Constitution review: Women groups sustain protest, insist meeting

From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

For the second day running,  women groups aggrieved with the rejection of women-oriented bills by the National Assembly, in the ongoing constitution review exercise, yesterday, blocked the major entrance into the parliament.

The National Assembly had, on Tuesday, rejected four bills seeking to create special legislative seats for women, provide for 35 per cent affirmative action, among others.

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Irked by the decision, the women groups besieged the National Assembly on Wednesday, seeking a reversal of the voting on the gender bills.

The women, who came with their mats, pots, stove and food stuff, yesterday, said they will not stop their protest until they meet with the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.

When Daily Sun visited the main gate of the National Assembly, the protesters, who cut across different age groups, were seen either sitting on their mats or moving around.

Like what obtained on Wednesday, security personnel stationed at the main entrance into the National Assembly, shut the gates, to prevent the protesters from entering  into the complex.

One of the protest conveners, Abiola Afolabi, told Daily Sun that the protest in the last two days was a child’s play compared to what will happen next week.

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Afolabi expressed dismay that the women groups have been at the National Assembly entrance for two days, without any of its presiding officers deeming it fit to address them.

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She said though some of the lawmakers have come to address them, the women would want the Senate president and the House speaker to meet with them so that they can table their demands and extract a commitment from them.

“We have been here since 7 am and we are going to stay here until 7pm. We came with our pots, mats, stove, the older women are coming bare-chested.

“This week is a warning. Next week will be different. We are citizens of Nigeria. We are just asking for one thing. Can we meet the Senate president and the House of Representatives speaker. And I don’t think, it is too much. So that we can discuss  with them possible actions. We have our demands,” she said.

In the same vein, another protester, who gave her name as Maliya Manu, of the Women Trust Fund, said their only demand is that the National Assembly should rescind its decisions on the bills seeking to creating special legislative seats for women and 35 per cent affirmative action among others.

When contacted, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media and Publicity, Benjamin Kalu, said the women groups have the right to protest any decision they are not comfortable with.

However, Kalu admonished them to take their advocacy beyond the National Assembly so as to get better results.

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