Affirmative action: Women floor FG as court orders 35% implementation

A long term advocacy for 35% inclusion in the public service slots for the Nigerian women got a big boost on Wednesday when a federal high court in Abuja ordered the federal government to implement its 35 percent affirmative action policy on public service positions.

While delivering judgment in a suit marked FHC/ABC/CS/1006/2020 filed by some women groups challenging the “marginalisation ” of women by the federal government, the presiding judge, Donatus Okorowo, dismissed the preliminary objections of the defendants.

The president and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, were listed as defendants in the suit.

The plaintiffs in the suit are the Incorporated Trustees of Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Women Empowerment and Legal Aid and Centre for Democracy and Development (West


Others are Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Vision Spring Initiative and Women in Politics Forum.

The development comes weeks after federal lawmakers rejected a bill seeking to reserve 35 percent of seats on the national assembly for women.

The rejection later snowballed into protests across the country, with women groups picketing the national assembly for days until the federal lawmakers promised to carry out further legislative actions on it.

The groups in the suit had sought the order of the court to ensure the 35 percent affirmative action policy of the federal government as contained in the National Gender Policy, 2006.

The policy, it will be recalled, was approved by the federal executive council (FEC) in 2006, providing that 35 percent of public offices be reserved for women.

In his verdict, the judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the “lopsided appointments” by the Buhari-led government were unlawful and an arbitrary violation of the

National Gender Policy 2006, sections 42, 147 (3) and 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution as amended, and Articles 2, 13 (2) and (3) and Article 19 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights.

He held that the national gender policy is not merely a policy statement, but one that must be backed with requisite action on the part of the government.

The court also ordered that henceforth, the government must not make appointments that violate the 35 percent affirmative action.

He held, “The 35 percent affirmative action, which entails increased appointive positions for women to ensure inclusivity, must translate to the increased commitment of government, being a signatory to international treaties particularly those on promoting the rights of women.”


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