Source: This Day (Abuja)
March 1, 2022 was a sad day for Nigerian women. Despite extensive lobbying, consultations, negotiations, and advocacy, the 9th National Assembly (NASS) joined previous ones to legitimise the discrimination of women in Nigeria. It is particularly worrisome that this happened on the first day of International Women’s Month, and on the Zero Discrimination Day when the world commemorated the right of everyone to live a full, productive, and dignified life that is free from discrimination. Paradoxically, this year’s Zero Discrimination Day was themed “Remove laws that harm, create laws that empower,” highlighting the moral and legal obligation of states to expunge discriminatory laws and enact laws that protect people from discrimination considering that laws determine the different treatments of different people.
The ongoing review of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended) has reached the stage whereby, following the transmission of the harmonised proposed Constitutional Amendment bills by the Joint Constitution Review Committee to both chambers, two-thirds of the members of each of the Senate and House of Representatives (HoR) is required for each amendment bill to pass. This was the event that took place on March 1, as the upper and lower chambers simultaneously voted on these amendment bills. It is noteworthy that both chambers are required to vote the same way on a bill for it to scale through the next stage of the constitutional amendment process, such that if a bill fails in one chamber but passes in another, the bill still fails.
Of the 68 bills proposed for constitutional amendment, five were directly related to gender equality:
1. Citizenship: The bill seeks to amend Section 26 of the Constitution to provide for citizenship by registration to foreign spouses of Nigerian women, as is currently guaranteed for men in Section 26(2)(a). As it stands, a Nigerian woman cannot confer her citizenship to her foreign husband, as her male counterpart. With voting recorded as: Senate – Yes: 83, No: 2; and HoR – Yes: 135, No: 143, the bill failed to pass.