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Bill seeking special seat for women in state and national assemblies moves on to second reading

On Tuesday, July 9, the House of Representatives passed for a second reading a constitutional amendment bill seeking to reserve additional seats for women in the state and National Assembly.

Sponsored by Deputy Speaker Hon. Benjamin Kalu, the bill had previously passed in the 9th House but failed to gain concurrence from both chambers, as required for constitutional amendments.

One of the sponsors, Joshua Gana, presented the motion, emphasizing the bill’s goal to address the underrepresentation of women in legislative bodies at both national and sub-national levels. The bill aims to alter the Constitution to provide reserved seats for women in both the National and State Houses of Assembly.

Gana highlighted that the bill is founded on the principle of equitable representation, aiming to empower women and ensure their active contribution to legislative processes and national development.

“Gender equality and representation are fundamental to our constitutional democracy. Despite the guarantee of equal rights, women’s representation in our Legislative Houses remains alarmingly low,” he said. Gana cited statistics showing that in the 7th, 8th, and 9th Assemblies, women accounted for only 6.4%, 6.1%, and 2.7% of the Senate respectively, and 6.4%, 3.05%, and 4.7% of the House of Representatives respectively.

The bill proposes alterations to Sections 48 and 49 to reserve one special seat exclusively for women in the Senate and House of Representatives for each state and the Federal Capital Territory, effective after the current National Assembly term and subject to review every sixteen years. It also seeks to alter Section 91 to reserve three special seats for women in each State House of Assembly, spread across the three senatorial districts of each state. Additionally, it seeks consequential amendments to sections 71, 77, and 117 to establish special constituencies for women, ensuring their direct election and participation in legislative processes at both federal and state levels.

While all speakers supported the bill’s second reading, some members cautioned against passing a law that could conflict with the Constitution’s principles. The Minority Leader highlighted the abnormality of Nigeria’s low ranking in women’s representation, with only about 3.9 percent of parliament members being women.

The bill now moves forward to relevant committees for further legislative action.

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