Six months after it rejected the ‘Gender Parity and Prohibition of Violence against Women” presented to it, the Senate on Thursday has reconsidered it.
The bill sponsored by Senator Abiodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South) passed second reading.
It would be recalled that on March 15, 2016, the Senate blocked the bill over claims that it was in conflict with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Senator Olujimi had among other things advocated that if the bill was passed, a widow in Nigeria would automatically become the custodian of her children in the event of the death of her husband and would also inherit his property.
Senate Majority Leader Ali Ndume had criticised the bill and urged Nigerians to stick with either religious or traditional marriage.
Similarly, Senator Sani Yerima from Zamfara State, also condemned the bill and argued that it was in conflict with the Nigerian Constitution.
He maintained that the bill negated the principles of the Sharia law which the constitution recognises.
But during the reconsideration of the bill yesterday, lawmakers who contributed supported the bill, but however expressed reservations that it could go against certain sections of the constitution.
Olujimi explained that “Section 4 of the bill deals with prohibition of discrimination and provides that no person, organ or agency of government, public or private institution, commercial or corporate body, community or other entity shall either through words spoken, acts, inactions, omissions, laws, regulations, administrative procedures, policy, guideline, rules, customs or practices, discriminate against any person on the ground of gender age or disability.”
The bill further read: “The bill further makes provision for the adoption of temporary special measures to eliminate discrimination and ensure equal opportunities for majority of Nigerian. ‎These special measures cover political and public sphere in offices, positions, or appointments, employment opportunities, credit or other economic sphere in the public or private that a minimum of 35 per cent be reserved for women.
“In the case of educational placement and school enrollment, including award of scholarships, bursaries, or such allocations‚ that parity is ensured for boys and girls, men and women; and in the case of primary school enrolment, mechanisms should be put In place to ensure parity in enrolment and retention of boys and girls.
“It therefore states that it shall be the responsibility of all public or private institutions and all entities in Nigeria to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of gender stereotyping, prejudices, and customary and al| other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes, or the roles for men and women.
“Appropriate measures be taken to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life; eliminate discrimination against women in education; eliminate discrimination against women in employment, occupation or any profession; prevent discrimination against women on the grounds of marriage, marital status or maternity; eliminate discrimination against any person on any ground, whatsoever, in the field of healthcare and more importantly, ensure that all women who are pregnant and within years of delivery, and all children under the age of 12 are given free and quality healthcare services, including provision of all necessary medical, surgical, diagnostic, and pharmacological supplies.”
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu specifically urged relevant committees to interrogate the contents of the bill when subjected for public hearing.
According to him, Section 42 (b) of the 1999 Constitution says: “Be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions.
“I will like to suggest that when this bill goes to the committee for which I plead that our colleagues oblige Mrs Olujimi so that it goes to the committee and possibly for public hearing.
“When it gets to the level of the committee we need to do a proper interrogation of this bill to be sure that it is not in conflict with some of our existing legislations and ensure that our women enjoy the protection of the constitution which they deserve. We need to also ensure however that it is not in conflict with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Ekweremadu noted.
Former chairman of Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Oluremi Tinubu for her part said the bill would liberate women who had been cheated, stressing that future generations of women would benefit more from it.
“We need to amend some parts of the constitution in order to accommodate the interest of the women. We should do the best we can with this bill.
“This bill is for the good of our children. Look at what America is doing with Hillary Clinton. We need to do the same thing in Nigeria. This bill is not you and me, but for future generations unborn,” she noted.
Senator Binta Garba (APC, Adamawa North) while contributing urged her colleagues to see women as equal partners rather than as competitors. She admitted that while men were heads of their homes, it was however different in the administrative circle.
“We need to put the affirmative action into the constitution in order to give women the right they deserve. We are partners in progress. We are not fighting women. Men are the heads of family, but when it comes to administrative issues, we need to work hand in hand.”
However, Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Olusola Adeyeye disagreed with Ekweremadu, maintaining that the contents of the bill did not conflict with the constitution.
“I am supporting this bill on behalf of my daughters, wife and mother. I believe this Senate is fair-minded and we do not want discrimination against any woman. I hold the view that of all the forms of discrimination, the worst is that of gender discrimination,” he said.
Adeyeye argued that “with all due respect to our deputy Senate president, I totally disagree with his submission on the conflict with the constitution. Ekweremadu is a lawyer and he knows better.”
In his concluding remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki hailed lawmakers for adopting a bipartisan approach in resolving the logjam surrounding the bill, saying the Senate was a strong supporter of gender equality, and “we are strongly against discrimination against women. I hope the committee will do a robust work and come up with something good in the next four weeks.”
The bill was thereafter referred to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further consideration and report back within four weeks.

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