The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that gender balancing to give fair participation in governance to both men and women in Nigeria is an important part of the ongoing amendment of the 1999 Constitution by the 9th Assembly.
He also stated that the Federal Character Principle, as currently captured in the constitution, was being re-defined to go beyond ethnicity by including gender and other variables.
Gbajabiamila spoke in Abuja on Wednesday when a delegation from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) paid him a courtesy visit at the National Assembly.
The Speaker also informed the delegation, led by the CPA’s Secretary-General, Mr Stephen Twigg, that care for Persons Living With Disabilities had received the attention of the Nigerian legislature.
He explained that a number of bills seeking to amend the constitution by making clear provisions on gender balancing, federal character review and the disability question were in progress at the House of Representatives in particular.
The speaker stated, “What we are doing is that we are going through a constitutional amendment process.
“We are looking at gender issues in a way to address the two sides.
“Even in the way we apply the federal character principle, we want to go beyond ethnicity to include gender and others as well.”
Gbajabiamila noted that the House and the CPA would appear to be on the same page since the association too had promoted gender equality and drawn attention to the challenges faced by people living with disability, like exclusion from governance.
Speaking on the relevance of the CPA, Gbajabiamila told the delegation that it had fostered relationships among parliaments.
He briefed the delegation on how the 9th House under his leadership introduced Parliamentary Diplomacy as a tool to assist the Executive arm in resolving disputes that could negatively affect the relationship between Nigeria and other countries.
“We have used it in Ghana, in South Africa and other areas where we needed to intervene to resolve some issues”, he added.
The speaker also informed the delegation about the Conference of Speakers of African Parliaments (COSAP), which he initiated in 2020 to “help our various nations to address development challenges on the continent.”
He cited the plea to creditor nations to cancel the debts owed by African countries as one of the main agenda of the group, which would hold its first physical meeting in the first quarter of 2022.
Speaking earlier, Twigg praised Gbajabiamila and the House for the “brilliant initiatives” he had read in the Legislative Agenda of the 9th House.
He particularly commended the initiative to “expand the scope of participation in governance by women and the disabled.”
Twigg also said seeking debt cancellation was a “bold” effort by the CoSAP and encouraged the group to continue to push for it, hoping that the members would have a reason to celebrate eventually.