Women re-emphasise need for constitution amendment

Dame Tallen

Nigeria women has harped the need for a critical review of several sections of the 1999 Constitution.

They said the review would enable creation of additional seats in the federal and state legislative houses as well as enhance women’s political participation in the country.

The Minister of Women Affairs Dame Pauline Tallen made the call in Abuja at the joint ministerial media briefing ahead of the zonal public hearing on the proposed alteration to the provisions of the 1999 constitution.

Talle appealed to the Senate President Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to support the course.

Tallen lamented that women’s political representation is still below 10 percent, adding that not much has been achieved to improve their participation and gender equality in leadership and decision-making positions despite a formal support for it through the National Gender Policy (2006) which recommends a benchmark of 35 percent in all sectors.

According to the Minister, the return of Nigeria to democracy in 1999 has not improved the level of inclusion of women at all levels as the proportion of women in both elective and appointive positions has remained low. This she added was despite the 2006 National Gender Policy (NGP) and the various regional and international instruments that the government has signed on to.

“Over the years, Nigerian women and other critical stakeholders have continued to mobilise and strategise to seek interpretations of the 1999 Constitution as amended with the sole objective of getting legal backing for deliberate inclusive governance in Nigeria.

“The National Gender Policy was also intended to increase the number of women in political office, party organs, and public life by setting a goal of 35 percent affirmative action to support women in all elected and appointed positions by 2015. But our current reality in 2021, is that women’s political representation is still below 10 percent. It is no longer news that women in Nigeria are yet to benefit from these provisions,” she said.

The Minister maintained that to ensure equitable women representation in government, it was important the Constitution is reviewed to provide for at least 35% women representation in appointive offices at the Federal and State levels.

“This will begin with an amendment of section 14 subsection (3) that prohibits predominance of persons from a few States, ethnic or sectional groups in the composition of the Government and its agencies to also introduce a prohibition of the predominance of any sex in the composition of the government and its agencies.

“Also, Section 14 (4) introduces the equitable representation of both sexes in the composition of government at a state, Local Government Councils, or any of its agencies. Other sections for reference include sections 147(3), 171(5), 192(2), 208 (4),” she stated.

In her remarks the United Nations Women Country Representative to Nigeria and ECOWAS Ms. Comfort Lamptey , restated the need for constitution amendment as it establishes rights, institutions and processes that guide state functions and how power and resources are shared, regretting that Nigeria constitution currently does not adequately make a strong stance on the rights of all her citizens especially marginalised groups including women, girls and people living with disabilities.

In her goodwill message, representative of the Women’s political participation technical working group Professor Joy Onyesoh, expressed worry over the many hurdles inhibiting women’s political growth, noting the retrogression in number of Women’s vying for political positions in the country.

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