Constitution amendment: Why special seats for women proposal failed – Reps

Constitution amendment: Why special seats for women proposal failed – Reps

By Frank Ikpefan

By Frank Ikpefan, Tony Akowe, (Abuja), Mike Odiegwu, (Port Harcourt)

  • Wike denounces NASS for rejecting gender bills
  • Gbajabiamila: Second batch of amendments to start soon
  • We’ll resist govs’ bid to kill LG autonomy – NULGE

Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Rep. Benjamin Kalu has said that the bill seeking special seats for women in the legislature and other women-related bills failed to sail through constitutional amendment as a result of the complexity of the society.

Kalu who spoke at his weekly press briefing said advocacy by the women groups and other civil societies started rather late.

In a swift reaction to the rejection of the gender bill, the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike has criticised the National Assembly for rejecting five gender bills, describing the action of the lawmakers as a major setback to the country’s democratic advancement.

This is just as the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has shifted the battle for local government autonomy to the State Houses of Assembly after federal lawmakers voted in favour of autonomy for LGAs, the judiciary and others.

Spokesman of the House of Representatives, however, asked the womenfolk not to lose hope, but to sustain the advocacy and campaign.

He said: “I want to thank all the women that played one role or the other with regard to the sensitisation in bringing this to the fore that the participation of women in governance is lower than expected, especially when the comparative analysis is done between this nation and other nations.

“I want to thank Hon. Nkiruka Onyejeocha for working so hard for this piece of legislation. As you know, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. Has the step been taken in this regard? Yes. How long will it take? We may not know, but the right step has been put forward.

“I want to tell you that the lobbying that was done was not done in vain. That is why I commend these people who visited the National Assembly. That is the beauty of democracy. If it was not, the wives of the President and the Vice- President had no business coming here.

“They knew that it was only through the lobby and not as they have described us before as a rubber stamp. So, they participated in that lobbying process.

“But I must say that this lobbying was done a bit late. The advocacy for this was supposed to have started longer than now. You don’t lobby two days to voting on a very important issue like this. It goes beyond lobbying at the last minute. It takes a lot of orientation and advocacy as well as sensitisation to enable people to buy into this all-important agenda.

“You cannot play down on our current issues as an emerging democracy, one of which is our religious belief and cultural disposition because these things play roles. We are part of the society.

“Our religion and culture are part of the society and there is the need for serious advocacy. We need civil society organisations and women groups to push this forward because it is a wonderful agenda. But you need people to buy-in from the constituents and not just the representatives.

“Nigerians are shifting the focus to the representatives and the senators. It was not the Senators and the Representatives that did the job. It was the instruction from their various constituents. That is the truth that must be told.

“If the House as an institution was not interested in this agenda, It would not have passed the first and second reading and be allowed to go to the committee level. It means that the institution gave it all it needed to succeed. But there is the job of selling it as a way of changing our long-standing cultural and religious disposition which you cannot wave away.

“It takes time. It has started well and we will keep pushing. Most of the nations we are using to compare Nigeria started somewhere. Now that this agenda has been stimulated in the mind of Nigerians, let us not stop there.

“Let the CSOs not give up, let the women not give up, but leverage on the miles they have achieved so far in pushing for this agenda. It is not yet over.

“Like I always say, the amendment of the constitution, there will always be a time for another review. America has reviewed its constitution about 28 times. What failed now may succeed next time because the sensitization has started and I commend all the role players. Do not see the work you have done as a waste, but as a seed that has been planted in the mind of Nigerians.

“You are right that women need to participate more. But in doing that, the structuring of this participation must be done in a way that will be democratic and not sexist. It is important that you know that our laws must be structured.

“Democracy does not know a man and a woman, but blind to sex and gender. Whether you are a man or woman contesting, democracy does not see you, but the people.

“While we want our people to participate more, the structuring must be done in a way that it will be democratic so that somebody will not go to court and contest it does not reflect the full definition of democracy. Our laws say it should not be discriminatory in any way.

“I commend the women and I assure you that we are on your side.”

