A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Nigerian Government to implement the National Gender Policy (NGP) which provides for the allocation of 35 percent of all appointments in the public sector to women.
Court Orders FG To Reserve 35% For Women
A Non Governmental Organisation, Women in Politics Forum, filed the suit against the Nigerian government, seeking the implementation of the 35 percent Affirmative Action in appointments of women into public office.
Delivering his judgement on Wednesday, the judge, Donatus Okorowo, agreed with the plaintiff that Nigerian women had been subjected to various forms of discrimination concerning appointments into key positions of government.
The judge dismissed the preliminary objection of the federal government’s lawyer, Terhemba Agbe, who had argued that the plaintiff’s case did not disclose any cause of action.
Referencing Section 42 of the Nigerian constitution as it relates to the suit, the judge upheld the plaintiff’s contention to the effect “that of all the 44 ministries, there are only about six female gender, and that the situation is worse in other MDAs and agencies.”
Mr Okorowo noted that the defendant, by its conduct, insinuates that there are no competent and reliable women that should be appointed to “stop the apparent male dominance as witnessed in the appointments” of men into key government positions.
“I agree with their (plaintiff) contention that this cannot be possible out of 70 million women in Nigeria,” Mr Okorowo said.
The judge held that the Attorney-General of the Federation (Abubakar Malami) who was the sole defendant in the case, “failed to disprove the material allegations contained in the affidavit, and led no credible evidence to debunk material evidence of the plaintiff.”
“The plaintiff has led cogent, verifiable evidence backed by incontrovertible depositions in their affidavit evidence contrary to the objections raised by the defendant,” the judge said.
The court held, “These violations with impunity and reckless abandon were projected by the plaintiff,” adding “the defendant merely based their arguments on the grounds that the plaintiff’s demands are not justiceable.”
In a stern tone, the judge held, “dismantling barriers to women’s participation in public spheres has been achieved through progressive interpretation of municipal laws and international obligations and treaties.
“Formulating Policies based on sex, stereotyping and feudal and patriarchal traditions will no longer be tolerated due to the supremacy of constitutional values,” he noted.
Mr Okorowo said the court was duty-bound to uphold “the 2006 Affirmative Action for women.”
“This court is not expected to achieve less for Nigerian women, since the constitutional obligation of this court is to apply the law. The two issues for determination are resolved in favour of the plaintiff,” the judge declared.
Meanwhile, as the judge receded to chambers after delivering the verdict on Wednesdayz the Women groups celebrated their victory at the court premises.
Mufuliat Fijabi of Nigerian Women Trust Fund and Ebere Ifendu, led other women’s rights activists in jubilation outside the courtroom.
“I am so happy that we get to witness today’s judgment in our lifetime in Nigeria,” elated Ms Fijabi told journalists shortly after the judgement
The development comes weeks after federal lawmakers rejected a bill seeking to reserve 35 percent of seats on the national assembly for women, sparking protests as women groups occupyed the national assembly for days.