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MATTERS ARISING: Does n’assembly need extra 111 seats to accommodate more women?

MATTERS ARISING: Does n’assembly need extra 111 seats to accommodate more women?
May 07
10:28 2021

Did you know? An additional 37 seats would be created in the senate and 74 in the house of representatives if a new bill seeking to allocate more seats for women is passed and signed into law?

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The bill, which has scaled second reading at the lower legislative chamber, seeks to alter some sections of the 1999 constitution that stipulate the composition of the legislature at both the national and state levels.

While section 48 (1b) of the bill provides for “an additional senator for each state and for the federal capital territory, who shall be a woman”, section 49 (1b) seeks “two additional members for each state and for the federal capital territory, who shall be women”.

According to the proposed legislation, the existing 109 seats at the senate and 360 at the lower chamber can also be contested by women notwithstanding the exclusive seats.

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DOES NIGERIA REALLY NEED ADDITIONAL SEATS FOR EFFECTIVE REPRESENTATION? 

Currently, women occupy just about four percent of all the national assembly seats — eight of the 109 seats at the senate and 11 of the 360 seats at the house.

Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, deputy chief whip who sponsored the bill alongside 85 others, was not available when contacted for comments, but she had argued that the bill will help ensure effective representation of female legislators in both chambers.

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Nkeiruka Onyejeocha

However, there have been arguments as to whether that is the only way to accommodate more female lawmakers, especially considering the clamour for Nigeria to either reduce the number of lawmakers or slash their salaries to cut the cost of governance.

Among those calling for such cost-saving measures is Rochas Okorocha, senator representing Imo west, who once argued that Nigeria does not need 109 senators and 360 members of the house of representatives.

In an interview with TheCable, Tope Fasua, a politician and economist, said the creation of additional seats in the national assembly would further compound Nigeria’s problems.

Fasua argued that there are many marginalised groups in the country, and such measure for women would simply increase the agitations from other categories of individuals.

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“So now that they have to try to create seats for women, what about the seats for the youths?” he asked.

“And then probably you’ll have to later create some seats for the underprivileged and the people with disabilities. That tells you that you will continue to expand the assembly because there are so many marginalised groups.

“So this one now further bloats the expenses of the national assembly and we don’t need that. Within the structure we have, they should create affirmative action for the women rather than create new seats.”

WHAT DO EXTRA SEATS IMPLY FOR AN AILING ECONOMY?

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While the clamour for more women participation in politics and governance is understandable, some believe additional seats would further crush an ailing economy.

On Tuesday, the federal government disclosed its intention to review salaries of civil servants and some federal agencies to cut the cost of governance, just days after it was reported that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) will deliver zero remittance to the federation accounts allocation committee (FAAC) in May amid dwindling government revenue.

Moreover, some key sectors of the Nigerian economy have been battling financial challenges, ranging from education to the health sector.

Currently, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) are on strike as a result of their owed allowances while the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) recently warned that it might go on another strike over the alleged non-remittance of some financial deductions affecting them which were made by the government.

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The government is still negotiating with the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), which recently suspended its strike over issues bordering on poor remuneration and conditions of service.

Despite the fact that the government has a huge wage bill, each senator gets as much as N13.5 million as running cost covering all their allowances, while a member of the house of representatives gets N8.5 million for the same purpose.

Worse still, at least 83 million Nigerians are living in poverty, while the country’s unemployment rate hit a new record high at 33.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020.

“It’s clear that it (creating additional national assembly seats) will put more pressure on the economy by sapping resources the more,” Fasua said.

EXPERT SAYS KEY CHALLENGE IS POOR REPRESENTATION — NOT NUMBER OF LEGISLATORS

Cynthia Mbamalu, a programme manager at Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), told TheCable that the challenge is not about the number of legislators but about the poor quality of representation.

“We have a poor quality of leadership which is why people are screaming, not because we have over-bloated national assemblies. We have a national assembly that the citizens are not feeling the impact of representation,” she said.

Mbamalu added that even with the resultant increase in the cost of governance, the merits of the proposed law particularly how it would address the issue of low women representation in government cannot be overlooked.

“Does it have cost implications? Yes, it does. It increases the number at the national and states assembly, meaning it has budgetary implications. However, we should not do away with the proposal without looking at the merits and having broader conversations on its purpose which is to get women in,” she said.

“Currently, the whole of the north-west does not have a woman representing them in the senate and the house. Of all the seven states in the north-west, only one woman is in the state assembly in Kaduna.

“Consistently, there are regions that are not producing women or, at least, have a very little percentage of women representing them, meaning there is a problem in the system. And if we do not have any form of legislative advocacy or amendment, we will still struggle with low women representation.

“In Nigeria, if you look at the national assembly, there are several establishment bills while other agencies are being set up every day.”

1 Comment

  1. add
    add May 07, 14:02

    All men need their wives, children need their mother, our society doesn’t need two edge corruption, women can work and return/close from work earlier for their families, to keep family is very crucial and are basically essential to a normal living on earth, even in the animal kingdom. Women are asking too much.

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