Female lawyers and social commentators have responded to the rejection of the 35 per cent affirmative action for women as ministers as well as 20 per cent for women as commissioners in states by the Senate.
On Wednesday, the proposal failed at the upper legislative chamber as it garnered only the votes of 49 senators, instead of the 73 required to ensure the success of the bill.
Although the bill was passed at the House of Representatives with 248 votes, the fact that both chambers did not approve it means it has failed to scale through.
Reacting to the situation, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, Nigeria described the failure of the bill as disappointing for the success of Nigeria’s democracy.
In a statement by its country Vice President, Inima Aguma, FIDA Nigeria called on civil society organisations across the country and stakeholders to speak against the development.
“FIDA Nigeria is greatly disappointed at the recent events in the National Assembly where the Senators voted against 35 per cent affirmative action for women in the governance space.
“At this stage in Nigeria, we are still taking one step forward and ten steps backward to the detriment of women who constitute more than 50% of the population and the sustainable development goals signed up by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, attainable only by adopting gender parity in all spheres of governance.
“FIDA Nigeria enjoins the civil society, media and all other stakeholders to join her in raising their voice against this increasing injustice, degradation against women in Nigeria,” the statement said.
Similarly, Joe Okei-Odumakin, President of Women Arise, said the rejection of the bill by the Senate was a reflection of the members of the upper chamber and their disposition towards collective development of women in the country.
“By this historically insensitive decision, our legislators have shown that they are not in tune with global realities that encourage women empowerment and political participation.
“Sadly, we have seen that every promises made to Nigerian women can now best be described as a deception. There is no willingness to make practice anything that seeks to empower the women,” Mrs. Okei-Odumakin said.
She urged women in the country to rise to the challenge by using their numerical strength to seize power and aspire to all possible positions, as a way proving their worth.
A public affairs consultant, Chioma Agwuebo, while reacting to the development, said the present National Assembly is the most self-serving Nigeria has had in a while.
“I think that this National Assembly is dangerous in the sense that it is the most self-serving we’ve had in a while. We are in a country where we have the most out of school girls on earth, yet anything that will increase the place of women at the table where they can make decisions affecting other women is shut down.
“On March 16, the International Day of Women, one of the members of the National Assembly said that the thing to do in Nigeria was for them to marry more than one wife so that they could help us.
“We really have to think about what the National Assembly sees women as in this country especially considering the fact that they are under obligation to act according to the constitution,” Ms. Agwebu said.
Abigail Anaba, a social commentator, however observed that there are many factors militating against the successful inclusion of women in political offices across the country, besides passage of the bill.
“I don’t believe women should get things just for being women. I think they deserve to be included in governance and governing. The factors that are keeping women out is what should be looked into so that women who want to; can seek any position they want. One of the factors of course is the amount of monies that they need to pay for forms,” she said.
Bring-Back-Our-Girls campaigner, Aisha Yesufu, charged women to go out and contest for seats in the National Assembly in order to be in the position to vote on the passing of these bills.
“As women, we must know that if we really want something we have to be the ones to go out and get it. As much as possible, let more women vie for positions, get into the House of Representatives and get into the Senate because nobody is going to give us anything on a platter of gold.
“The fact is the higher population are men and they know that to say 35 percent will be for women will be taking away from the position of men,” Mrs. Yesufu noted.