International Women’s Day: Security stops women groups in Lagos

Senators seek more elective roles, Aisha Buhari wants empowerment

From Fred Itua, Abuja, Linus Oota, Lafia and Perpetua Egesimba

Women groups on Thursday marched from Ikeja Under Bridge to Lagos State Government House to discuss issues of concern affecting women in the state in commemoration of International Women’s Day but were disappointed when Governor Akinwumi Ambode did not meet with them.

March 8 of every year was set aside by the United Nations (UN) as international women’s day, to celebrate achievements of women all over the world. It is also a day to draw global attention to issue of rights of women. At Alausa, the seat of power in Lagos, the women were stopped at the gate leading to the governor’s office by security operatives and, after waiting for an hour, marched to the House of Assembly to see Speaker Mudashiru Obasa.

He received the women through his representative, Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Strategy and Security, Tunde Braimoh. Obasa pleaded with the women down and said the state has promulgated the Violence Against Persons Act also known as Domestic Violence Act (VAPP).

“I want to assure you that most of the issues that you have raised here and those that you have not even highlighted we are aware of. We are aware of all women development issues and for sustainable development goals especially number five which emphasizes on gender equality.”

Expressing displeasure with the governor’s refusal to receive them, President of Women Arise Initiative, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin and Founding Director, Research and Documentation Centre, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi said Ambode’s action “shows he does not care for women in the state. We want to say we are disappointed (because) the Ambode we know is gender-friendly. It is the overzealousness of security men.”

The women groups saidthey wanted to speak with the governor on the 12-point Gender Pact he signed on April 8, 2015, which seeks to improve the state of women’s rights in relation to health, education, economy and poverty alleviation, venerable groups, decision making, environment, agriculture, child abuse and violence against women and security in the state.

“One year after, we wrote a letter to him to remind him of his promises but we did not hear anything. So, few months ago, we wrote a letter informing him that we were coming here today, still, we did not hear anything. Last week, we wrote to him again and this is the result, police harassing us.

In Abuja,  Senate called on federal, state and local governments to give women priority in elective positions in the country.

Senate also hailed Nigerian women and their contributions to nation-building and has mandated its Committee on Women Affairs to look into domestication of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act in all 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The committee is to report back to it within two weeks.  The Senate resolution was based on a motion, sponsored by all seven female members, led by Senator Binta Masi Garba, who heads the committee.

On his part, Senate President, Bukola Saraki who is abroad on an official visit, said in a statement signed by his special assistant on Gender Advocacy, Fatima Mohammed Kakuri, that the day presents an opportunity every year for people to recognise and celebrate the talent and achievement of Nigerian women and girls.

“We must appreciate the fact that 49.6 per cent of our mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters own or manage 48 per cent of the informal micro-businesses in Nigeria. Such numbers are truly significant because they demonstrate that Nigerian women contribute  immensely to our social, economic, and political development.

“In everything that we do, we need to be bold for change and work towards the redefinition of opportunities for future generations of women. We need to challenge bias and inequality by standing up when women are excluded from positions of leadership. However, all of this can only be achieved through synergy of efforts between men and women,” he said.

Meanwhile, wife of the President, Aisha Buhari, has challenged governments at all levels to rise to the global challenge of ensuring gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. Aisha appealed all stakeholders to rise to the global challenge of ensuring the achievement of the goals in line with the objective of sustainable development goals. In a statement by her Director of Information on Tuesday, Suleiman Haruna, Aisha congratulated the Nigerian women and women all over the world on the event.

She reaffirmed her commitment to the cause of women through her initiative, Future Assured.

“Today is a historic day in the struggle for the upliftment of women across the continents.

The wife of the president also urged women not to be discouraged by socio-economic challenges. “As you may be aware, records have shown that women are the most vulnerable and poorest group globally. In Nigeria, this gap exists as a result of socio-economic and other factors. Despite these challenges that women face in their journey, however, they must not be deterred as they are the fountain of wisdom and endurance.”

In Nasarawa, wife of the governor, Salamatu Al-Makura urged women to embrace VAPP.

She said this in Lafia, yesterday, during the international women day celebration and expressed hope that the state will take a cue from this legislation and ensure its domestication.

This year’s theme is ‘Be Bold for Change.’