The negative consequences of tobacco smoking to public health and consumers is no news. What is worrisome is the addiction to the tobacco smoking despite the unpleasant effects and the attendant hazards on first hand and second hand consumers.
About eight million cigarette smokers in the world die every year, while six of every 10 cigarette smokers are likely to die from heart-related diseases, with the second hand smokers being the worst hit according to medical statistics.
Who is a second hand smoker? A person who stays in an environment that is saturated by tobacco smoke.
Consequently, medical experts have warned Nigerians to desist from the intake of tobacco because about 17,500 Nigerians die yearly as a result of smoking cigarettes.
Peter Unekwu-Ojo is a crusader against cigarette consumption and has remained committed to this cause.
At a one-day workshop organised by a non-governmental organisation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) with the theme, Tobacco Tax Digital Advocacy’ for Female Journalists in Rivers State held recently in Port Harcourt, as part of the organisation’s efforts to intensify advocacy on tobacco tax increase in order to reduce the high level of death rates as well as diseases associated with the intake of cigarettes in Nigeria, Unekwu-Ojo, who spoke on health and economic consequences of tobacco smoking, decried the increasing rate of tobacco smoking.
“Loking at the world statistics, you will discover that from Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) carried out in Ukraine in 2017 for instance, we have it that more than eight million people die of tobacco issue. Smoking is addictive due to its natural chemical contents.
Frowning at the fact that Nigeria is one of the largest tobacco markets in Africa with many people addicted to smoking, Unekwu-Ojo advocated the upward review of tax on tobacco products.
“ECOWAS level of taxation is 59 per cent, WHO level is 79 percent, while in Nigeria it is just 16.4 per cent, this is too low as it is targeted at younger generation to easily get access to this drug and inhale without knowing how dangerous it is to their health.
”Government at all levels should increase tax on tobacco consumption, so as to drastically reduce patronage as well as reduce the high death rates in Nigeria. Who are the replacement smokers? The Children and they have a mandate, 50, 000 smokers on daily bases mostly from the children and this tells eventually of what becomes of our children in the future? that is why from today the government must take it as a duty to increase tax on all tobacco products.”
According to him, about 4.5 trillion sticks of cigarettes are littered on the ground worldwide, which is also responsible to the climate change being experienced in the world today, as cigarette sticks do not decompose, but rather stay in the ground for over 15 years.
On women smoking, Unekwu-Ojo emphasised that there are some major risk factors associated with women smoking cigarettes such as cardiovascular diseases, ammonia, complications arising during pregnancy, cancer, ulcer.
Also some diseases associated with the intake of tobacco by adults include: nasal irritation, lung cancer, urinary, heart diseases, among others.
“It equally affects women during child birth as their reproductive system have already been impaired by some of these chemicals that are capable of triggering the chemicals produced by the body system”.
According to him, “About 7,000 dangerous chemicals constitute one stick of cigarette and these 7,000 chemicals are classified into cambium used in the production of battery, nicotine used in the production of pesticide, ammonia used in the production of toilet cleaner, such as Harpic, among others, acetone used in the production of rat poison, radon is more like a radioactive gas, steric acid used in the production of candle wax, so you can imagine what people are really taking inside their body, coal tar used in the production of road surfaces, these are contents of a typical cigarette, methanol used in production of fuel, methane is a sewage gas and part of what people consume.
“If you are looking at the danger associated with the intake of cigarettes there are so many toxic gases, these are gases that are harmful to living things that pass through the lungs into the body system, among others just as a result of being exposed to tobacco. Let us be very sincere and specific about it, tobacco smoking is completely dangerous”.
Unekwu-Ojo claimed that about seven million deaths are as a result of direct intake of tobacco, while about 1.2million died as a result of what he called “second hand” smoking.
“Going back to the demography, you will discover that about 80 per cent of the world 1.1billion smokers are in low and medium income countries which Nigeria happens to be within this range as well as most African countries”.
Speaking on cigarettes effects on children, the medical expert says:
“If you look at it from the perspective just mentioned above, you will discover that even children are not left out in second hand smoking. An average child crawls on the ground making them closer to the floor where these residues are poured. A child is exposed to it either through the hands, legs, knee. You can imagine the danger as it affects both the middle ear disease in children, causes respiratory system diseases such as collapse of the lungs, among others.?
