Foundation says GEO Bill unconstitutional, advises against passes

Lagos  –   The Foundation For African Cultural Heritage (FACH) on Friday urged the National Assembly not to pass the Gender Equality Opportunity (GEO) Bill.

The group described the proposed law as unconstitutional.

FACH, an umbrella body of a group of NGOs, including Doctors’ Health Initiative, made the call at a news conference in Lagos.

According to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the GEO Bill is a direct response to the concerns on the delays in the domestication of gender focused international conventions.

The ministry also said the Bill would address the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa.

It would be recalled that the Senate had on March 14 rejected the GEO Bill sponsored by Sen. Abiodun Olujimi for lack of merit.

FACH said that those applauding the bill mistook it for promoting equality between men and women, economic, political and cultural empowerment of the Nigerian woman.

It, however, said that a dispassionate study of the sections of the bill revealed otherwise.

The Director, Doctors’ Health Initiative (DHI), an NGO under FACH, Dr Nkechi Asogwa, said the bill was not in favour of women and should never be signed into law.

“We heard about the National Assembly throwing out the GEO Bill. At first, we are surprised as to why such a bill should not be given place in the constitution.

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“After studying the bill with a group of friends, to our surprise we came across certain articles legalising abortion.

“And then, speaking with a lawyer friend and going through the articles, we realise that they already are in existence in our constitution.

“And also in existence in different laws of the land except the ones legalising abortion and gender stereotyping,” she said.

The director said that the government should implement what already existed in the constitution rather than creating a new bill.

Asogwa said: “If we already have these articles represented, why do we need to re-present it in a different bill by a different heading.

“And at the same time insert things that culturally speaking as a religious people that will be repugnant to the Nigerians.”

Also speaking, a Lawyer and the Regulatory Affairs Manager, DHI, Ms Nkem Agboti, urged the general public to be enlightened about their rights as citizens of the country.

Agboti urged people not to be deceived by the name of the bill as there were some ethical issues that arose from the bill.

“The issues are the formal legalisation of abortion and also the neutralisation of gender within Nigeria and that is one key area we are against.

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“The bill is full of provisions that already exist in other laws; so it leads us to believe that it is not really a gender and equality bill.

“It is more of just an abortion and gender neutralisation bill and if they call it what it is, it can never pass.

“But when you call it Gender and Equal opportunities, people look at the title and they get excited and are ready to support it,” she said.

She called on the government to try and leverage and use the existing laws and not pass fresh ones.

In her remarks, a Senior Lecturer, Lagos Business School, Mrs Rose Ogbechie, urged public and private organisations to put in place processes that would enable parents care more for their children.

“The bill should focus more on getting organisations to ensure parents close early from work to go take care of their children.

“A lot of children are abandoned and due to parents going early to and closing late from work.

“If we bring up good children the society will be better for it, but when children acquire bad habits we complain.

“I think these are issues that the bill should be focusing on,” she said. (NAN)

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