Speaker Abbas tasks constitution review Committee to prioritise gender bills

Elizabeth AtimeFebruary 27, 20247 min

“I urge you to review the issue of additional or reserved seats for women across legislative bodies, twinning in joint tickets and conferring citizenship on foreigners married to Nigerian women,” he said.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Tajudeen Abbas (APC, Kaduna) has tasked the 43-member House Committee on Constitution Review to reconsider some of the gender bills that were rejected in the 9th assembly, notably the bill on the creation of extra-legislative seats for women.

The Speaker noted that the National Assembly, during the last constitution alteration exercise, rejected five gender bills prompting protests from women groups and civil society organisations.

“I urge you to revisit the issue of additional or reserved seats for women across legislative bodies, twinning in joint tickets and conferring citizenship on foreigners married to Nigerian women,” he said.

Gender Bills: 

Amongst the proposed laws that failed were the bill to create additional seats for women; a bill to enable Nigerian women to transfer citizenship to their foreign husbands; a bill to ensure 35 per cent affirmative action for women; a bill to ensure that a minimum of 20 per cent of ministerial or commissioner nominees are women; and bill to allow a woman to become an indigene of her husband’s state after five years of marriage.

Abbas however said, “Despite the outrage, the lawmakers did not rescind the decision. One of the bills 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 sought to allocate 35 per cent of political positions based on appointment to women while there was one that sought to create special seats for women in National and State Assemblies.”

Decongest exclusive list

Speaker Abbas also charged the committee to further deplete the exclusive legislative list to consolidate some of the strides made during the last alteration adding that the ongoing alteration is going to be the most comprehensive ever done. He listed state police and local government autonomy as some of the priority issues.

The last alteration deleted power, correctional facilities and railways from the exclusive list. Those items were moved to the concurrent list. With the alteration, both federal and state governments can now legislate on these matters. We expect the Sixth Alteration under this Tenth National Assembly to be the most comprehensive yet. As such, the task before the Constitution Review Committee is profound.

The House Agenda is ambitious in its scope and encompasses wide-ranging issues pivotal to our national growth. Among these are: devolution of powers, including state policing; enhancement of fiscal federalism through local government autonomy; further decongesting the Exclusive Legislative List,” he said.

The Deputy Speaker, who is also Chairman of the Constitution Review Committee, Rep. Benjamin Okezie Kalu (APC, Abia) in the same vein, also listed some of the issues that the current assembly is going to prioritise, including resource allocation, State police, and others.

Kalu said, “As we gather here today, it is important to highlight the areas that are currently at the forefront based on the bill proposals we have received so far some of them include the establishment of state police; state access to mines; increased participation of women in politics; clear specification of the taxes/levies to be collected by each tier of government and the provision for the office of the Mayor of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja.”

We must advocate tirelessly for change, holding our elected representatives accountable and demanding accountability at every turn. Participation is not merely a right; it is a sacred duty bestowed upon us as citizens of this great nation. I call upon every one of you to actively participate in the constitutional reform process, to lend your voices, ideas, and expertise to craft a constitution that reflects the values and aspirations of all Nigerians.

The Constitution Review Committee of the 10th National Assembly stands ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Leveraging the power of technology, social media, and inclusive engagement, we will ensure that every voice is heard, every perspective is considered, and every citizen is empowered to participate in the shaping of our nation’s future. 

“From this inauguration day onwards, I am proud to announce that we will work diligently to deliver on our assignment within the next 24 months, and we wholeheartedly seek the cooperation and support of all Nigerians. This ambitious timeline not only reflects our commitment to expeditiously address the pressing issues outlined in the proposed bills but also allows Mr President sufficient time to attend to the alterations for assent away from the busier election preparation times.”

In his remarks, Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio assured Nigerians that the Senate and House Committees will work seamlessly to ensure a comprehensive review of the constitution, adding that the process was not just a law review, but an amendment with the potential to reshape the nation’s democracy.

Represented by his Deputy, Senator Barau Jibrin, Senator Akpabio informed that the process will be guided by the highest principles of transparency, diligence and inclusiveness while embracing the spirit of collaboration.

Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Houses of Assembly, Adebo Ogundoyin, in his speech said, that the lawmakers must first understand the diversity of the nation to be in a better position to address the challenges, adding that leaders must make moves to address the tough times in the nation today.

Mr Ogundoyin stated that the debate and calls for the review of the constitution will continue until the nation gets it right as he assured that the state Houses of Assembly will collaborate with the National Assembly in the amendment process assuring that the state Assemblies will ratify the document sent to them as a result of the engagement.

The event was also attended by Austin Okpara, former Deputy Speaker, 6th House of Representatives; Emeka Ihedioha, former Deputy Speaker; Mr Emeka Wogu, former Minister of Labour; Solomon Arase, Chairman, Police Service Commission; Prof. James Ayatse, the Tor Tiv; May Agbamuch, National Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who represented INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu; other traditional rulers, and many others.

Elizabeth Atime

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