“Apart from direct smoking, there is also what we call second hand smoking; in this case one is exposed to inhaling smoke not necessarily because he smokes directly, but because he has either entered a room that a smoker was staying in. There is always the residue of that smoke, either on the bed, seat, or television and door handle, among others. It is also a very strong indication that once a non-smoker’s body is in touch with any of these other mentioned items, ordinarily the body system will absorb it, this means invariably the person is also smoking, so that is why I get that figure that non-smokers are about 1,2million dying as a result of exposure to tobacco smoke. This is a very dangerous trend and that is why we are saying that the media should come in because they are the fourth estate of the realm and they have a very strong representation and a very strong voice in, this circumstance,” the health expert added.
There are certain chemicals that are produced by the body namely, estrogen and progesterone, particularly these affect the women. The intake of cigarettes has a way of affecting the genes. Some of the diseases that adults are exposed to as a result of the intake of cigarettes are stroke, blindness, heart disease, pneumonia among others, so it is a big challenge when those hormones are affected.
On the role of the media to curb cigarettes smoking, he said, “as it is now, it seems journalists do not know their responsibilities any longer, let there be more knowledge, they need to step up their game because the people are waiting for them to manifest because people form public opinion as a result of what is junked out there by the journalists.
To discourage the tobacco production and desire to indulge into it, the Federal Government initiated Tobacco Tax.
According to Onekwu-Ojo, while teaching on the Topic: ‘Understanding Framework Conversation on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Article 6 And Nigeria Tobacco Tax’, the call for increased taxes and prices on Tobacco will reduce overall tobacco consumption and prevalence of tobacco use; prevent initiation among youth; as well as promote cessation among current users.
“The guided principle of Article 6 is an important source of revenue generation, tobacco taxes should be protected from vested interests.
With the involvement of more than ten percent of global population in Tobacco addiction, many people wonder if there is a way out.
To this end Unekwu-Ojo, however, recommended for adoption and implementation of Article 6, that parties should establish coherent long-time policies on their tobacco taxation structure, stressing that taxes rate should be increased, monitored or adjusted on a regular basis, potentially annually, taking into consideration inflation and income growth development.
Tobacco kills more than half of its users and more than eight million people each year as such, the use of tobacco should be discouraged”.
Also speaking, Mr Solomon Adoga, who spoke on the interference of tobacco industry, explained that the tobacco industry has power to weaken and threaten government by stopping them from putting policies that will negatively affect their tobacco business.
“Tobacco Industry does not care about the health consequences, hence the reason they are not really emphasising it even though in some of their adverts they say that ‘Tobacco smoking is dangerous to health’ on a lighter note, whereas push more on the patronage and use of tobacco.
On his part, Okeke Anya said “in CISLAC, we want to create more awareness fora through community engagement, so that we can know and ensure knowledge is passed around.
On the need to monitor tobacco industries, a resource person Mr. Solomon Wonah, said there was a long issue undermining public health policy that is built on deception, manipulation.
“As long as Tobacco Industry is concerned, all hands must be on deck to up their games”.
He charged media personnel to be versatile on enabling laws and issues relating to the well being of humanity so that they will be able to make proper use of their power to shame, and expose owners of tobacco industry and promoters.
One of the participants, Edith Chukwu, expressed satisfaction and joy for being chosen to benefit from the training, which she described as an eye opener, noting that she never understood the high-risk that a non-smoker would have, just by staying in an atmosphere saturated with cigarettes smoke.
She assured of her determination to ensure the use of tobacco is reduced to barest minimum.
For another participant, Dr Ngozi Anosike, “the training revealed many things to look out for on our children, especially teenagers in this digital age, “Parents should sit up to their responsibilities by knowing every detail about the type of friends their children keep as well as some sophisticated materials that look totally different from what it is intended for.
“As a journalist and a mother, I would ensure that my children stay far away from tobacco smoking, also I will not relent on writing on tobacco until the desired change we all want to see is achieved”.
By: Susan Serekara-Nwikhana
Nigeria’s Conduct Of National Population, Housing Census: How Feasible?
The Oxford Advanced Dictionary has defined census as the process of officially counting of something, especially a country’s population and recording of various facts. When a series of census has been undertaken properly it becomes easier, using the rate of growth, to estimate the population between the periods of counts. The data that emanate from the census help countries in a fair distribution of national wealth and for planning; in formulation of policies towards population growth as well as in delineation of constituencies.
