Affirmative action: Aisha Buhari storms parliament, NASS reserves 111 seats for women, 37 in Senate, 74 Reps


Wife of the President, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, Wednesday, led a delegation of women into the National Assembly as part of the advocacy for the proposed special seats for women in both the federal and state legislatures.

 In the team were Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, her women affairs counterpart, Dame Paulin Talen and a delegation of Nigerian women.

The visit came ahead of the laying of report of the panel before the House by Deputy Speaker Idris Wase, who heads the special ad hoc committee for the review of 1999 Constitution.

Inside the report was “a Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Provide for Special Seats for Women in the National and State Houses of Assembly; and for Related Matters”, which was the primary purpose of the first lady’s visit.

The Wase-led committee had recommended a total of 68 amendments to the current constitution, key among which was proposal for financial autonomy for local government, autonomy for state legislature and judiciary, VAT to be on the exclusive list, and provision for independent candidacy in general elections, amongst others.

The Eleumelu drama

But in a dramatic twist during the session, Minority Leader Ndudi Elumelu, while citing section 42 of the Constitution, argued that the presence of the first lady in the Green Chamber in solidarity with women was discriminatory and intimidating of the men folk.

“As a man, I am intimidated,” he said, a joke that drew some laughter from among his colleagues.

And throwing another banter, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila not only ruled him out of order, but also said: “I can assure you that you just lost 70 percent of your votes in your constituency.”

The recommendations

Meanwhile,  both chambers of the National Assembly have recommended 111 legislative seats for female lawmakers beginning from the 10th National Assembly in 2023.

The proposal which had been ratified by the Ad-hoc committees on Constitution review of both chambers was let out of the bag Wednesday during plenary.

Specifically in the Senate, Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, while laying the report in the presence of  the wife of the president and her entourage said, in line with the affirmative action and gender inclusivity, 37 seats have been reserved for female lawmakers

in the Senate and 74 in the House of Representatives.

 Lawan remarks

And in a short remark after the report was laid, Senate President Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan said the visit by the First Lady was to show support for a bill to have more female parliamentarians at the federal and state legislatures. 

He said: “The First Lady’s visit is to show support for a bill for more female parliamentarians in both chambers in the Senate and the House and the State Legislatures.

“This, we believe, will help in nation building as such significant participation by our women will add value to not only legislation, but the much desired and needed national development.

“For us as a nation, our motto is Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. We believe that all hands must be on deck to ensure the participation of each and every segment of our society.”

Senate President Lawan assured the First Lady that the Ninth Assembly, while voting on the amendments to the constitution as contained in the ad-hoc committee’s report, would ensure women participation in governance is commensurate with their population.

“At the moment, you’ll all agree with me that our women have not been able to get that level of participation commensurate with their population as reflected in our demography.

 “Therefore, what we are trying to do (Amendment of the Constitution) will go through voting later to complete the process in the National Assembly,” Lawan said.

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