The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has commenced plans to implement a recently approved gender policy that will ensure the interests of women are promoted, protected and defended starting from the 2015 elections.
At a meeting held on Friday with a women advocacy group led by the Minister for Women Affairs, Zainab Maina, the INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, said the electoral commission would not condone the exclusion of women in the electoral process especially at the party level.
He also said “no country records success in economic development and progress without creating an enabling environment for women”, pointing out that women make up a percentage of the electorate that Nigeria cannot afford to ignore.
In her speech, Mrs Maina urged the electoral commission to intervene in the processes so that women and persons living with disabilities are not schemed out or intimidated in the political process.
The Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Zainab Maina, has appealed to Nigerians not to relent in their prayers for the release of abducted school girls from Chibok, in Borno State.
Speaking at a special prayer organised for the release of the girls, Miss Maina also appealed for the support of Nigerians in the fight against terrorism.
“Securing the nation is the duty of all,” she said.
The programme, was neither a church service, nor a Jummat prayer but an interfaith service organised to pray for the safe return of girls abducted 51 days ago.
Clergy men and school children, who were also in attendance, also prayed for the release of the girls from their captors.
With the call by eminent people around the world for the safe return of the abducted girls, it is expected that security agencies will step up the search for the girls who were abducted from their school more than 51 days ago.
Meanwhile, a pressure group based in Abuja on Wednesday cancelled its regular sit-outs following a reported ban on protests in the Federal Capital Territory, ordered by the Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu.
The group has gone ahead to sue the Commissioner, a case which will be heard on Thursday.
As Nigeria mark the 2014 Children’s Day, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Zainab Maina, has appealed to parents not to be discouraged by the security situation in the country.
She advised that it was important, irrespective of their fears, to send their children and wards to school.
Mrs Maina, who spoke at a news conference in Abuja, said that it was regrettable that the abduction of the Chibok girls took place when the Federal Government was strategizing on how to balance the gender gap in education.
She ended with a promise to provide psycho-social support, trauma management and counseling for parents and over 200 abducted school girls of Chibok when they are rescued.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Senator David Mark, has called for prayers for the survival of the Nigerian child so he does not become an endangered specie in the hands of abductors and kidnappers.
In a goodwill message to mark Children’s Day, the Senate President lamented the non-release of the over 200 Government Secondary School girls abducted by the dreaded Boko Haram sect in Chibok, Borno State.
Senator Mark insisted that it was in realization of the dangers faced by children in today’s world and the need to address same that the National Assembly passed the Child Rights Act into law and pleaded with some state governments yet to implement the Child Rights Law to do so without further delay.
May 27 is the officially recognized date for the celebration of Children’s Day in Nigeria. The date varies from country to country.
Senate President, David Mark, has accused Senator Ahmed Yerima, who is at the centre of the child marriage controversy, of blackmailing the Senate to reverse a move to delete a section of the constitution that appears to support child marriage.
Mr. Mark made this known on Wednesday while receiving a high-level team including the Minister of women affairs, Zainab Maina, and chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, who protested the Senate’s failure to delete the section.
“Let me also talk to my own brothers and sisters who are Senators, who were probably blackmailed. That is the fact, because it is in the open that I cannot also hide it and nobody can hide it,” the Senate President said as he affirmed his stance.
“They were simply blackmailed, and on that day, if they didn’t do what they did, nobody knows the outcome or how the consequences will be today, because the people outside can say this man, you are Muslim and didn’t vote for something that is of Islamic interest, because if we don’t hit the nail squarely on the head, we may never get it right” he further explained.
He stated that the Senate was poised to remove the section from the law in the first place until members were blackmailed by Mr. Yerima by his claim that an alternative decision would be un-Islamic.
Mr. Yerima’s call on Islamic law on age of a girl child in marriage compelled the Senate to repeat the vote which had already passed the required mark.
The second vote was defeated, leaving the section intact. The section says a woman married shall be deemed to be of age for the purpose of renouncing citizenship. But many Nigerians fear the section sanctions girl marriage and have asked that it be removed.
Mr. Mark said Senators were not ’paedophiles’ and would reconsider the contentious section.
“We wanted to remove it but it failed, we were a total of 101 Senators, 85 voted and I think about six or so abstained. There were hardly any dissenting votes but once it got mixed up with so many other issues, it didn’t get the required 73 votes anymore.”
“So, first of all, I think the castigation outside is done out of misunderstanding but because a religious connotation was brought into it, which is a very sensitive issue and you must agree with me that in this country, we try as must as possible not to bring issues that involves faith to the floor of the Senate and indeed the chamber, we keep religion completely out of it because what is good for a Christian is also good for a Muslim.”
“The good of the country is for everybody and not for a particular religious sect. I think the bottom line is, when people get more educated, then we can do a re-think and probably, if the Senate agrees, go back and see whether we can get the required number once more, because that is the solution” he added.
Other members of the team that met the Senate President on Wednesday included wife of former Chief Justice of the federation, Maryam Uwais; former Vice President of the World Bank for Africa and former Education Minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili; former women minister, Josephine Anenih; and other top gender activists.
The group asked the Senate to revisit the section and delete it.
“The Senate must remain impervious to emotional, religious reasoning, and focus on the aggregate social good which will protect and enrich the lives of half of the nation’s population,” Minister of women affairs demanded.
“We enjoin the Senate leadership to use every avenue within its rules of procedure to cause a revisit of the vote on Section 29(4) (b). The overwhelming reaction of Nigerians against the outcome of the vote on 16 July, 2013 is a clear and unequivocal indication that women, and indeed diverse and significant constituencies of Nigerians, have concerns for the specific and general implications of the decision of the Senate to retain Section 29(4) (b).”
If the proposal of the Women affairs Minister, Zainab Maina is accepted by the President, then Nigerians should expect death penalty on convicted rapists in the country.
The Minister of Women affairs told journalists in Abuja on Thursday that her ministry is determined to tackle rape by pushing for the passage of the bill.
According to her “we are also trying to make the police set-up a gender desk in every police station to handle such cases so that serious punishment, perhaps death sentence would be handed to culprits,”
Experts however anticipate some challenges in implementing this law, because of the stigma attached to rape, as many people are scared to disclose they have been raped.
Death penalty already exists for crimes such as murder and there is a bill before the national assembly to also make rapists pay the supreme price.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday pledged to support more women entrepreneurs to become drivers of the nation’s economy.
The president made the pledge at the launch of the second edition of youth enterprise with innovation in Nigeria known as YouWin in Abuja.
The president said women as better managers of funds would help address issues of poverty and unemployment.
He assured that the business competition is only part of the fulfillment of his transformation agenda and promised that the business programme would be free from corruption.
The president promised that more women entrepreneurs would be supported to facilitate growth in the nation’s economy through a transparent process.
A total of 1,200 women would be selected in this next phase of the programme.
President Jonathan also used the opportunity to assure Nigerians of his promise to sanitize the nation’s electoral process.
Identifying the various supporters of the project, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said that the programme would ensure that the chronic problem of finance in small and medium scale enterprises would take a dip plunge.
Some of the YouWin awardees, who expressed optimism about the success of the second phase, testified of the credibility of the process.