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Gender Discrimination and Matters Nonsensical 

Gender Discrimination and Matters Nonsensical 

Gender Discrimination Against Women

Several separate incidents related to Government which occupied the Nigerian front burner last week, made me feel truly ashamed of our ruling class, and just generally. 

The first is, the gender discrimination against women. At the risk of sounding like Cacofonix or a broken record, I must repeat and reiterate the issue of women in governance again. With the raging debate as to the members who will assume the leadership of the 10th National Assembly (NASS), it is shocking and disgraceful to see that no woman has been earmarked for any of the four key positions. It is bad enough that out of over 400 Legislators coming into the 10th NASS, there are less than 20 females; the number of females in the Legislature seems to be dwindling instead of increasing, as we delve deeper into the Fourth Republic. Even if some argue that the three incoming female Senators are new members, there are ranking female members of the House of Representatives from the various zones who are fit for purpose. However, none of their names are amongst those that are being peddled. As late Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang, this is ‘Babanla Nonsense’. Therefore, it’s not only about taking another look at the zoning of those principal NASS positions as the Chairman of the APC has promised to do, it’s also that at least one of those four positions should go to a woman. See Section 42(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)(the Constitution) which prohibits discrimination inter alia, on the basis of sex.

Visit to the London Dentist

The second cause for serious embarrassment, is a news headline which I saw, stating that President Buhari’s trip to the UK was extended for an extra week, in order to enable him visit the Dentist! I have never heard anything so ridiculous, so demeaning to all the Dentists in Nigeria. My Dentist who is here on Alexander Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, is world class, as I’m sure so many others around the country are too. It is obvious that the Buhari administration has failed more than abysmally to provide medical and health facilities for all persons contrary to Section 17(3)(d) of the Constitution, so much so that with something so basic as his toothcare, he doesn’t trust that it can be properly attended to here. Or what should we think? And, this is coming at the end of his administration, which means he has done little or nothing to improve medical care in Nigeria in the last eight years. 

While visiting Patient X at one of the top London Hospitals about 13 years ago, I got into a conversation with one of the senior Nurses there, and asked why so many foreigners came there for treatment. He said while some come from countries that don’t have adequate medical facilities (like ours), others that do have the facilities, don’t have the requisite nursing care which may be crucial in complex cases, post-operation etc. The Nurse talked about accident cases (like Patient X, whose leg would have run the risk of being amputated if Patient X had stayed on here in Nigeria), and how proper nursing care was also critical for recovery. For example, while Patient X was still in hospital in Nigeria, the Nurses allowed all and sundry to walk in and out of the hospital room without adorning any protective gear, despite the fact that Patient X had developed a terrible infection from being dragged on the road in the course of the accident, and should not have been exposed to people – the Nurses at the Nigerian hospital were obviously not too well trained in emergency care for such an accident victim. But, in London, the Nurses made it mandatory for you to scrub your hands and wear surgical gear, gloves, complete with mask, to be able to approach Patient X, and only about two or three people were allowed access. Something so simple as nursing care, but which could be the difference between life and death. Even the type of infection that Patient X had developed from the accident, couldn’t be identified here in Nigeria, and Patient X got progressively delirious and worse. The infection was however, identified almost immediately at the London Hospital, and the correct antibiotics were administered. It turns out that the antibiotics were of a special class, and not available in Nigeria, as the infection wasn’t the usual run of the mill kind. Another seemingly simple thing, which could have resulted in Patient X’s death in Nigeria, because it couldn’t be identified, nor did they have the specific medication here to treat it. The sum and substance of this example is that, if Patient X hadn’t been rushed to London by Air Ambulance for treatment, Patient X wouldn’t have survived. But, the question is, how many Nigerians are fortunate enough to be like Patient X, and those who are able  to seek better medical care abroad? 

The truth is that, sadly, some kinds of medical care are not available here in Nigeria, due to the type of bad governance we have had over the years, which has paid little attention to the development of our Healthcare sector. So, while we need to up our medical game and give our medical personnel the requisite training, what is so complex about visiting the Dentist? The incoming administration already has its work  cut out for it, in terms of improving medical and healthcare facilities in Nigeria,  

Conversation with a Learned Colleague

Another cause for shame was a conversation I had with a learned colleague, who went back to the issue of concluding election petitions before the swearing in. While this would be tidier, I referred my colleague to Section 285 of the Constitution, which sets out time lines for pre-election matters and election petitions to be disposed of. By virtue of the provisions of Section 285, it is unlikely that even pre-election matters for example, can be concluded before the date of the elections. 