Researchers make constant use of the information made available through census, just as the data is helpful in revenue allocation to the various tiers of government.The Nigeria Population Commission (NPC) has identified a nationwide census as crucial for national development. No doubt, since 2006 when the nation held her last census exercise, a lot has happened in terms of human population growth.
According to the Director-General of NPC, Nasir Isa-Kwarra, census generates data used by the government and the private sector for policy making, planning and development. He added that demographic data is important for national development due to its influence on sectoral planning and direction of government priorities.
However, while the result of the census conducted in 2006 put the population of the country at 140.43 million comprising 71.3 million male and 69.0 million females, analysts are contending the propriety of conducting a new census in 2023 or otherwise. They questioned the timing of the exercise and said that it may put a strain on the economy and political activities.
Despite the fact that the planned census is coming 16 years after the last headcount, it has constituted a major concern and challenge for the Federal Government, considering the economic and security challenges that have bedevilled the country in recent times. Presently, Nigeria could be termed as an environment fraught with resource-demanding challenges ranging from educational instability, fuel scarcity and insecurity, among others.
Based on the above considerations, some concerned Nigerians hold the view that the pilot census which is targeted in June 2022, after political parties must have held their primary elections, would create an avenue for the manipulation of population size for political gains. Others posit that it would create competition within states to inflate their population so as to get more government resources. The long list of problems plaguing the timing of the 2023 census and fear of an inaccurate census which might result in inappropriate planning and distribution of resources, have led many to call for its suspension.
The financial expenditure cost of the Enumeration Area Demarcation (EAD) in 772 local government areas of the federation, as well as the first and second census pretest in selected enumerations was pegged at N10 billion naira (about $US26million) , from the cost of the main census budgeted for the sum of 178.09 billion naira. “Conducting a census when Nigeria is deep in debt with visible challenges is a destructive oversight bearing consequences that would draw the country closer to extinction,’’ a financial expert, Mr Joe Gawo said.
According to Joe, in every economy there are needs and wants, as a nation, it is meaningless placing our wants over needs. Highlighting the state of the nation at the moment, he said “ we can’t conduct a credible and meaningful census without adequate security, university brains are on strike, and the community is experiencing financial difficulties. He noted that though census could be necessary, it is not a daunting need at the moment. Thus, we can temporarily substitute the census data with information acquired through the national identification number.
“It is no secret that our national resources are scarce, therefore any mismanagement will eventually spell doom for the country,” Gawo cautioned.
Mr. Joseph Omeje, an economist and university lecturer, shared a similar view with Gawo. He said, “putting economic, political, religious and security factors into consideration, it will be very difficult for the country to conduct and obtain generally acceptable census results. The inflationary rate as at last week is about 16.8 percent which is an indicator that our economy is in a very precarious situation and as such, no reasonable government will be talking of census while there is fire on the mountain”.
Meanwhile, a public affairs analyst, Mr Gboyega Onadiran, has said that population is the greatest asset in the development process. According to him, leaving our people uncounted for 17 years is not a good testimony to our commitment to planned and sustainable development of our country.
Nigeria has an estimated population of about 206 million, making it the seventh most populous country in the world. According to the United Nations, the country’s population is projected to increase to 263 million in 2030 and 401 million in 2050 when it will become the third most populous country in the world.
The report published in 2017 by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which provides a comprehensive review of global demographic trends and prospects for the future, projected shifts in country population rankings. The new projections include some notable findings at the country level. China with 1.4 billion inhabitants and India 1.3 billion inhabitants remain the two most populous countries, comprising 19 and 18 per cent of the total global population. In roughly seven years, or around 2024, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China.
“Among the ten largest countries worldwide, Nigeria is growing the most rapidly. Consequently, the population of Nigeria, currently the world’s 7th largest, is projected to surpass that of the United States and become the third largest country in the world shortly before 2050,’’ the report said. Unfortunately, many seem not to pay attention to the implications of this, particularly on Nigeria’s economy. More attention is obviously paid to politics and electioneering activities ahead of the general elections coming up in February 2023.
