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Constitutional review: Buhari seeks inclusion of affirmative action

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Directs Ministers To Partner With NASS
• Women, Tuface Laud President

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, to partner with the National Assembly and comes up with reforms that would be part of the ongoing constitutional and electoral reform processes.

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Buhari, who gave the directive yesterday in Abuja, said he remains fully committed to seeing more Nigerian women in leadership positions both at national and international institutions, assuring that access to credit would be further eased and more space created for them to participate in politics.

He spoke at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he received National and International Working Groups of the Supporting Advancement of Gender Equity (SAGE) Initiative to commemorate the 2021 International Women’s Day.

The President, who extolled women for their sundry contributions towards sustaining the socio-economic fabric of the country, said his administration was poised to promote women's inclusiveness in national development.

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“This administration places a premium on promoting women’s inclusiveness in national development as we have demonstrated with those holding key portfolios in this administration. They include Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Minister of State for Environment. Minister of State for Transportation, Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Chair, Federal Character Commission and Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

“I am very proud of the achievements of my former Minister for Environment and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed; Fatima Mohammed Kyari as the African Union Permanent Observer to the United Nations and the newly elected Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

“We will continue to support them to succeed. And we shall continue to advocate for our women who qualify to lead international fora,” he noted.

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Buhari noted that women were a credible force in strengthening democracy and promoting the culture of peace and food security, adding: “I am most grateful for the role women have played and continue to play in our government.”

Speaking on the theme for the 2021 International Women’s Day, ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World’, Buhari said Nigeria would be more than ever committed to join in raising the bar for women’s representation at all levels.

“This administration has demonstrated this by engaging in intense diplomacy to support the aspirations of Nigerian women to provide leadership on the global stage.

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“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant problems, including the spike in gender-based violence, this administration promptly responded by declaring zero tolerance to Gender-Based Violence in the country.

“I have since directed the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice in collaboration with the Minister of Women’s Affairs to immediately inaugurate an Inter-Ministerial Gender-Based Violence Management Committee to address all forms of violence against women and children in the country. This body is already in place and running,” he said.

The President also said he had approved that 45 per cent of the Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Funds be reserved exclusively for women, while five per cent should go to other vulnerable groups, apart from the immediate palliatives targeting them.

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“We have also expanded our social intervention programmes to further address the needs of the most vulnerable women in our society.

“Education of the girl child and the empowerment of mothers is fundamental to achieving an increase in the number of female leaders in the country and our objective of lifting 100 million of our citizens out of poverty in 10 years.

“At the commissioning of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs Headquarters Building in January 2020, I had pledged to address child marriage and boost girl-child education across the country. This is borne out of my concern about the increasing number of out-of-school children in the country. This government would sustain ongoing efforts to address this issue,” he added.

Buhari noted that the twin evils of limited access to education and poverty, and gender-based violence remain a strong inhibitor to women’s participation in politics and governance.

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“However, our resolve remains unshaken in tackling these issues. Despite the spike of incidents of abduction of school children and other security challenges, this government remains resolute in its pursuit of a just and credible society devoid of inequities and promotion of the rule of law. Let me assure you all that we remain committed to working with groups such as yours to address these challenges.

“As a leader of the governing party, I will lend my voice to the amendment of the party constitution which is ongoing now and is the entry point for effective and meaningful participation of women in elective offices. Once again, thank you for your efforts and support to our women,” he noted.

In her remarks, the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, thanked the President for his support in ensuring that Nigerian women gain more recognition and positions within the country and across the globe.

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Tallen said women needed more, particularly in economic empowerment, quality education, and legislation that would favour participation in politics.

She told State House Correspondents that she was set to meet with the Minister of Justice to act on the President’s directives.

“The President’s directive has to be acted on promptly. As I’m leaving here, I’m going straight to the Attorney General of the Federation to alert him. And I’m sure the Chief of Staff will send in an official letter directing him on Mr. President’s directive.

“I mean, I feel overwhelmed with joy; I feel a lot better on behalf of the Nigerian woman. And I believe that the more we have women in elective positions, the better for this country Nigeria. The more women have property or what they can do the better.

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“They can contribute their quota to national development, and all developed countries have succeeded due to women’s participation. Nigeria cannot be left out. Mr. President has made a historic statement today. And I believe that God will see him through to the completion of his tenure, in good health. And this is a legacy that he will leave on the sands of history.”

Former President of Republic of Malawi, Dr. Joyce Banda, who gave a goodwill message at the event, applauded Buhari for supporting Okonjo-Iweala to clinch the WTO job.

She described as sad Nigeria’s position of 185 out of 190 in a recent barometer that shows where Africa stands in getting women into leadership positions.

She expressed confidence that this could change quickly, “because as far as we are concerned, Nigeria is the country of achievers... And we know that during your time, we can achieve.”

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A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, said the governing party already had an opportunity of leaving a legacy as the political party that gave women the greatest chance to rise in the history of the country, adding that it would also improve the party’s fortunes in elections.

Nigeria’s only female presidential candidate in the 2015 general election under the platform of the KOWA Party, Oluremi Sonaiya, described Buhari’s directive as encouraging, both for ensuring women’s greater participation in politics at the party level and working towards a constitutional review that would give legal backing to the issue of women’s participation.

“It’s really too dismal, the statistics for Nigeria; the data is not good at all. And yet like it was said, Nigeria is a country of achievers; one of the people who contributed said that. So, we are very hopeful; we are delighted. And we are hopeful that we will move on to the level of actually bringing this to become reality. And also I would like to add in the shortest possible time. We have waited too long for this to happen and we hope that it will happen soon.”

Award-winning musician, Innocent Idibia, a.k.a Tuface, expressed confidence that Buhari would keep his promise.

He said: “I think he is really committed to engaging the parties and also the Ministry of Women Affairs. So, I’m looking forward to this; today has been good. I’m more optimistic, and yes, it’s high time.”

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