Leadership (Abuja)

30 January 2013

Nigeria: Reps Divided Over State of Origin Status for Married Women

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives were, yesterday, divided over the controversial issue of women either using their state of origin or that of their husbands when applying for appointments.

The Federal Character Commission Act currently allows a married woman to lay claim to her husband's state of origin when applying for any appointment.

But concerned about some situations in which married women use their states of origin at one time and their husbands at another, a bill to amend the Federal Character Commission laws of the federation to enable women lay claim to only their state of origin or their husband's states was ready for second time on the floor of the House.

Speaking on the bill which was sponsored by Hon Bassey Ewa, speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, however mandated the committees on Rules and Business, Judiciary and Justice to take a cursory look at the legal and other aspects of the bill for proper guidance.

Voting on the bill was deferred till today.

Speaking on the intendment of the bill, Ewa recalled the recent controversy in the nomination of Justice Ifeoma Jumbo-Offor relating to her suitability for the Justice of Court of Appeal representing Anambra State.

He described a situation where a woman's career opportunity was limited to her choice of state as discriminatory, and stated that, "marriage should not be a barrier to their (women) development and growth in their careers but rather, should be a catalyst for them to make progress.

"They should be given the right to choose which state to pick from," he added.

In his submission, Hon Andrew Uchendu pointed out that a definite provision should be made for women whether to choose from their state of origin or state of husband's origin.

"What you do for the goose you must also do for the gander because a man can only lay claim to his state of origin. We are talking about equal opportunities so they should also choose one."

A majority of the female lawmakers argued against the bill that they were being discriminated against and asked for the law to be amended to give them the option to choose.

"We want to choose the state where we want to come from. Because that a woman is married and has given a man her body and mind doesn't mean that she wants to give up her right to choose where she wants to represent," Hon Nnenna Elendu Ukeje stated.

Similarly, Hon Nkoyo Toyo, cautioned, "The concept of husband has to be treated cautiously. We pride ourselves as a progressive House of Representatives so we have to show it by our actions, decisions. We should show concern in areas of disadvantage."

The debate on the bill was deferred after the minority whip of the House, Hon Samson Osagie, warned that at this time when there was clamour to amend the constitution to address the issue of indigeneship, it would amount to discrimination to place a particular place for women to choose from.

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