The Senate at its plenary session of Wednesday, 15 December 2021, stepped down the second reading of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, 2021 (SB 208) for Second Reading. The Bill which is sponsored by Sen. Biodun Olujimi (PDP: Ekiti) seeks to make provisions for the empowerment of women and advancement of gender equality.
Leading the debate on the Bill, Sen. Olujimi explained that the Bill seeks to further strengthen section 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). According to her, it guarantees the rights of women to equal opportunities in employment, guarantees appropriate measures against gender discrimination in political and public life, prohibits violence against women, provides equality of all persons, and prohibits all forms of discrimination against women and Persons Living with Disabilities (PWLDs).
Sen. Olujimi noted that the Bill if passed, into law, will support agencies of government to recognize and respond to the modification of socio-cultural practices towards ensuring that the rights of women are protected as well as encourage women to aspire to attain their full potentials.
However, during the debate on the Bill, some lawmakers had raised concerns regarding the title and certain provisions of the Bill. For Instance, Sen. Yusuf A. Yusuf (APC: Taraba) stated that the provision of the Bill which deals with socio-cultural practices infringes on religious beliefs and mentioned that the title of the Bill be amended to read “Gender Opportunities Bill”. Sen. Aliyu Wamakko (APC: Sokoto) spoke in support of the views of Sen. Yusuf.
Speaking on the Bill, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu (APC: Nasarawa) expressed concern over the manner in which consultations on the Bill were conducted. He mentioned that the sponsor of the Bill, Sen. Olujimi had failed to provide adequate information on the provisions of the Bill before its presentation on the floor of the Senate for deliberation. He further noted that any further attempt by Sen. Olujimi to “grandstand” or “play to the gallery” for the passage of the Bill for second reading will be unacceptable.
The Leader of the Senate, Sen. Abdullahi Yahaya (APC: Kebbi), in his submissions informed lawmakers that he had met with an Islamic Scholar in a meeting organized by Sen. Olujimi regarding the Bill and was of the opinion that the Bill be stepped down for further consultations among legislators. Other lawmakers who spoke in support of Sen. Yahaya were Sen. Bala Ibn Na’allah (APC: Kebbi) and Sen. Oluremi Tinubu (APC: Lagos).
The lawmakers who spoke in support of the passage of the Bill for second reading include, the Deputy President of the Senate, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (APC: Delta), Sen. James Manager (PDP: Delta), Sen. Akon Eyakenyi (PDP: Akwa Ibom), Sen. Stella Oduah (APC: Anambra), Sen. Istifanus Gyang (PDP: Plateau), and Sen. Surajudeen Ajibola Basiru (APC: Osun). These lawmakers were of the view that the controversial provisions of the Bill should be considered during the public hearing of the Bill, were other lawmakers and the general public can provide their inputs.
In response to the submissions and views of the various lawmakers mentioned, Sen. Olujimi agreed to amend the title of the Bill and suspend the passage of the Bill for Second Reading pending the outcome of further legislative consultations.