No doubt, elections are critical to Nigeria’s democracy but what is the assurance that the proposed 2022 census will not complicate the 2023 general elections?.
Apart from the perceived huge burden on the national economy and escalating insecurity, another reason being flaunted against the conduct of the 2022 population and housing census is its proximity to the 2023 general election. While some hold that census is politically relevant because of its use for delineation of constituencies and revenue allocation, others posit that the position of election which is about struggle for power does not make the two strange bedfellows. ‘This linkage does not necessarily make census and election strange bedfellows.
“It is indeed an exaggeration to place census on the same level of sensitivity with elections or to assume that census will complicate elections.
“This line of reasoning betrays a limited understanding of the complex factors that drive the level of sensitivity of census and election, which are different and definitely not mutually reinforcing as to make their conduct within a shared time frame a no-go area.
In examining the potential impact of census on the electoral process and outcome, concerns on the need to divorce census from election have largely been raised in relation to security as a university lecturer and a political scientist, Yusuf Dyep, believes that a joint or close implementation of the two activities might further compromise the fragile peace in the country,’’ Meanwhile, the National Population Commission (NPC) has resolved to conduct the 2023 population and housing census in accordance with the law. The Executive Chairman of NPC, Alhaji Nasir Kwarra stressed the need for a legal framework in place to enable the conduct of a digital census.
The Chairman said that the commission had spent considerable time preparing for a reliable and accurate census over the years. “The commission has successfully demarcated 772 local governments out of the 774 local governments. The commission is also proposing a preliminary census by June 2022,” he said.
Chairman, Senate Committee on National Population and Identity Management Senator Yau Sahabi, said that the National Assembly was determined to support NPC to conduct a successful digital census.
The House of Representatives was not left out. Chairman, House Committee on Legislative Compliance, Mr Dennis Idahosah, said that the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was committed to credible and reliable census. While commending NPC for embracing emerging technology, Idahosah said that it was critical in carrying out the exercise as was done in Ghana and South Africa. He explained that a digital census would not only guarantee speed, but drive an accurate census with lesser errors.
The Chairman, Legal Committee, NPC, Mr Audu Buratai, said the commission would continue to take necessary steps in line with the law to ensure a successful digital census. Buratai maintained that any action taken outside the dictates of the law will amount to exercise in futility. He solicited the collaboration of the members of the legal community to drive a law-compliant digital census by 2023.
In addition to this, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, explained that the Federal Government will undertake enumeration of empty houses nationwide as part of measures to address housing deficit. According to him, the ministry has called on the NPC to help it in undertaking the task, while conducting the national population census. “Last week or two weeks ago, I called on the National Population Commission that as they are about to embark on a census in the country, they should assist us in collecting data about Nigeria’s housing needs.
“What kind of houses that they find in households whether it is owned or rented. If it is rented, do they want to buy or do they want to rent, let us build a body of data under the census exercise. Because we will be enumerating houses so that we can have a more precise need of Nigerians. I have copied that letter to collaborative ministries including planning and budget. So, I hope that they will help us in the next census exercise,’’ Fashola said.
Fashola said he was also engaging some consultants in his ministry to do sampling data on empty houses. He said this would be done to address concerns about the access to housing “we also see a lot of empty houses unoccupied, how many they are and why they are empty.” Speaking on workers benefiting from the National Housing Scheme, Fashola said an agreement had been reached with labour to allocate 10 per cent of the houses to workers.
“We have an agreement with the unions that 10 percent of the national housing project will be for them, but in order for them to do so, they still have to go to the housing portal. “Because we have created a portal on the web, people who are interested in acquiring the national housing programme in the 34 states, go to the ministry’s website. “You have the national housing portal there, download the form, you have to fill a form, show your ID card, show that you are a taxpayer and process the form online.
“We have eliminated the process where people are selling form with human interference.’’The minister said they have a lot of issues surrounding the housing sector hence the portal had helped in reducing such issues and unnecessary accusations by members of the public pertaining to sale of forms. He said that the ministry was also collaborating with the Head of Service under the FISH programme where workers contribute to the national housing fund for home renovation projects under the federal mortgage bank policy. According to him, this is also a way to ensure that workers get access to the national housing programme thereby reducing further the housing deficit.
