Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe has expressed doubt that the Senate will take a second look at the gender bills rejected by the 9th Assembly. The Senate minority leader spoke during the online interview programme, 90MinutesAfrica, hosted by Rudolf Okonkwo and Chido Onumah.
On March 1, 2022, during the constitutional amendment proceedings, the National Assembly voted overwhelmingly, rejecting four gender bills, which many Nigerians say would promote gender inclusion. The four bills were meant to (1) give the right of citizenship to foreign-born spouse of a Nigerian woman (2) the right for a woman to take indigeneship of her husband’s state after five years of marriage (3) 35 percent affirmative action for women in party administration and leadership and (4) 35 percent appointed positions for women in the federal and state executive councils.
The NASS decision was followed by protests and outrage by women’s groups and civil society activists who have been demanding a reconsideration of the bills.
Last week, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, announced that there would be a reconsideration of three of the four bills rejected on March 1 by the lawmakers.
But on 90MinutesAfrica on Sunday, Senator Abaribe expressed doubt that the Senate would reconsider the bill, noting that there is no provision for the bills in the Senate schedule for the remainder of its tenure.
He said that even if the bills were to be reconsidered, they would have to be reintroduced as fresh bills. But the political and electioneering activities ahead of the 2023 elections would make that process difficult to achieve because “senators may not pay attention to the bills as they would be engrossed in ensuring their survival in the political field,” he noted. He added that there was a glimmer of hope if both chambers of the National Assembly agree to fast track the process.
Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, who served on the Senate Committee on Constitution Review, said religion and cultural practices were the main reasons for the rejection of the gender bills.
He explained how the gender bills were “debated, voted and agreed” upon in the Committee sessions. “The members of the Committee came from all parts of the country. So, after agreeing on the gender bills at the Committee level we thought they would be passed easily on the floor of the Senate without too much problem.” He expressed surprise that the bills were overwhelmingly rejected by senators during voting and pointed out that the action of the senators shows that the “influence of gender and cultural patterns is still very strong and preeminent in their thinking.”
He advised citizens to make use of the FoI law to request for information from the Senate on the lawmakers who voted against the bills in order to put pressure on them through their constituents.