From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
As committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution winds up its two-day assignment across all the six geo-political zones on Thursday, Gender and Constitution Reform Network (GECORN), Northwest Zone, had called for a holistic re-draft of the 1999 constitution.
North-West Coordinator, Gender GECORN and Executive Director, Gender Awareness Trust (GAT), Dr Lydia Umar, who presented her Network’s memorandum to the committee said the call became necessary to accommodate usage of more gender-friendly language.
According to her, GECORN identified about 15 issues in the 1999 Constitution as amended all of which have to do with gender.
She noted that, “constitution-making process in Nigeria has persistently marginalised women and this is dated back to the colonial times when women were not allowed to vote and again, there was no woman member of the constitution drafting committee that brought the 1979 constitution into existence.
“In the same vein, the 1999 Constitution-making was an all-male affair as the
Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) of General Abdulsalami Abubakar regime was made up of 26 military officers – all males.
“Talking about language, the pronoun “he” appears 235 times in the 1999 Constitution and the word woman was used only twice.
“On citizenship, the Constitution (section 26:b) makes no provision for the process by which non-Nigeria men married to Nigerian women and who are so desirous, may become Nigerian citizens but provide for Nigerian men married to non-Nigerian Women.
“What of indigeneship where ambiguity trails the indigeneship of a woman, to the extent that they cannot claim their place of origin or that of their husbands in appointive and political circumstance?
“Section 42(3) precludes rights to freedom from discrimination as conferred on all in Section 42(1) from applying in respect to any public office, including military or police appointments.
“The 1999 Constitution has no provision for temporary affirmative action to enable at least 30 percent to enhance women’s political power which is key in moving the country forward.
“We hope that at the end of the day, the Joint Constitution Review Committee would consider the critical issues relating to gender and constitution reforms as submitted in the memorandum”, she said.
Gender and Constitution Reform Network (GECORN), is a network of non-governmental and community-based Organisations, borne out of the need to have a viable coalition, working towards the mobilization of women in all
sectors for a gender review of the constitution of Nigeria.