The Federal High Court in Abuja, in a landmark judgement on Wednesday, ordered the federal government to enforce the National Gender Policy by allotting 35 per cent of appointments in the public sector to women.
This followed a suit filed by a nongovernmental organisation, Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), against the government, seeking the implementation of the 35 per cent Affirmative Action in appointments of women into public offices.
Delivering judgement in the suit, Justice Donatus Okorowo agreed with the plaintiff that Nigerian women had been subjected to various forms of discrimination as per appointment into key government positions.
The judge, however, dismissed the preliminary objection 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 gender, and that the situation is worse in other MDAs and agencies.”
Okorowo noted that the defendant, by its conduct, insinuated 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.
“I agree with their (plaintiff) contention that this cannot be possible out of 70 million women in Nigeria,” Okorowo said.
The judge 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 led no credible evidence to debunk material evidence of the plaintiff.”
“The plaintiff has led cogent, verifiable evidence backed by incontrovertible depositions in their affidavit evidence contrary to the objections raised by the defendant,” the judge said.
The court held, “These violations with impunity and reckless abandon were projected by the plaintiff,” adding “the defendant merely based their arguments on the grounds that the plaintiff’s demands are not justiceable.”
Similarly, the judge held that “dismantling barriers to women’s participation in public spheres has been achieved through progressive interpretation of municipal laws and international obligations and treaties.
“Formulating Policies based on sex, stereotyping and feudal and patriarchal traditions will no longer be tolerated due to the supremacy of constitutional values,” he emphasised.
Okorowo thus said that the court was duty-bound to uphold “the 2006 Affirmative Action for women.”