Fred Itua, Abuja
There has been a debate in Nigeria over the poor representation of women in government, especially in elective positions. Those who advance this argument, claim that although women form the bulk of voters, they seldom get elected when they run for any position.
In the National Assembly, the argument isn’t different. In the Senate for instance, there are 10 principal officers- the President of the Senate, Deputy President of the Senate, Senate Leader, Chief Whip, Deputy Leader of the Senate, Deputy Chief Whip, Minority Leader of the Senate, Minority Whip of the Senate, Deputy Minority Leader of the Senate and the Deputy Minority Whip.
Surprisingly, out of the 10 principal officers’ positions in the current Senate, none is occupied by any of the female senators. Fabled ‘juicy’ committees are not also occupied by any female senator. This is however in sharp contrast with repeated claims by the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, that the upper legislative chamber is gender-sensitive.
That notwithstanding, the few elected female senators, who are often referred to as Amazons, are doing what many of their male counterparts can’t do- sponsorship of Bills, contributions on the floor of the Senate and sponsorship of sensitive motions.
In the 8th Senate, eight women were originally elected, namely, Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central), Stella Oduah (Anambra North), Rose Oko (Cross River North), Abiodun Olujimi (Ekiti South), Fatimat Raji-Rasaki (Ekiti Central), Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central), Binta Garba (Adamawa North) and Monsurat Sunmonu (Oyo Central).
In the 9th Senate, again, eight female senators hold sway, namely- Uche Ekwunife, Biodun Olujimi, Oluremi Tinubu, Stella Oduah, Akon Eyakanyi, (Akwa Ibom South), Aishatu Ahmed (Adamawa Central), Late Rose Oko (Cross River North), and Betty Apiafi (Rivers West). Since their inauguration in June last year, they’ve made significant contributions.
Lilian Uche Ekwunife
Senator Ekwunife is a former member of the House of Representatives, a banker and a governorship candidate in Anambra State. Based on the number of bills, contributions on the floor of the Senate, Committee exercise, motions and constituency outreach, she’s the most productive female lawmaker in the past year.
So far, she has sponsored 15 Bills which is one of the highest by any serving senator. She has also sponsored 13 motions. In the last one year, she has facilitated the employment of over 85 graduates from her senatorial district. Currently, she’s the only senator who uses a made-in-Nigeria Innoson Motors SUV.
Some of the bills she has sponsored include National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019; Public Procurement (Amendment) Bill, 2019; Penal Code Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019; Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2019; 1999 Constitution (Alteration) Bill, 2019; Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute Establishment Bill, 2020; National Biosafety Management Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020; Energy Commission of Nigeria (Amendment Act) Bill 2020; and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
Others are National Emergency Maintenance Agency (Amendment Act) 2019; National Broadcasting Commission (Amendment Bill) 2020; Establishment Quarantine Centre in All States (Amendment Bill) 2020; Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (Amendment Act). 2020; Ecological Fund Office (Amendment Bill); and Constitution Amendment on Local Government Autonomy Bill, 2020.
She has sponsored motions on an urgent national importance on the devastating storm in Obosi, Nkpor and Oraukwu communities of Anambra State; motion on the Proliferation of Fake Medical Reports from Public Hospitals in Nigeria; motion on Digitization/Automation of Collection and Remittance on Withholding Tax on Bank Deposits and Dividends Payments for an Enhanced Internally Generated Revenue; motion on the need to complete the abandoned Greater Awka Water Scheme by the Federal Ministry of Water Resources; motion on Present status of 5th Generation (5G) Network in Nigeria; and motion on the fire incident at Ochanja market and upper Iweka area of Onitsha Anambra State.
Others are motion on Fire Outbreak at Old Motor spare parts Market (Mgbuka Market)Obosi Anambra State; motion on United States imposition of visa ban on Nigeria; motion on the need to appoint more Justices to fill the vacancies in the Supreme Court on Nigeria; motion on fire outbreak at building Material Market Ogidi and Loretto Special Science School Adazi-Nnukwu; motion on the need to prioritize small and medium enterprises in the Federal Government’s Covid-19 Interventions among others and motion for National Recognition of Prof. Humphrey Nwosu for his role in making June, 12 our New Democracy Day among others.
In terms of constituency outreach, she has distributed 22 pieces of tricycles to youths. She has facilitated skills acquisition training for Youths in partnership with NDE and the New Partnership for African Development, Nigeria. She has equally distributed another 44 pieces of tricycles. The senator has also been involved in medical outreach programme in the 58 communities of Anambra Central Senatorial District.
Ekwunife has distributed educational materials to 151 primary and secondary schools in Anambra Central Senatorial District, among others.
Olujimi is a former Deputy Governor in Ekiti State, a journalist and Senate Minority Leader in the 8th Assembly. She is one of the outstanding Amazons in the 9th Senate. She’s fearless, outspoken and has made tangible contributions on the floor of the upper legislative chamber.
Senator Biodun Olujimi has been consistent in giving palliatives not only to her senatorial district residents, but across all political parties in the state. During the lockdown, she credited accounts of over 2,000 residents across the 16 local government areas in the state with N10,000 each. According to her “10,000 each for these 2000 people is the first phase of the palliatives.”
She’s the wife of the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu. She heads the Senate Committee on Communications. As a ranking Amazon, she has made contributions on the floor of the Senate since her re-election last year into the Red Chamber.
She understands the value of education and the imperative of caring for the old and aging citizens who had served the nation with the energies of their youth. The Annual Elderly Citizens Assistance Scheme (ECAS) which celebrates 1300 Elderly Citizens aged 65 and above with cash and material gifts, has so far had 7,800 beneﬁciaries so far.
She’s a ranking senator and often referred to as a soft-spoken Amazon. She’s a former Minister of Aviation and a major player in the downstream sector of the oil and gas sector. She’s currently the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations.
She heads the Senate Committee on Women Affairs and Youth Development. She’s an economist, a former banker and an educationist. She’s also a former member of the House of Representatives from Rivers State. On the floor of the Senate, she’s never been found wanting. She contributes to debates and has sponsored bills and motions too.
She’s a former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and one of the Amazons making waves in the 9th Senate. Like her female colleagues, she has made tangible contributions on the floor of the Senate, through bills, motions and other legislative interventions since her election in 2019.
Aishatu Ahmed Dahiru
Aisha Dahiru won Adamawa Central Senatorial seat on the platform of the APC, making her the only female senator from the North. As the only jewel from the North, she has so far performed well. On the floor of the Senate, she’s passionate about issues that affect the North and Nigerian women in general.