#OccupyNASS: Nigerian women lists demands after NASS rejects gender bills

Nigeria Women have vowed to mobilise people to occupy the National Assembly if lawmarkers fail to reconsider its stance on some gender equality and equal opportunity bills.

The women who spoke during a virtual press conference, through Womanifesto, in Abuja noted that they were determined to match to the gates of the National Assembly on March 8, 2022, to press home their demands.

The co-founder of Womanifesto, who is the leader of the protest, Dr Abiola Akiyode Afolabi, said “there are 20 different women groups and more.”

According to her, “This is the first step we are taking to demand that the wrong that was done to Nigeria women should be redressed.

“What happened in the National Assembly was a manifestation of the historical injustices which has been affecting the voice of the Nigeria women.

“We realised that people who are representing us are not representing 50% of the population but they are actually just representing themselves.”

Afolabi said that the bills, which had been pending before the National Assembly, sought affirmative actions for women in governance and political representation.

Background

Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike berated the All Progressives Congress (APC) controlled National Assembly for rejecting five gender bills recently presented to it.

He described the action as a major setback to Nigeria’s democratic advancement blaming it on President Muhammadu Buhari’s lack of interest in allowing for affirmative action for women in political administration in the country.

The proposed gender bills in the 5th Constitution Alteration Bills that were all rejected are Bills targeted at addressing the current gender imbalance across the legislative arm of governments across the country whilst reducing the under-representation of women in political office.

The Edo Governor, Godwin Obaseki, said that the National Assembly has missed a golden opportunity to redesign Nigeria’s political landscape by rejecting the gender bills.

“It is heartbreaking that the National Assembly members missed a golden opportunity to redesign Nigeria’s political landscape by enshrining landmark legislation that promotes inclusion and provides women with the legal backing to gain equitable representation at the apex level of lawmaking and political participation,” he said.

Lawmakers Tuesday, March 1, voted on 68 bills that seek to alter the Constitution.

Prior to the consideration and voting, wife of the Vice President Dolapo Osinbajo joined the lawmakers at the Senate and later the House of Representatives to witness the proceeding as well as solicit support for the gender and affirmative action bills – which were all eventually rejected.

First Lady Aisha Buhari also visited the House to show support for the bills to have more female parliamentarians at the federal and state legislatures.

The Bills

  • Bill to provide special seats for women at national assembly
  • Affirmative action for women in political party administration
  • Another bill sought to grant citizenship to foreign-born husbands of a Nigerian woman. Already, a Nigerian man’s foreign-born wife is automatically a Nigerian citizen.
  • Another bill also sought to allocate 35 per cent of political positions based on appointment to women and creation of additional 111 seats in National Assembly as well as at the state constituent assemblies.
  • Inclusion of at least ten percent affirmative action in favour of women in Ministerial appointments.

Nigerian women had converged at the National Assembly to protest its decision to vote against the adoption of five gender bills.

As early as 8 am Wednesday, March 2, hundreds of women showed up at the National Assembly Complex to demonstrate against the Senate’s decisions at yesterday’s constitution amendment session.

For months, Chioma Agwuegbo, executive director of TechHerNG and other activists had held consultations on the bills with legislators, civil society groups and various other stakeholders.

“They shut the bills down with a vehemence that actually scares us,’’ said Agwuegbo, one of the organisers of the protest.

‘’The reason why women are out today and tomorrow and keep having this conversation is because women are not just good only for votes. You cannot lead us without us.”

The National Assembly has yet responded to this as when this was written.

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