Reps Pass for Second Reading Bill To Reserve Seats For Women

The House of Representatives has passed a “Bill For An Act To Alter The Constitution Of Nigeria 1999 To Provide For Seat Reservation For Women In The National And State Houses Of Assembly and for Related Matters”, for second reading.

Leading the debate on the Bill, Rep. Joshua Gana said the bill is aimed at addressing the profound imbalance in legislative Houses.

He said that the bill would also address the underrepresentation of women in legislative houses at the national and sub-national levels.

This bill seeks to alter the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, specifically to provide for seat reservations for women in both the National and State Houses of Assembly.

“It is anchored on the fundamental principle of equitable representation and aims to empower women by ensuring their voices are not only heard but that they actively contribute to shaping the legislative landscape and the overall development of our nation.

“The issue of gender equality and representation lies at the heart of our constitutional democracy. Despite the constitutional guarantee of equal rights, the representation of women in our legislative houses has been alarmingly low.

In the 7th, 8th, and 9th Assemblies, women accounted for only 6.4%, 6.1%, and 2.7% of the Senate respectively; and 6.4%, 3.05%, and 4.7% of the House of Representatives respectively.

“These statistics underscore the urgent need for proactive measures to ensure equitable representation and amplify the voices of women in our legislative houses at the national and sub-national levels” Gana said.

Rationale for reserving legislative seats for women

Gana explained that the rationale behind this amendment is grounded in the principles of fairness and inclusivity.

He said that globally, Nigeria lags behind in women’s representation in the parliament, ranking among the lowest.

Countries that have implemented affirmative action, like Rwanda and Andorra, have seen significant strides towards gender equality in governance.

“This bill proposes a temporary measure of seat reservation for women to catalyse similar progress in Nigeria, ensuring that women’s perspectives and priorities are fully integrated into our national and sub-national decision-making processes” he said.

Key Amendments

This bill proposes alterations to some sections of the Constitution to wit:

(a) an alteration of Sections 48 and 49 to provide for one special seat reserved exclusively for women in the Senate and House of Representatives for each State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, effective after the term of the current National Assembly and subject to review every sixteen years;

(b) an alteration of Section 91 to provide for three special seats reserved exclusively for women in Houses of Assembly of each State of the Federation which shall be spread across the three senatorial districts of each State; and

(c) consequential amendments to sections 71, 77, and 117 to ultimately establish special constituencies reserved exclusively for women, ensuring their direct election into and participation in legislative houses and processes at both the federal and state levels.

Gana urged members of the House of Representatives to recognize the historic opportunity before it to rectify decades of gender underrepresentation in our legislative houses.

This alteration is not just about equity; it is about harnessing the full potential of our nation by leveraging the diverse perspectives and talents of all Nigerians irrespective of gender.

“Let us rise above partisan divides and unite in support of this transformative alteration, which promises to empower women and strengthen the fabric of our nation. I urge each of you to lend your wholehearted support to the passage of this historic bill.

“Together, let us reaffirm our commitment to gender equality and lay the foundation for a future where every Nigerian, regardless of gender, has an equal stake in shaping our nation’s destiny” he said.

While some members supported the amendment others said it was not necessary.

The Bill was extensively debated on before passing for a second reading.

 

 

 

Emmanuel Ukoh

 

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