— Buhari
Also, yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari extolled Nigerian women on the occasion of International Women’s Day, saying women were not where they should be in different spheres of endeavour.
He, however, said they could no longer be deprived for too long, as they had consistently proved that they could hold their own on all fronts, and in all fields.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement he signed yesterday, titled ‘International Women’s Day: President Buhari salutes womenfolk.’
According to Buhari, the celebration, under the hashtag #BreaktheBias, and the theme: Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow, is an opportunity to reflect on the vital roles women play in society, homes, governance, professions, and in all walks of life.
He applauded the contributions of women to the current administration as ministers, special advisers, senior special assistants, executive directors, executive secretaries, and many others, noting that they were pulling their weights, and making it impossible for anyone to downplay their essence.
Reactions on Reps to reconsider 3 women bills
Speaking on the bills rescinded by the National Assembly, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, urged the leadership of the National Assembly to use the opportunity of the International Women’s Day to address whatever is lacking in the push for equity for women.
Commending women for their resilience and importance, Obasa, however, expressed sadness that the women have become victims of heinous crimes.
“As a government, we must look inward to see the areas that are beneficial to the women. Women have become victims of violence and other crimes. What have we done for the emancipation of our women? How much of our women have we lost during child birth?
“We must encourage our women to be successful and live better,” he said.
In her telephone chat, Dr. Abiola Akiyode, co-convener Womanfesto, expressed satisfaction with the development. She said: “A responsible leadership needs to respond to the people.
It is commendable that two of the bills have been rescinded by the House of Representatives. There are lots of corresponding conducts from the Senate. Your guess is as good as mine.”
However, she noted that the women will not take anything short of 5/5. We will continue to occupy the National Assembly
Also, Prof Joy Ezeilo, in a phone interview with Vanguard said: “It is a welcome development and we are waiting to hear from the Senate. It is only the House of Representatives that we have confidence in. We have to wait for the Senate because both Houses must agree.
“We know that the leadership of the House of Representatives has been supportive of the women related bills and that is why the affirmative action must be upheld.
“Women all over the world were angry over the move by the Senate last week and the negation on the right of women. They have taken women for granted despite that they constitute the majority of the electorate. In a civilized society especially where we have literate and educated people, there is no bills that should be rejected.”
“I believe, what is playing out is huge ignorant but women are prepared to get down to their constituencies and tell them what they have done. That these lawmakers do not love their wives, sisters, daughters, otherwise, they will be able to pursue their interest.
“We need to hold these people accountable. It is all about gender accountability. So, we are very happy and it is a welcome development and I think, in the interest of peace, social justice and being responsive, the Bills should accepted by the Senate.
“I was part of the ‘Occupy the National Assembly’ in Abuja, yesterday morning and we registered our disappointment with the National Assembly and we are also telling the
House of Representatives that they should join to bring pressure on the National Assembly. We are ready to wait on the National Assembly until they right the wrong.”
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.