By Ignatius Ushie
Amb. Anthonia A Ekpa, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, has given further insights into the decision by Dame Pauline Tallen, to back the proposal to include gender as a benchmark for federal character and related matters.
Dame Tallen, had at the just concluded Zonal Public Hearing on the proposed alteration to the provision of the 1999 Constitution, declared that the Ministry does not only fully back the proposal to include gender as a benchmark for federal character and related matters, but also supports the creation of additional special seats for women in the Federal and State Legislative Houses, by altering other sections, in the 1999 Constitution.
Represented at the Public Hearing by the Per Sec, Tallen insisted that it is time for inclusive Nigeria Constitution, adding there is need for a Constitution that Nigeria Women want.
But, explaining the Minister’s position to journalists, Amb. Ekpa, noted that the renewed agitations became necessary to ensure equity, stressing that women’s political representation is still below 10%.
The Per Sec quoted the Minister to have said: “Women need to be fully represented in the Government at the national and sub-national levels, first by recognizing the use of gender – neutral and sensitive language. Masculine languages are gender bias and undermine women and girls’ political participation which hinders inclusive government stating that Nigeria electoral position shows male dominance”.
She further listed the Minister’s areas of concern to include: that; Section 48 of the Principal Act be altered by substituting the existing section 48 with a new section “48”: Composition of the Senate: The Senate shall consist of:
b. three Senators from each State and one from the Federal Capital Territory; and c. an additional Senator for each State and for the Federal Capital Territory, who shall be a woman.
“Section 49 of the Principal Act be altered by substituting the existing section 49 with a new section “49”: Composition of the House of Representatives: c. Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, the House of Representatives shall consist of: d. three hundred- and sixty-members representing constituencies of nearly equal population as far as possible provided that no constituency shall fall within more than one State; and e. two additional members for each State and for the Federal Capital Territory, who shall be women”.
Others include that Section 71 of the Principal Act be altered by inserting immediately after sub-sections (1) (a) and (b), new subsections “(2)” and “(3)”:
Senatorial districts and Federal Constituencies: (1) Subject to the provisions of section 72 of the Constitution, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall: (a) divide each State of the Federation into three Senatorial districts for purposes of elections to the Senate; (b) subject to the provisions of section 49 of the Constitution, divide the Federation into three hundred and sixty Federal constituencies for purposes of elections to the House of Representatives.
(2) For the purpose of section 48 of the Constitution, a State shall constitute an additional senatorial seat to be occupied by a woman.
According to her, for the purpose of section 49 of the Constitution, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall divide each State of the Federation into two Federal constituencies to be occupied by women.
Also Section 77 of the Principal Act is altered in subsection (1) by substituting the words “every Senatorial district or Federal constituency” in lines 1 and 2 with the words “every Senatorial district, Federal constituency and the additional seats”:
In addition “77. Direct election and franchise: (1) Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, every Senatorial district, Federal constituency, and the additional seats established in accordance with the provisions of this Part of this Chapter shall return one member who shall be directly elected to the Senate or the House of Representatives in such manner as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.”
Furthermore, Section 91 of the Principal Act is altered by substituting the existing section 91 with a new section “91”: (1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a House of Assembly of a State shall consist of:(a) three or four times the number of seats, which that State has in the House of Representatives divided in a way to reflect, as far as possible, nearly equal population; and (b) one additional member from each of the three senatorial districts in the State referred to in section 48 (1) (a) of the Constitution, who shall be a woman.
“Notwithstanding the provision of subsection (1) of this section, nothing shall prevent a woman from contesting for any of the seats in the constituencies referred to in subsection (1)(a)(3) The provisions of subsection (1) (b) shall commence after the current life of the State House of Assembly and shall be reviewed after 16 years from its commencement notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution.
Provided that a House of Assembly of a State shall consist of not less than twenty-four and not more than forty-three members.”
“Section 117 of the Principal Act is altered in subsection (1) by inserting immediately after the words “every State constituency” in line 1, the words “and the additional seats”:
“117. Direct election and franchise:
(1) Subject to the provisions of the Constitution, every State constituency and the additional seats established in accordance with the provisions of this part of this Chapter shall return one member who shall be directly elected to a House of Assembly in such manner as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.”