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Bill On Seat Reservations For Women Scales 2nd Reading

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The House of Representatives on Tuesday, passed for second reading a bill seeking to alter the 1999 Constitution to provide seat reservations for women in the National Assembly.

The bill also covered the State Houses of Assembly.

The bill was sponsored by the Deputy Speaker, Rep. Benjamin Kalu, who represents Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State and 12 others.

Speaking on the general principle of the bill after moving the motion for the second reading, Rep. Joshua Gana (APC-Niger) read the bill on behalf of Kalu, who presided over plenary.

Debating on the bill, he said it would enable the women to contribute their quota to national development.

He said: “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.

According to him, the bill is anchored on the fundamental principle of equitable representation and aims to empower women.

“This is by ensuring their voices are not only heard, but to 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.

“In spite of the constitutional guarantee of equal rights, the representation of women in our Legislative Houses has been alarmingly low.”

He said that in the 7th, 8th, and 9th Assemblies, women accounted for only 6.4 per cent, 6.1 per cent, and 2.7 per cent of the Senate respectively; and 6.4 per cent, 3.05 per cent and 4.7 per cent of the House of Representatives respectively.

These statistics according to him, underscored the urgent need for proactive measures to ensure equitable representation and amplify the voices of women at the legislative houses.

Advancing the rationale behind the reservation of legislative seat for women, Gana said that Nigeria was ranking low in women’s representation in parliament.

“The rationale behind this amendment is grounded in the principles of fairness and inclusivity.

“Globally, Nigeria lags behind in women’s representation in 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.

“This was to ensure women’s perspectives and priorities are fully integrated into our national and sub-national decision-making processes.”

He also said that the bill was seeking to alter Sections 48 and 49 to provide for one special seat reserved exclusively for women in the Senate and House of Representatives.

“This is for each State of the Federation and the FCT, effective after the term of the current NASS and subject to review every sixteen years.

“It is also seeking to alter Section 91 to provide for three special seats reserved exclusively for women in Houses of Assembly of each State of the Federation,”he said.

He assured members that the bill shall be spread across the three senatorial districts of each state.

The bill further proposed consequential amendments to Sections 71, 77, and 117 of the Constitution to ultimately establish special constituencies reserved exclusively for women.

He added this would ensure their direct elections into and participation in legislative houses and processes at both the federal and state levels.

NAN reports that lawmakers were for and against the bill, which prompted the lead sponsor and deputy speaker to suggest stepping down until a day he would not be presiding.

According to him, this will help to dismiss issues of sentiment and biases as the presiding officer.

But the subsequent lawmakers, who spoke showed their readiness for the passage of the bill for its second reading,

They stated that failure to put the vote may signpost a bad precedent for any presiding officer that might also sponsor a bill or motion in the parliament subsequently.

Subjected to a voice vote afterwards, the majority of the lawmakers gave their nod for the second reading of the bill, necessitating its passage.

The bill was eventually referred to the House Committee on Constitutional Review for further legislative input.(NAN)



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