Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, says the Senate Committee on Review of 1999 Constitution is working ‘behind the scenes’ to pave the way for more women to occupy seats in the National Assembly.
The Deputy Senate President said on Tuesday in Abuja at the Nigeria Men’s Conference on Gender Sensitive Constitutional Reforms, organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Supporting Advancement of Gender Equality (SAGE).
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Omo-Agege, represented by his Special Adviser on Legal and Constitutional Matters, Dr. Daniel Bwala, said that certain cultural and religious doctrines prohibit women from some forms of social participation.
He said that the committee was working behind the scenes to remove the obstacles.
“We must all join hands to deal with those obstacles that stand in the way of women towards bringing them on a level-playing held with their male counterparts. The on-going constitutional amendment has proposed specific quotas for women in all executive and legislative positions at both the federal and the state levels.
“What this means is that specific quotas for women in both elective and appointive positions will not just be a matter of our regular statute books, but a fully constitutional matter,” he said.
He said the Federal Government was also putting in place other necessary legal and policy frameworks that would put men and women on an even keel.
Also, the Chairman, Conference of Speakers of the 36 State Legislatures in Nigeria, Hon. Abubakar Suleiman, said that only constitutional reform could address the low participation of women in politics.
“To that end, if the ‘Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to create Additional Special Seats for women in Federal and State Legislative Houses and for Related Matters’ is passed by the National Assembly and its resolution transmitted to the State Houses of Assembly.
“I want to assure you that the Conference of Speakers shall sensitize our colleagues at the state level on the importance of this Bill. I am confident that we shall record more than the required two-third ratification in favour of the proposed amendment,” he said.
Earlier, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, lamented that with women, accounting for 5.6 percent of legislators in the House of Representative and 6.4 percent of the members of the Senate, Nigeria was still a long way from the benchmark of 30 percent recommended by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
She, however, said the Federal Government has placed a high premium on promoting women inclusiveness in national development looking at those President Muhammadu Buhari has given key portfolios to hold in his administration.
“Women do not only constitute about 50 percent of Nigeria’s population, we contribute significantly to the country’s political and socio-economic development, when given the opportunity,” Tallen said.
Also, Senate President Ahmad Lawan represented by Senator Noro Daduut commended the conference at increasing the participation of women in politics and governance.
“A men’s conference on Gender-Sensitive Constitutional Reform is a creative approach to ensuring inclusion, in the call for equal gender opportunity, and representation. The agitation for more women in politics is a long-standing one, needing a continuous consideration for us to achieve success and reap its benefits,” he said.
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, represented by Director, Joint Services in the ministry, Peter Egbodo, said that Africa had recognised women in terms of their biological importance.
He, however said that the continent was yet to recognise the political role of women and their importance to reap the benefits of women participation in nation building.
He, therefore, urged those concerned for enacting laws to tinker with the provision of the Constition to provide greater responsibilities for women to participate in the decision-making processes of the nation.
The Emir of Keffi and Vice Chancellor, Nasarawa State University, Alhaji Chindo Yamusa III, reaffirmed his support to the realisation of having more women in politics.
Yamusa advised the male participants to see the conference as their responsibility to support the electoral or gender sensitive reform to help women grow politically and remove roadblocks and marginalisation of women in all democratic activities.
He also urged women in parliament to make sacrifices by sponsoring other women to contest elections to in the local, state and National assemblies.