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Political Inclusion: WFD asks National Assembly to introduce laws on quotas for women, PWDs

WFD recommended that the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) should impress on the legislators to create laws that will use both incentives and sanctions to enhance political inclusion.

The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) has asked the National Assembly to introduce affirmative action bills that will create quotas for women, youth and persons with disabilities in elective and appointive positions.

The recommendation was contained in a WFD report titled; “A Study of Inclusive Practices of Nigeria’s Political Parties (2023)”. The report was released on Tuesday during a conference held for political parties in Abuja.

WFD recommended that the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) should impress on the legislators to create laws that will use both incentives and sanctions to enhance political inclusion.

“Legislators should institute quotas at all levels that include rank orders rules for candidate lists for women, young people, persons with disabilities, and introduce both incentives and sanctions (financial and non-financial) for relevant stakeholders,” the report reads in part.

The report also “asked the legislators to review existing legislation in order to increase inclusivity and reduce the costs of running for elective positions across the different tiers of political party structures—ward, local government, state, and national—for women, young people and persons with disabilities.”

Similar bills were introduced in the last Assembly (2019-2023) but were rejected by the lawmakers prompting protests by women groups at the entrance of the National Assembly for weeks.

One of the gender bills sought to establish 35 per cent affirmative action for appointive positions, while another sought the creation of dedicated legislative seats.

Over-monetisation of the political process

The report identified monetisation of the electoral process and lack of willingness by political parties as the major factors driving political exclusion in Nigeria. It stated that political parties are not even complying with their constitution on inclusion.

“Over-monetisation of politics, unequal access to resources, and lack of opportunities create a further dilemma,” the report stated.

It further stated that: “All the political parties may seem highly inclusive on paper, notably in terms of processes, provisions and opportunities for women, young people, and persons with disabilities, the reality is to the contrary.

“There is a lack of evidence that many of the parties have comprehensive membership registers, nor one with disaggregated social characteristics, such as women, young people, and persons with disabilities. Some of the parties have well-articulated and crafted provisions for these underrepresented groups in their constitutions and manifestos, but there is very limited evidence to suggest that they are consciously implemented.”

We’re ready to support Nigeria — British Diplomat

Speaking on the quota system, Tom Burge, the political counsellor to the British High Commission, said there is sufficient evidence to back the call for the introduction of a gender quota system in Nigeria.

He said the United Kingdom is committed to supporting gender inclusion around the world, noting that the UK already provided support for Nigeria in enhancing gender inclusion.

“Evidence from countries in sub-Saharan Africa and around the world demonstrate that a fast-track approach to introducing gender quotas for women in parliament provides the most viable mechanism for women’s participation in politics and governance.

“Globally, there are 130 countries that operate some forms of quota systems to enhance women’s participation in politics. The UK has provided support for the increased political participation of women around Nigeria. Including a campaign on inclusion in the build-up to the last general election. And the last constitution amendment to introduce quota,” he said.

Mr Burge also decried the decline in the number of women and young people in governance in Nigeria. He said democracy cannot survive the exclusion of half of population.

“The proportion of women representation as we discussed earlier is relatively low. The national average is currently 6.7 per cent, both elective and appointive, which is unfortunately below the global average—26.7 per cent. And it is also below the West African average. Democracy cannot afford for half of the population to be excluded from decision-making,” he said.

In his remarks, Adebowale Olorunmola, the country director of WFD, also condemned the exclusion of women, young persons, and people with disabilities. He stated that political parties must be ready to adhere to the constitution of Nigeria.

“After elections, we have appointments dominated by men, not persons with disabilities, young or women. Not doing this has resulted in Nigeria having the least number of women in parliament in Africa, yet we are the giant of Africa.

“WFD is ready to work with political parties and other stakeholders to ensure that we are able to change the declining representation and participation of under-represented groups. And in partnership with NILDS, WFD is ready to constructively engage with political parties,” he said.

In her speech, Mary Musa, the secretary general of the Network for Women with Disabilities (NWWD), said President Bola Tinubu has yet to appoint anyone with disabilities in the appointments made so far. She stated that even political parties just keep up prima fascia without making any systemic effort at inclusion.

“The government is still trying to get things together but we have not seen a person with disabilities, and it is really unfortunate,” she said.

The conference was attended by representatives of several political parties in Nigeria and members of the civil society.

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