By: Calista Ezeaku
Curbing Irregular Migration, Sex Slavery In Africa
Data made available by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), showed that between January and May last year, 29,000 people of sub-Saharan African origin went to Europe through the Central Mediterranean route, mainly in search of greener pastures.
Unfortunately, their fate is uncertain, as they may end up as sex slaves, victims of organ theft, among others. Most of the irregular migrants were not aware of dangers ahead.
Aside those who ‘successfully’ made it, over 761 others died in the quest to cross, about 13,000 were pushed back by the Libyan Coast Guard, while thousands of others are languishing in detention facilities.
However, the tale is not only bleak in Europe, irregular migrants within Africa also suffer similar fate of forced labour and sex slavery.
According to a 2018 report by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), there were over 20,000 Nigerian girls working as sex slaves in Mali.
According to Frantz Celestin, chief of mission, IOM Nigeria, migration to Europe is mostly captured in the media space whereas a higher number of migrants remain within Africa.
“Most people look at the media report of migrants trying to get across to Europe, but the fact is that the vast majority of migrants who decide to move from one place of habitual residence, they decide to do so within the African continent.
“In fact, less than five per cent of those on the move go to Europe, the vast majority of them stay within the continent.
“If you look at ECOWAS citizens, more than 90 per cent of them stay within the ECOWAS space.
“Giving the number of people on the move and knowing how vulnerable people tend to be if they are migrating irregularly, the chances of them being trafficked or abused during their journey is quite high.
“So, if so many people are moving within the ECOWAS space, it is safe to conclude that a lot of them are being trafficked with the ECOWAS space,” he said.
He said that from the study which had been carried out by the IOM, Mali remained top of the list of locations for Nigerian girls trafficked within Africa.
“If we know all of these and if ECOWAS tends to reason that there might be a lot of women trafficked within its space, what do we do?
“It is to make sure we understand the pattern, look at the trends, see where they are going – and Mali has quite a number of young Nigerian women as sex workers in the Gold Mine District.
“So if I were to say, given the numbers that we have seen, Mali is the number one destination in West Africa for Nigerian women who were trafficked.
“But there are trafficking going on throughout the ECOWAS space.’’
Celestin who interacted with the media recently to advance the activities of the UN agency, pointed out that a sizeable number of the 29,000 persons who made it to Europe were Nigerians.
The IOM chief who did not give specific figures pointed out that in spite of its campaign and sensitisation across Nigeria, many still opt to move as they are driven by many factors that must be addressed.
Celestin said that “the drivers could be conflict, social-economic pressures, population pressures, it could be disasters, climate induce phenomenon and we have seen quite a number of them with the severity and frequency going up and up.
“There are a lot of push factors out there and we only see that they are increasing.
“So how do we step forward to mitigate the number of people migrating as well as the level of suffering we see in that process.?
“It is not going to stop unless the drivers are removed or mitigated, and these drivers are hardship, conflict, disasters and the fact that we have more people looking for work and a lot of people underemployed.
“So the combination of unemployment and under employment will definitely push people forward.
“You can tell them as much as you want, but if you don’t find something to keep them in place, they will migrate.
“All of the work that we do is to prevent, reduce and address the drivers of migration,” he said.
Celestin however clarified that the work of IOM was not to discourage migration, as he insists that it is necessary for migration to take place, stressing that the import was for migration to be done the right way.
It is perhaps in its bid to drive home the message of migration across Nigeria that the IOM had continually sought partnerships with the Nigerian media.
At one of such dialogue held recently in Abuja, Celestin appealed to the media, as indispensable partners to help in getting the right message of migration across Nigeria.
“IOM would like to use this dialogue to facilitate your direct involvement in the dissemination of credible information on migration in support of its efforts to ensure orderly, dignified, and safe migration.
“Maintaining good media relation is indispensable and contribute to IOM’s daily work.
“IOM will continue to work with you to shed light on the plight of the people, and the often-hidden opportunities that arise from migration.
“Governments, migrants, potential migrants, and average citizens are much more likely to hear about IOM’s work through the media than through official reports.
“The role of media in achieving IOM’s objectives is crucial. Hence, the need for information flow built on cordial relationship between media outlets and IOM Nigeria.
“IOM is committed to working with journalists who will act as conduits of the organisation’s message,” he said.
Stakeholders believe that the ultimate solution to irregular migration lies in mitigating the drivers of migration, which will in turn mitigate trafficking, sex slavery, organ theft, among others.
