Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday ruled in favour of Nigerian women, urging the government to implement 35 percent affirmative action policy on women’s participation and appointments in politics. The judgment was on a suit filed by critical stakeholders under the coalition of women groups, including Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Women Empowerment and Legal Aid (WELA), Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD- WEST AFRICA) against the Federal Government.
In the suit, various gender rights groups alleged violations of several sections of the 1999 constitution, the African charter on Human and Peoples Rights and several other international treaties with the lopsided appointments into political positions which is not in favour of women. Other plaintiffs in the suit are Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Vision Spring Initiatives (VSI), YIAGA, Africa, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and 100 Women Lobby Group. Delivering judgment, the court resolved two issues and granted the reliefs sought by the women which included: “A declaration that the failure of the 1st defendant to implement the 35 percent affirmative action policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria is illegal, unlawful, null and an arbitrary violation of the National Gender Policy, 2006. “A declaration that the failure of the 1st defendant to implement the 35 percent affirmative action policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria is illegal, unlawful and a violation of sections 42, 147 (3) and 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution as amended and Article 19 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. “A declaration that the overwhelmingly predominant appointment of the male gender into decision making positions of the federation is wrong, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void as it violates sections 42,147(3) and 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution as amended and Article 19 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and does violate the right of the female gender to equal access to public offices. “An injunction restraining the 1st defendant from further exercising the Constitutional and Statutory power of appointment in a manner violative of the 35 percent affirmative action policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria as contained in the National Gender Policy, 2006. Also, the court granted an order mandating the respondents to henceforth comply with the principle of equality of the sexes in all appointments in compliance with sections 42,147 (3) and 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution as amended and Article 19 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and any other the court may deem fit in this matter.” At the beginning of the hearing, the court decided on the preliminary objection of the court wherein the defendants represented by the Attorney Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice had argued that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to sue and lacked a reasonable cause of action because none of their rights has been violated.
The court ruled that the plaintiffs who are gender groups and NGOs have shown their interest in the suit via their affidavit evidence and that in the determination of life’s constitutional and statutory issues, anybody has an interest in the enforcement of such. The court further struck out the defendants’ affidavit and held that the plaintiffs have proven their case before the court. The court, therefore, resolved the two issues in favour of the plaintiffs and granted all the reliefs sought.