From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Nigerian women have vowed to occupy the National Assembly beginning 8 am Wednesday until all gender-related bills in the constitution amendment exercise are reconsidered.
In a virtual press conference held Tuesday night attended by over 200 civil society organisations and the media, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, a Nigerian lawyer and civil rights activist, said the women will demand an urgent meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly for them to reconsider the gender bills.
She said the women will also use the following hashtags to push the demands on social media:
Dr Akiyode-Afolabi, who described what happened at the National Assembly on Tuesday as sad, stressed that the women will no longer take the discrimination against them lying low.
She said the protest will also take place across the various states of the federation but the meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on Wednesday will determine the shape of what will happen at the state levels.
Dr Akiyode-Afolabi urged the media to support the women, saying the mobilisation has started already with several women and organisations within and outside Abuja overwhelmingly throwing their support behind the protest.
‘We believe the constitution is a ground norm and the issue will be cleared with the constitution,’ she said.
The statement reads in full:
‘Nigeria women are disappointed and aggrieved at the actions of the 9th National Assembly (NASS) today Tuesday, March 1, 2022, when they denied women the opportunity of inclusion and representation in governance by voting against the gender bills.
‘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. These are rights enjoyed by every Nigerian except women.
‘The proposed gender bills in the 5th Constitution Alteration Bills that were all rejected are Bills targeted at addressing the current gender imbalance across the legislative arm of governments across the country whilst reducing the under-representation of women in political office.
‘The men of the 9th NASS have reinforced the discrimination and political bias against women as enshrined in the 1999 constitution by:
‘Denying citizenship to a foreign-born husband of a Nigerian woman. (While it allows Nigerian men’s foreign-born wives to be awarded automatic citizenship).
‘Denying Nigerian women indigeneity through marriage.
‘Denying 35% appointed positions for women and settling for 20%.
‘Denying women affirmative action in party administration and leadership.
‘Denying specific seats for women in the National Assembly.
‘The men of the 9th NASS by their actions have taken us backwards. Their actions undermine the importance and relevance of women’s contribution to the governance of Nigeria including the key role women play to bring victory to political parties in elections at all levels across the country. They also voted against diaspora voting!
‘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 committee 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 re-present these Bills as a matter of urgency and ensure that they are passed.’
Lawmakers on Tuesday voted against a bill seeking to provide special seats for women in the National and State Houses of Assembly.
The bill was defeated in the Senate with 58 votes out of 91.
In the House of Representatives, 208 out of 290 lawmakers voted against it.
Hon Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC, Abia), a member of the House of Representatives, sponsored the bill, seeking to alter sections 48, 49, 71,77,91, and 117 of the 1999 constitution by creating an additional senatorial seat and two federal constituencies in each state and FCT for women.
This would have come down to creating 111 extra seats for women at the National Assembly.
One of the bills that suffered a similar fate was one that provided for 15% affirmative action for women in political party administration; 224 representatives voted yes while 77 voted no (failed to get 2/3rd majority). In the Senate, 33 voted Yes, while 53 voted No.
Another bill to allow women to take up the indigeneship of their husbands’ state after 5 years of marriage failed at the House of Representatives. In the Senate, 90 senators voted Yes, five voted No. Because it failed in the House of Representatives, it remains failed.