. Your lobby came a bit late, Reps to Aisha Buhari, women groups
After some women groups last Wednesday occupied the National Assembly protesting the rejection of gender-related bills by lawmakers during the constitution amendment exercise at plenary, they are set to hold another protest at the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The demonstration which some have described as the “mother of all protests” is aimed at calling on the federal lawmakers to reconsider all the gender bills that were rejected during the Constitution amendment last week.
The co-convener of Womanifesto, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, made this known during a meeting with other women groups.
She explained that on the first day of Women’s History month – March – the Nigerian legislature voted to deny citizenship to the foreign-born husbands of Nigerian women but a Nigerian man’s foreign-born wife gets automatic citizenship and lawmakers also denied Nigerians in the Diaspora the right to vote.
She also lamented that lawmakers voted to deny women the ability to take indigeneship in their husband’s state after five years of being together and also rejected 35 per cent appointed positions for women.
The lawmakers, she said, also voted to deny women 35 per cent affirmative action in party administration and leadership as well as specific seats for women in the National Assembly.
TOS NEWS had reported how lawmakers during the plenary on February 1, voted on 68 Constitution Amendment bills. Of the 68 legislations, five bills sought to promote more opportunities for women in political parties, governance and the society at large.
They were all rejected.
One of the legislation sought to grant citizenship to foreign-born husbands of Nigerian women. Already, a Nigerian man’s foreign-born wife is automatically a Nigerian citizen.
Another sought to allocate 35 per cent of political positions based on appointment to women. There was also a separate legislation to create special seats for women in National and State Assemblies.
Over 200 Nigerian women protested last Wednesday at the National Assembly against the rejection of the bills.
The women had accused the lawmakers of choosing to deny women the opportunity of inclusion and representation in governance by voting against the bills.
While the women say they have demanded a list of how each lawmaker voted during the process, they vowed to keep “occupying the National Assembly” until the bills are reconsidered.
However, the House of Representatives has said the lobbying for the gender bills proposed during the constitution amendment was belated.
Spokesperson of the House, Ben Kalu (APC, Abia), stated this while briefing journalists in Abuja on Thursday.
Mr Kalu, who faulted the timing of the lobbying, said the rejection of the bills despite the visits by Mrs Buhari and Mrs Osinbajo, was an indication that the National Assembly was not a rubber stamp of the Executive as claimed in some quarters.
He stated that Nigerians errorneously expected the husbands of the two ladies to issue directives to the lawmakers, and they (lawmakers) would do their bidding without any protest.
Mr Kalu said the lawmakers should not be blamed for any decision on the bills because they voted along the recommendations of the constituents.
He said the constituents are still influenced by religious and cultural inclinations.
He stated that it will take time for Nigerians to embrace some of the changes Nigerians are questing for in the rejected legislation.
“I have commended all these people, who even visited the National Assembly. That is the beauty of democracy. Because if it were not, the wives of the president and the vice president would have no business coming here. They knew that it was only through lobby, not as you have described us as a rubber stamp where they will just give us instructions—maybe the husband will give us instructions and we will get it done.
“It will be through lobbying and they participated in that lobbying with all humility. Let us not forget the Minister of Women Affairs (Pauline Tallen), who was also very dogged, and all the CSOs.
“But I must say this, the lobbying was done a bit late. Yes, I want to say that, but this lobby and advocacy ought to have started longer than now. I say that without missing words.
“You don’t lobby two days to the voting on a very important issue like this. It goes beyond lobbying at the last minute. It takes a lot of orientation. It takes a lot of advocacy. It takes a lot of sensitisation to enable people to buy into these important agendas. Do you know why? Because you cannot play down on our current issues with regards to emerging democracies, one of which is our religious disposition, our cultural dispositions. These things play a role. We are part of society. Our religion and culture is part of society. It needs a lot of advocacy by civil society organisations, women groups to push this agenda forward, it is a wonderful agenda.
“Nigerians are shifting their focus to the representatives only, it was not the senators and the representatives that did the job, and it was the instruction from their various constituents. This is the truth that must be told. If the House as an institution is not interested in the bill, it would not have passed the first reading, second reading and be allowed to go to the committee stage,” he said.