Abuja high court compels federal government to allocate 35% of all appointments to women
NIGERIA’S federal government has been ordered by an Abuja high court to enforce the National Gender Policy by allotting 35% of all appointments in the public sector to women in honour of its affirmative action programme.
In a landmark judgement, the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled in favour of a suit filed by non-governmental organisation Women in Politics Forum (WIPF). In the suit WIPF sought the implementation of the 35% affirmative action quota in appointments of women into public office.
Delivering his judgement, Justice Donatus Okorowo, agreed with the plaintiff that Nigerian women had been subjected to various forms of discrimination concerning appointments into key positions of government. Before then, the judge dismissed the preliminary objections of the federal government’s lawyer, Terhemba Agbe, who had argued that the plaintiff’s case did not disclose any cause of action.
Referencing Section 42 of the Nigerian constitution as it relates to the suit, the judge upheld the plaintiff’s contention to the effect that of all the 44 ministries, there are only about six female leaders in them. He added that the situation is worse in other departments and agencies.
Also, Justice Okorowo noted that the defendant, by its conduct, insinuates that there are no competent and reliable women that should be appointed to stop the apparent male dominance as witnessed in the appointments of men into key government positions.
He held that the attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, who was the sole defendant in the case, failed to disprove the material allegations contained in the affidavit and provided no credible evidence to debunk material evidence of the plaintiff.
Justice Okorowo ruled: “I agree with their contention that this cannot be possible out of 70m women in Nigeria. The plaintiff has led cogent, verifiable evidence backed by incontrovertible depositions in their affidavit evidence contrary to the objections raised by the defendant.
“This court is not expected to achieve less for Nigerian women, since the constitutional obligation of this court is to apply the law. This court is duty-bound to uphold the 2006 affirmative action for women.”
After the judgement, Mufuliat Fijabi of Nigerian Women Trust Fund led other women’s rights activists in jubilation outside the courtroom. She said: “I am so happy that we get to witness today’s judgment in our lifetime in Nigeria.”