Sani Yerima, a Senator of the All Progressives Congress from Zamfara, on Tuesday rallied lawmakers to defeat a bill seeking equal rights for women, and an end gender discrimination.
Mr. Yerima, a known opponent of reforms seeking to promote women’s rights, argued that the Nigerian Constitution was clear on rights of citizens, including women.
The official title of the bill is: “A bill for an Act to Incorporate and enforce certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the Protocol of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the rights of women in Africa, and other matters connected therewith, 2016 (SB. 116)”.
The bill’s sponsor, Abiodun Olujimi, (PDP-Ekiti State), said the proposed legislation was aimed at promoting gender parity and empowering women politically and socio-economically.
Mrs. Olujimi said the proposed law sought equal opportunity, development advancement for all Nigerian citizens irrespective of gender.
She emphasized the bill would promote girls’ access to education, freedom for women to participate in any economic activity and their right to freedom from violence.
She also said the bill would ensure equal rights for women in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance.
The bill was supported Senate Leader, Ali Ndume and Bala NaAllah (APC-Kebbi State), who both emphasized the need to protect widowhood and inheritance rights of women.
The deputy senate president, Ike Ekwweremaudu, Fatimat Raji-Rasaki (PDP-Ekiti State) and Binta Garba (APC-Adamawa State) also supported the bill.
Mr. Yerima said the proposed law was in breach of the Nigerian Constitution. He said the bill was also in conflict with the Sharia Law which is recognised by the Constitution.
Although the bill, which was scheduled for second reading Tuesday, received support from a few Senators, including males, it surprisingly failed to scale through when the senate president, Bukola Saraki, called for a vote.
After the bill was rejected, a visibly happy Mr. Yerima invited journalists, and expressed satisfaction with the outcome.
Apart from Mr. Yerima, Adamu Aliero (APC-Kebbi State) and Immanuel Bwacha (PDP-Taraba State) also strongly opposed the bill.
Like his Zamfara counterpart, Mr. Aliero’s argument was that citizens’ rights were already prescribed by the Constitution.
Mr. Bwacha said he was drawing perspectives from the Bible and history in opposing the bill.
The Senate’s rejection of the bill has drawn criticisms from Nigerians.
On Wednesday, the senate president, Mr. Saraki, assured the bill would be reintroduced after it must have been amended to address reservations that led to its rejection.
Meanwhile, ActionAid has urged women population to be resolute in the quest to achieve gender equality.
“Nigeria’s female citizens: young, old or in-between, easterner, northerner, southerner, westerner or in-between, Muslims, Christian or otherwise, rural, urban or peri-urban, rich, poor or neither, literate or not – let this rejection be our rallying cry,” the ActionAid Country Director, Ojobo Atuluku said in a statement.
“We have a responsibility to find a common space within which to pitch our voices and provide the source from which our women in public offices and their male allies can draw strength and rejuvenate themselves.”
Mrs. Ojikutu called for electronic voting in the National Assembly to enable Nigerians know the choices made by their representatives.