By Fred Itua, Abuja
Seven female Senators and their 11 counterparts in the House of Representatives have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to forward an Executive Bill to the two chambers of the National Assembly on 35 per cent affirmative action for women in government.
They decried repeated frustrations from their male counterparts in both chambers whenever issues affecting women were brought up for consideration during constitution amendment exercises.
They expressed their views on Wednesday in Abuja during a Workshop for National and States Assemblies women legislators on Gender legislation and other legal instruments organised by Professor Abubakar Suleiman-led National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) and United Nations Women.
Director-General of NILDS, Professor Suleiman, had while welcoming participants, revealed that women constitute only 11.2 per cent of the membership of both chambers of the National Assembly. He said women are frequent victims of various forms of violence.
He said: ‘Women are an integral part of any society. They hold the family and they make up the major part of the informal sector. The exclusion of women in politics has been seen as late as a setback in the economic development of the country. As it stands, women constitute only 11.2 per cent of the National Assembly, despite having more number in the country.
‘Women are sexually violated. The livelihoods of women were extremely threatened during the COVID-19 lockdown. Checks also revealed that there were cases of domestic violence against women. There were no clear measures to address violence against women during the lockdown period.
‘This is why this workshop is important. It focuses on active women in politics and comes up with legislations that address the needs of women.’
Leading the charge, Oluremi Tinubu, said male politicians will continue to frustrate any move to give women a special place in government without the intervention of the president.
She, therefore, urged President Buhari to send an Executive Bill to that effect and prevail on the leadership of the National Assembly to pass it. She recalled how previous attempts were made during constitution amendments, but male lawmakers truncated the move.
She said: ‘We have been talking and this is not working. The president needs to send an Executive Bill to the National Assembly. That is the only way we can make progress. Women will not freely give us our right place.’
Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, while adding her voice, said everything must be done to guarantee the place of women in politics.
Nkeiruka who represented the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: ‘There are still too many obstacles restricting women in Nigeria. This is more prevalent and damaging in politics and governance. We keep women from participating in governance. The society suffers because of this. It often feels as if our best days are behind us. I wholeheartedly support women’s participation in politics. I support and endorse moves to help women in government.’
Other female lawmakers at the event spoke in favour of an urgent need to pass a law that will guarantee the place of women in politics.
Deputy Chief Whip Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi who represented the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said women’s capacity must be developed to guarantee their place in the society.
‘Capacity is to be developed through platforms like this. Concentrating on women shows their value. Women exist in an environment dominated by men. The women we currently have in the Senate have proven to be achievers. Our women have been diligent in contributing their quota,’ he said.
Clerk to the National Assembly, Ojo Olatunde Ojo, who was represented by Secretary in the National Assembly, Henrietta Aimua, said Nigeria has the lowest women representation in the Parliament in sub-Saharan Africa.
‘Nigeria the lowest number of women legislators in sub-Saharan Africa. In the Senate, there are only 8 women out of 109 senators. In the House of Representatives, there are only 11 female members out of 360. At the moment, many states in Nigeria are yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act.
‘This forum offers an opportunity for us to do that. In the last dispensation, women pushed for 35 per cent affirmative action for women. They’re still pushing for that,’ she said.