A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Federal Government to implement its 35% affirmative action policy on public service positions.
Indeed, the Court granted all the reliefs sought in the suit filed by women’s coalitions and organizations challenging the marginalization suffered by women in the Nigerian political space.
The Presiding Judge, Donatus Okorowo, gave the order yesterday while delivering judgment in a suit filed by some women groups challenging the “marginalisation” of women by the Federal Government.
The plaintiffs in the suit included the Incorporated Trustees of Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Women Empowerment and Legal Aid, and Centre for Democracy and Development (West Africa.)
Others are Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Vision Spring Initiative and Women in Politics Forum.
The President and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, were listed as defendants in the suit: FHC/ABC/CS/1006/2020.
Specifically, the groups had sought the order of the court to ensure the 35% affirmative action policy of the Federal Government as contained in the National Gender Policy, 2006.
The policy, which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2006, provides that 35% of public offices be reserved for women.
In his verdict, the judge dismissed the preliminary objections of the defendants.
The judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the “lopsided appointments” by the Buhari-led government were unlawful and an arbitrary violation of the National Gender Policy 2006, sections 42, 147 (3) and 14 (3) of the 1999 constitution as amended, and Articles 2, 13 (2) and (3) and Article 19 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights.
The Court granted all the reliefs sought in the suit filed by women’s coalitions and organizations challenging the marginalization suffered by women in the Nigerian political space.
He held that the National Gender Policy is not merely a policy statement, but one that must be backed with requisite action by the government.
The court also ordered that henceforth, the government must not make appointments that violate the 35% affirmative action.
He said the 35% affirmative action, which entails increased appointive positions for women to ensure inclusivity, must translate to the increased commitment of government, being a signatory to international treaties particularly those on promoting the rights of women.
This victory comes weeks after federal lawmakers rejected a bill seeking to reserve 35% of seats on the National Assembly for women, leading to protests across the country, with women groups occupying the Assembly complex for days.
The House of Representatives later rescinded its decision to make the women to shelve the demonstration, and promised to carry out fresh voting on the bill.
The litigation process, which began in 2020, ended with victory for Nigerian women, who expressed the hope that these clear interpretations of the constitution will provide an enabling environment for women in governance and politics in Nigeria.