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The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen has called on wives of state governors and other stakeholders to work with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to advocate for more inclusion of women in political governance in Nigeria during the forthcoming zonal public hearing preparatory to the review of the 1999 Constitution.

The Minister who was the former deputy governor of Plateau state said this in Abuja at a press briefing organised by the Women Affairs Ministry on the proposed alteration of some provisions of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

She restated that zonal public hearing which will hold in two centres each of the six geopolitical zones of the country from 26th to 27th May, 2021, is an opportunity to improve the level of inclusion of women in both elective and appointive positions.

According to the Minister, "Several positions have been represented through Memoranda to the Constitution Amendment Committee, including the one from the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, and those of our partners in the Women Political Participation Technically Working Group (WPP-TNG) and other Civil Society Organisations".

The Minister observed that despite efforts to improve on women participation in political governance in Nigeria, including a formal support through the National Gender Policies (2006) which recommends a benchmark of 35 percent in all sectors, not much has been achieved till date.

She therefore lauded the proposal to include gender as a benchmark for Federal Character and related matters as well as creating of additional special seats for women in the federal and state Legislative Houses, by altering some Sections of the 1999 Constitution.

The Sections to be altered in order to increase women participation on political governance in Nigeria, the Minister stated, include Sections 48, 49, 71, 72, 77, 91 and 117.

Earlier, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had commended the courage and thoughtfulness of the National Assembly in proposing a law for constitutional amendment for 111 special additional seats for women in the two chambers of the NASS to serve as a remedy to the current low representation of women in legislative Houses in Nigeria.

The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq in identifying with aforesaid demand by the women, recalled that the Commission had on serval occasions in the past collaborated with various Civil Society Organization (CSOs), UNDP and the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs etc in proposing “Women Participation in Elections Bill” and several other related bills that would give legal backing to affirmative action towards widening the political space for women participation in politics and governance in the country.

According to “Mr Human Rights” in Nigeria, most of the laws and policies in Nigeria today need affirmative action to be mainstreamed into them so that all can appreciate and understand issues bothering on the female gender.

In her remarks, at the occasion, the Founder of Women Aid Collective (WACOL), Prof. Joy Ezeilo stated that stakeholders should be united in pushing for laws that will guarantee the protection and enforcement of political rights of women in Nigeria, saying that policies alone cannot address this concern.

Prof. Ezeilo who is also a Consultant to the House of Representatives urged CSOs and other stakeholders to take advantage of the forthcoming zonal Constitution review to widen the political space for active participation of women in political governance in the country.

Similarly, UN Women Country Representatives/ECOWAS Ms Comfort Lampty charged CSOs, women and other concerned groups to participate actively in the proposed zonal public hearing on Construction review and ensure that issues pertaining to women involvement in decision making at both federal and state governments levels are strongly presented towards achieving the desired goal.

The UN envoy who was represented at the occasion by Mr. Desmond Osemije said that the idea of Constitution review to increase the number of seats in both federal and state legislative Houses is a welcome development given that woman have a critical role to play in addressing gender-based violations and in contributing their quota to national development.