The Senate, on Wednesday, stepped down consideration of the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti).
The bill seeks to provide a legal basis and foundation upon which there will be formal, structured and institutional responses to prevent discrimination and provide for the rights of men and women, the equality of all persons and opportunities availed to all citizens including people living with disabilities in the country.
However, the bill suffered a setback on the floor during debate on its general principles.
It was rejected in the eighth Senate on the ground that its provisions were not implementable in all parts of the country.
Olujimi, in her lead debate, said concerns and views related to the text of the previous bill have been largely addressed through deep sectoral consultations with faith and culture institutions and leaders, youths, the media and women groups across the country.
She said responses and proposals harvested have been incorporated into the text of the new bill.
However, Senator Yusuf A. Yusuf (APC, Taraba) faulted the bill, saying some of its wordings like “gender equality” were at variance with the principles of the Holy Qur’an.
“I oppose the passage of this bill for second reading until the word “gender equality” is removed,” he said.
Senator Aliyu Wammako (APC, Sokoto) also supported Yusuf’s submission and urged that the bill be stepped down.
Responding, Senator Olujimi said faith leaders, including the Sultanate, arranged an outreach for all the clerics and they all gave the piece of legislation a clean bill of health.
“However, if the problem is the title “gender equality” that they do not want, we can change the title to “gender equity bill”.
Senator Yusuf, however, said “we have not seen the body of the draft bill.
“Ordinarily, we should have it. However, we don’t want the title to be different from what is inside.
“Probably, the best thing to do is to step it down and the draft copy be circulated to us.”
Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (APC, Kebbi), Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos), Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa) and Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi) urged that the bill be stepped down and the sponsor should make further consultations with lawmakers to address the concerns raised.
Senators Istifanus Gyang (PDP, Plateau), Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta), Ajibola Basiru (APC, Osun), James Manager (PDP, Delta) supported the passage of the bill for second reading.
They said whatever concern raised in the provisions of the bill would be addressed by stakeholders at the public hearing.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan said it was imperative to address the issues raised in the bill by senators before going for public hearing which, he said, was just “to enhance what we do here, not to replace it.”
He said unlike its predecessor, it was obvious that the ninth Senate was ready to pass the bill but there was the need to work for its survival.
He, therefore, advised the sponsor to withdraw the bill and directed that draft copies be distributed to senators on Thursday for further inputs.
Olujimi therefore reluctantly withdrew the bill.