The Nigerian House of Representatives, has challenged the Conference of Female Parliamentarians of State Houses of Assembly to work towards legislative and local government autonomy and transparency at the state level.
This was to ensure transparency and accountability at all the three tiers of government for prudent management of resources for grass root development.
The Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara gave the challenge in Abuja, while receiving a delegation from the Conference of Female Parliamentarians of State Houses of Assembly.
Mr. Dogara said given the method the National Resources are being shared, the autonomy and independence of State Assemblies and local governments would accelerate the country’s growth and development.
“If you look at how the national resources are being shared, what goes to States and Local Governments is more than the Federal share.
So, no matter how prudent we are at the National Level, if we cut corruption at the national level, improve transparency and ensure that there are better processes and procedures of doing things, if the same thing is not happening at the States level, we will be losing the bulk of our resources that are meant for the development of our people at the grassroots.
For us independence of the State Assemblies is as vitally important as the independence of the National Assembly if not more important,” Dogara argued.
On the need for more women participation in politics and gender equality, the Speaker Dogara called for the adoption of direct voting method where all card carrying members of parties are allowed to vote to choose candidates that will represent their parties in elections for the primaries to be transparent and truly democratic.
He argued that direct primaries were more effective in choosing the true candidate of the people because it takes away the option of manipulation of a few delegates by interested parties who have more financial or political influence.
Speaking on the merits of Option A4, he said: “It is there in most of the Constitution of our political parties where primaries are supposed to be by direct or indirect means. But in most cases, most political parties, if not all, have always opted for the indirect primaries. To be more candid, direct primaries can help even in general elections because once a candidate emerges under those conditions, you will know that he is generally accepted by the people.
When it comes to the delegate, it has always been very easy for political actors to manipulate the process. In some cases, someone will house the entire delegates. If he happens to have a lot of money, he will house them in hotels, prevents all other candidates from having access to them and is under that process that the candidate emerges.”
While reiterating the House of Representatives’ commitment to gender equality and women development, Mr. Dogara gave assurance that the House would pass the Gender Equality Bill and urged the State legislators to engage with their federal counterparts to ensure that a consensus is reached on the issues raised.
“We are aware of the gender equality Bill. It is before the National Assembly and it is before the relevant committees of the House. I believe that this House that has the responsibility of representing men and women will do justice to the Bill. Something will come out of the Bill, it may not be 100 percent in line with our expectations but it is going to be a compromise bill that will have the effect of balancing, not overpowering one gender against the other.
We support equality but in a situation where one gender will be overloaded against the other, I think we all people of justice. And they say justice is indivisible, so justice to a woman must include justice to a man and justice to a man too, must include justice to a woman. So that it is the difficult part that we are seeking to achieve,” he added.
The leader of the delegation, also the Deputy Speaker, Edo State House of Assembly, Elizabeth Ativie, advocated for amendment of the Electoral Act to provide for use of quota system and Option A4 in party primaries.
Mrs. Ativie also urged the National Assembly to provide legislation on 35 percent affirmative action to support women in politics.
“Statistics from Inter Parliamentary Union, IPU, indicates Nigeria is ranked 181 out of 193 countries globally, in female representation,” Mrs. Ativie stressed.