Leaders of Women Movement in Nigeria have demanded that a woman be elected as the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Executive Director, Gender Technical Unit (GTU), Ekwunife Anazonwu, made the demand while reading the statement jointly signed by 18 women organizations during a press briefing organised Thursday in Abuja.
Anazonwu called for at least two women to be elected as main Principal officers in the House of Representatives, adding that women from both houses should also be elected to chair grade A committees, and more resources be allocated to pursue an equal society.
She expressed concerns that Nigeria continues to rank low among countries with women representation in parliament, noting that for years Nigeria has not been able to live up to expectations with regard to representation of women.
“As of February 2023, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) ranks Nigeria 183 out of 193 countries in Women’s Representation in National Parliaments. In, the current 10th National Assembly, there is a reduction from eight women in the Senate to three, while in the House of Representatives, only 14 women were elected compared to the 13 in the outgoing 9th Assembly.
“Currently, women represent about forty-four percent of Nigeria’s voting population, yet less than 5% of the 1,553 women who contested the 2023 Elections across Nigeria were elected. Despite the consistent push for increased representation of women in politics–elective and appointive positions, the just concluded 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections show alarming underrepresentation of women,” said Anazonwu.
“For instance, of the 1,459 Legislative seats at the state and national levels, so far, women have won only 75 seats. Alarmingly, there are 15 states without a single woman in their State House of Assembly.
“It is no wonder that in Nigeria’s 24 years of democracy, no woman has been Senate President or Deputy Senate President. Patricia Etteh is the only woman to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives from June to October 2007. Hon. Mulikat Akande was the first woman elected as Majority Leader at the Federal Legislative level in 2011.
“We believe that more women need to be elected as presiding officers and Principal officers’ positions in the National Assembly of Nigeria, particularly the House of Representatives irrespective of the current numbers. These women represent about 50% of Nigeria’s population and this should be reflected in the parliament’s leadership as provided for in the National Gender Policy 2022. This is a matter of equity and social inclusion,” she stressed
She noted that Nigerian women recognize the significant role that legislatures play in shaping public policies that impact the lives of citizens.
“We firmly believe that diverse legislatures particularly in the leadership are essential for a thriving democracy that truly reflects the interests and experiences of its people by fostering inclusivity and equal representation. Being in the position of influence is therefore important to bring women voices to fore in the country.
“Legislatures serve as the foundation of democratic governance, where laws are enacted and societal issues are addressed. When legislatures lack diversity, the voices and perspectives of underrepresented communities are often overlooked, leading to policies that fail to address the unique challenges faced by these communities,” she added.
She further stressed that Affirmative Action in legislatures is crucial for breaking down barriers and ensuring that all citizens have an equal chance to participate in shaping their society’s future.
She noted that the National Assembly is constitutionally vested with several functions, such as lawmaking, confirmation of nominations, representation, oversight, scrutinizing bills, legislative proposals, and motions, adding that most of these functions are achieved through Committees made up of Distinguished Senators and Honorable Members of the House of Representatives.
“We therefore implore the National Assembly to ensure that women are considered to chair grade A committees amongst others.
“The current President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has made commitment to priotize women’s participation in Nigeria, he must be seen to show support for women in parliament to hold positions as principal officers,” she stated.