Celestin believes that the $150 billion trafficking industry which has been identified to have high yields and low risks to the perpetrators, can only end with concerted efforts.
With specific reference to Africa, he said: “What is required is a coordinated response by all the member states and what we would call proper guidance by ECOWAS to effectively identify these networks and disrupt their criminal activity.
“What we are going to do is to systematically create bilateral relationships with these governments.
“Last month, IOM Nigeria and IOM Niger had a 10-day conference where we were with NAPTIP and immigration officials from Nigeria and their counterpart in Niger.
“We brought them together to get these two agencies, Nigeria Immigration Service on the border part controlling who is going and then NAPTIP and their counterpart in Niger to coordinate and share information to disrupt these networks that are putting people in bondage and selling them as cattle and abusing them.
“So coordinated efforts, bilateral relationship and sharing of information are extremely important in stemming the flow of people and preventing these criminals from using people as commodity.
“No agency, no country, no one person can do it by him or herself, it requires a whole lot of society approach, a coordinated approach and putting the necessary mechanism in place to get this done.
“IOM is a solid partner; we offer our support to our member states, to the governments and support direct assistance to those who have been victimised by these criminals,” he said.
Indeed, it remains an arduous task to convince people to stay back in their home countries rather that migrate irregularly, especially when hunger, unemployment and insecurity continue unabated.
It is thus a clarion call for governments, particularly in Africa, to live up to their responsibilities, take advantage of their human and material resources and harness such for the betterment of their people.
In the words of an economist, Amarachukwu Nwosu, “Africa has more than the potential needed to be better than Europe and America. That potential should be harnessed.
By: Ifeanyi Nwoko
Nwoko writes for News Agency of Nigeria.
Why Our Gender Bills Should Fly
In 2020, Justice Akon Ikpeme, an indigene of Akwa Ibom State married to a man from Cross River State was denied the position of the substantive chief judge of the state because she was not from there by birth even though she met the requirements for the job and had worked in the state for many years. It took a nationwide outcry and protests by several women groups for the State Assembly to backtrack and confirm her as the substantive chief judge of the state.
In December 2014, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, an indigene of Imo State but married to an Abia State man was appointed chief judge of Abia State by former Governor Theodore Orji and hell was let loose as the State Assembly and many other people from the state criticised the appointment owing to the fact that she was a ‘non-indigene’.
Justices Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo of Abia State, Patricia Mahmoud of Kano State, Elizabeth Asabe Karatu from Kebbi State and several other judicial officers had similar experiences when they were to be appointed into certain offices in their husbands’ states. They would dedicate themselves in serving the states of their marriage for many years and no one asked why a ‘non-indigene’ would serve the states so well but when it was time for them to be elevated or be given an opportunity to serve in a higher capacity, the issue of their parentage was raised.
Section 26 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria provides that a non-Nigerian woman married to a Nigerian man can become a Nigerian citizen by Registration. No mention was made of a non-Nigerian man married to a Nigerian woman. Shouldn’t such a person also enjoy the privilege of becoming a Nigerian?
Just a few days ago, a federal high court in Abuja dismissed a suit by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) seeking to invalidate some provisions in the Nigeria Police Force Regulations (NPFR) which forbid unmarried female police officers from getting pregnant.
The Association had approached the court to challenge the legality of regulation 127 of the NPFR, which provides that “an unmarried woman police officer, who becomes pregnant, shall be discharged from the Force and shall not be re-enlisted except with the approval of the inspector-general of police”, arguing that the said provision contradicts the 1999 constitution and is discriminatory to unmarried female police officers. But Justice Inyang Ekwo ruled that there was no basis for this action in the first place and that an unmarried woman who intends to get pregnant is not compelled to join the police. “Where such a woman becomes a police officer, she is bound by the regulation on pregnancy while being unmarried”, he held.
Search through the NPFR and you will see no similar regulation for single male police officers. A male single police officer can impregnate as many women as he likes and nothing happens to him. It goes without saying that the pregnant single police woman did not impregnate herself, a man was definitely responsible. What if that man is a single police man? The woman will be fired while the man continues to enjoy his job?