Wike denounces NASS for rejecting gender bills

Wike said it was wrong for the National Assembly controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC), to deny women desirable roles in politics.

He spoke at the inauguration of Ahoada -Odiemerenyi -Ihugbogo -Odieke Road project in Ahoada-East Local Government Area on Friday.

He recalled that women, including the wife of the President and Vice-President,

Mrs. Aisha Buhari and Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo,  earlier approached, lobbied and secured assurances of members of the National Assembly for affirmative action.

Wike said it was baffling that the lawmakers went against their assurances to frustrate the bills requesting such legislative rights.

He said: “Look at what happened in the National Assembly. I watched it and I laughed when I saw our wives, and women were disgraced. It has never happened anywhere. I saw wives of the president and vice president go to the plenary session of the National Assembly to lobby them, to please help them.

“They (National Assembly) promised them. The party (APC) promised them. The same party that promised them failed them.”

Wike argued that such a thing would not be allowed to happen in progressive societies that had continued to harness the potential of women in the advancement of their countries.

He blamed the rejection of the bills on President Muhammadu Buhari’s lack of interest in allowing affirmative action for women in political administration in the country.

“APC controls the National Assembly. If Mr. President was in support of this, there is no way they will disgrace women in the National Assembly. Such a shameful thing,” he said.

The governor noted that the situation in Rivers State was different because women were an integral part of the political administration of the state.

He explained that there “are 23 female vice chairmen of local governments in Rivers and at least five female councillors in each local government area”.

He said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had a deliberate gender policy in the state.

Wike boasted that he had used politics and governance to better the socioeconomic conditions of communities and made the people happy.

Performing the inauguration of the 10.2km  Ahoada -Odiemerenyi-Ihugbogo-Odieke Road project, former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi said Rivers State had a truly difficult terrain, and it took courage and love to invest in such developmental projects to better the lives of rural dwellers.

He said it was imperative for the PDP to take over power at the national level to enable the people to enjoy passionate leadership.

Makarfi, however, sued for greater unity in the PDP and undivided focus towards returning to power at the national level.

We’ll resist govs’ bid to kill LG autonomy – NULGE

The local government workers said that they are battle-ready to resist any attempt by governors to scuttle the passage of the local government autonomy bill at the State Houses of Assembly after it was passed by the National Assembly.

Federal lawmakers on Tuesday approved proposed amendments to the 1999 constitution to grant financial autonomy to state legislatures, judiciary, and the 774 local government areas in the country.

The approval followed voting on the report of the ad hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution (Fifth Alteration) Bills, 2022.

President of NULGE, Akeem Olatunji, said the labour movement got a credible intelligence that state governors are making frantic efforts to ensure that the needed concurrence on passage of the Bill at the State Houses of Assembly does not see the light of the day.

He said the 36 governors under the aegis of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) led by Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, are hell-bent on destroying the third tier of government – a situation he said had caused insecurity at the grassroots.

The NULGE President said: “Intelligence reports revealed to us that the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Kayode Fayemi is trying to scuttle National Assembly passage of the Bill on Local Government autonomy by holding clandestine meetings, nocturnal meetings with some strategic stakeholders out of desperation.

“He wants to ensure he frustrates the attempt to pass Local Government autonomy at the various State Houses of Assembly.

“Let’s also inform him that we are aware he’s exiting the office in the next seven months. He should be patriotic enough and stand with the Nigerian people. He should not use his opportunity to destroy this nation. History will remember him for his role.”

“We want to tell Ekiti people to call Governor Fayemi to order before it is too late. The NULGE and Labour movement will not tolerate any opposition against the passage of this Bill at the State level because it is uncalled for.”

Olatunji disclosed that market women, youths, artisans, and other unions are already being mobilised to occupy all the 36 State Houses of Assembly and remain there till the Bill gets approvals of all State lawmakers.

He added: “We are going to organise, occupy all the Houses of Assembly in the 36 States. All of us, market women, youths, artisans among others have to come together to occupy various States Houses of Assembly until this autonomy bill concurrence is granted.”


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