How Enugu Assembly rejected Equal Rights, Opportunities Bill

The Enugu State House of Assembly, Tuesday last week, threw out the Equal Rights and Opportunities for men and women and Other Matters Related Thereto Bill sponsored by a female legislator, claiming that the bill was another way of introducing gay marriage in the state. The bill, sponsored by Dame Lydia Nkechi Omeje-Ogbu (Nsukka West Constituency) and House Committee Chairman on Gender Affairs, had scaled the first reading before suffering a setback as most members kicked viciously against it.

It took the intervention of the Speaker of the House, Edward Ubosi, to save the bill from being thrown out, outright. Ubosi suggested that the bill be stepped down to make room for further consultations. The Speaker, however, praised Mrs Omeje-Ogbu for her efforts so far, pointing out that the bill should be stepped down for wider consultations to be carried out.

According to Ubosi, although majority of the members had kicked against the bill, the Assembly did not want to kill it prematurely, hence the need for further debate at a future date. Introducing the bill, Mrs. Omeje- Ogbu had said that the purpose was to give effect to chapters two, three and four of the 1999 Constitution, adding that when passed into law, it would protect all persons from discrimination on the basis of sex in both the private and public sectors.

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She further said that the bill provided protection for women groups, integrity and human dignity just as it affirmed their rights to equal opportunities in a bid to realise their full potentials. Omeje-Ogbu then suggested that the bill be published in the media so that any person who has any comment against all or any part of the provisions could submit same to the Clerk of the House, pointing out that neither marriage, divorce or widowhood should deny women their rights in the area of appointments in the state.

According to her, women should be given equal opportunities as men and women attended same schools and were awarded same degrees, wondering why they should be discriminated against. However, most members of the House opposed the bill. Contributing to the debate before it was stepped down, Deputy Speaker, Dons Uzogbado and Agbo Ugwumba of Enugu East Rural Constituency, suggested that if ever the bill should see the light of day, a lot of sections have to be either amended or deleted.

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Also, Sunny Ude- Okoye (Awgu North Constituency) dissociated himself from such a bill “because here is Africa and not America,” adding that if anybody wanted such practice as suggested in the bill, he/she should go to America. He said: “I have risen to declare my stand. I have risen to take my stand that this is a colossal waste. The bill is talking about the women, the women. Who is deceiving who?

“Here is Africa. Anybody who wants to practice what President Obama and Americans are practising should go to America.” He stressed that debating the bill was a waste of time as the rights of everybody, including women, had been provided for in the 1999 Constitution. According to him, the bill was deceitful. He added: “It is total deceit. If you say 35 percent of women, it is deceitful. Why not say 50 percent. I am saying that I am against the bill in its entirety and will never support it.”

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Another member of the House, Iloabuchi Aniagu (Nkanu West) spoke in the same vein with Ude-Okoye, adding that the bill should be stepped down for further consultations. Aniagu said the bill might be talking about gay marriage without anybody realising it, adding, ”I can see some unseen hands in the bill.”

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