These are some of the anomalies the gender bills that were rejected by the National Assembly at the ongoing constitutional amendment exercise aimed at addressing. The sponsors of the bill, which included male and female, wanted the discriminatory citizenship section in the constitution to be amended to make room for equal treatment of both male and female non-Nigerian who can become Nigerian citizens by marriage.
They wanted the issue of non-indigeneship to be legislated upon so that going forward, no woman will be denied her rightful position in her state of marriage; women will be able to take indigeneship in their husband’s state after five years of being together. You can imagine the emotional and psychological effect of the rejection by both their husbands’ state and their state of origin, who usually send them back to their husbands’ state because they have been married out. Both states claim they are not their indigenes, so, where are they from? Shouldn’t this be tackled constitutionally to prevent the unfair, discriminatory acts meted on the women and give them a full sense of belonging?
Honestly, one is tempted to agree with some female activists who claim that the lawmakers that voted against the bills did not even go through them to know what they contained because looking at the importance of some aspects of the bills towards making Nigeria a more peaceful, more progressive society, one would have expected all the legislators to give their nod to them. These lawmakers have wives, sisters, daughters and other females around them who will benefit from these bills both now and in the future. In fact, the entire nation will be better off because it has been proven that the more women participate in governance and politics, the better for the country.
It is sad that 61 years after Independence, women have only 4.4 per cent representation in the National Assembly, occupying only 19 out of 469 seats in both chambers of the Legislature. In all the state Assemblies nationwide, only 44 members are women. About 15 states are said to have no female lawmakers such that men chair the Women Affairs Committee in those Houses. This explains the ranking of Nigeria as the worst performer in women representation in parliaments, in the West African region and one of the lowest in the whole of Africa by a recent report.
So, any necessary action to shove up the numbers should be seriously considered. An example that comes to mind on issues like this is Rwanda. In 2003, Rwanda passed an amendment of her constitution which established a 30 per cent reservation for women across all elective positions. By the end of the 2013 General Elections, 61 per cent of the seats in the Rwandan parliament went to women, underscoring Rwanda as the leader and frontier of women in politics and governance across the globe. Other countries like Cuba, UAE, Bolivia, Mexico, and Sweden have adopted Rwanda’s style by implementing similar tactics which helped each of them achieve a higher number of women in politics and governance. Why can’t Nigeria follow suit?
What is the big deal about granting women 35 per cent affirmative action in party administration and leadership as well as specific seats for women in the National and State Assemblies? Why can’t the women’s request for the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunities bill currently before the Senate and immediate domestication of the African Charters Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, which Nigeria ratified in 2004 as well as the domestication of the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Nigeria ratified in 1985 be granted by the National Assembly?
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebration is gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow, #BreakTheBias and it is, indeed, high time Nigeria joined other countries the world over to come up with sincere and practicable measures of eliminating all forms of discriminations and bias against women both in the political sphere, workplace, at school and at home and everywhere. Nigerian women truly deserve better treatment and more inclusion and participation in government.
However, the manner in which the women go about getting these demands can make a whole lot of difference. Being confrontational and antagonistic as leaders of some women groups have been since the rejection of the gender bills is not the way to go. African culture, the tenets of the various religions being practiced on the continent require women to submit to men. If the women in Nigeria overlook this and make it seem as if they are rubbing shoulders with the men, achieving their goal may be difficult irrespective of how laudable they may be.
Again, although many women have debunked the assertion of the spokesman of the House of Representative, Benjamin Kalu concerning why the gender bills could not scale through, it is important the champions of the bills and the women groups take into cognizant some points made by the law maker. He said, “It takes a lot of orientation; it takes a lot of advocacy. It takes a lot of sensitisation to enable people to buy into these important agendas. Do you know why? Because you cannot play down on our current issues with regards to emerging democracies, one of which is our religious disposition, our cultural dispositions.
“These things play a role. We are part of the society, our religion and culture is part of society. It needs a lot of advocacy by civil society organisations, women groups, to push this agenda forward; it is a wonderful agenda.”
It is also important that women should resolve to support, encourage and mentor one another. A situation where a woman stands for an election and gets little or no votes from her fellow women does not show that the women are serious about achieving the goal. Besides, women should develop themselves educationally and otherwise to be qualified for whatever appointment and not just wait for the offer to be thrown at them merely because they are women.
By: Calista Ezeaku
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