For instance, if a primary was held on May 30 and one of the aspirants claimed that there was non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 (EA)  in the conduct of the primaries, by virtue of Section 285(9) of the Constitution, such a matter must be filed on or before June 14 or so. Thereafter, the pre-election matter has another 180 days to be concluded from June 14. That is approximately six months, taking us to mid-December. Appeals must also be filed 14 days from the date of the judgement (Section 285(11)) which would be around December 28 in case Christmas and Boxing Day fell on a Saturday or week day. This Appeal shall be disposed of in 60 days which brings us to the end of February. Another 74 days takes us to April/May, after the elections have been concluded over two months prior. 

There would have to be amendment of Section 285, for pre-election matters to be concluded on time. Ditto for Election petitions, which must be filed 21 days after the date of the declaration of the election results. 

The 2023 Presidential election held on February 25; while the Labour Party filed their petition on March 20, the PDP filed theirs on March 21st (see Section 285(5) of the EA). It is rather hypocritical and rabble rousing, to say the least, for supporters of the Petitioners to be shouting that the petitions should be concluded before May 29, when the Petitioners themselves, waited till almost the 21 day deadline was exhausted before filing their petitions! Having taken full advantage of the constitutionally allotted time to file their petitions, why would anyone then expect the Respondents to cut their own allotted time short and hurriedly file their Replies, or the courts to race through the adjudication of the cases? The Court of Appeal is acting as an Election Tribunal, a Court of first instance for the Presidential petitions and has 180 days to conclude (Section 285(6) of the Constitution) and another 74 days to conclude at the Supreme Court. Curiously, none of the Petitioners seem to have filed any motions for accelerated hearing! So, why is the public being riled by some mischief makers about what obtains in Kenya and ‘Kutuwenji’ and how they conclude their election petitions before swearing in, when the provisions of Section 285 of the Constitution which were obviously in place before this electoral cycle, are quite clear, and different from what obtains in Kenya? 

The shameful part was when our learned colleague then suggested that as an alternative to ensure that the President-Elect is not sworn in, there could be an application for an interim injunction (ex-parte, that is) to stop the swearing in ceremony of the President-Elect on May 29, and sought to defend this position. I told him that I couldn’t imagine that any legal practitioner worth his salt, would bring such an application. I explained that, as a Lawyer, he should know that such an application would not only be ‘frivolous and vexatious’, but a gross abuse of court process, because whatever grounds such an application seeks to rest upon, are already before a higher court, the Court of Appeal, for determination in the election petitions; and such a misguided application would be seeking to determine what constitutes the subject-matter of another case already before a superior court. I added that any Lawyer who makes such an application or any similar one, should be brought before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee for professional misconduct; while any Judge who grants such an application, must also face disciplinary action at the NJC, as entertaining such an application would amount to judicial recklessness and professional misconduct as well. See APP v Obaseki & Ors (2021) LPELR-58374 (SC) per Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju JSC; Umeh & Anor v Iwu & Ors (2008) LPELR-3363 (SC) per Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad JSC (later CJN).

Legislature Also Included in the Embarrassing Behaviour 

Someone then telephoned me, to ask me my opinion about the Senate’s approval of the Way & Means advances to the tune of N22 trillion or so. I told him that it was unlawful, contrary to Section 38 of the CBN Act 2007. Again, it is embarrassing and shameful, that our Legislature would observe its own law in the breach. The person informed me that a senior Lawyer (who he was then ashamed to name) had said it was fine for the Legislature to approve same, since the Legislature is responsible for making laws! What Poppycock! 

Section 4(2) of the Constitution empowers NASS to make laws for peace, order and good governance of the Federation, and not to break them, while Sections 58 & 59 of the Constitution set out how the Legislature is to make laws (or amend them). Section 1(1) of the Constitution declares its supremacy and its bindingness on all persons and authorities throughout Nigeria, including the Legislature. The Legislature’s role and powers as set out in the Constitution, even its Investigative Powers in Sections 88 & 89, do not extend to giving approvals that breach laid down laws. I told him that as the law stands, NASS isn’t empowered to give any such approval. I believe that the CBN Act would have had to be amended, for any such Ways & Means advances to be approved retroactively. 

Lastly, the issue of seeking and obtaining  another  $800 million loan from the World Bank in April 2023, in the twilight of this administration, is as we say in Nigerian parlance ‘one kind’. With the Director of Budget declaring that our debt service ratio is moving towards 100% and a country that exceeds 30% is in trouble, what with having very limited space left to borrow, why should an outgoing administration that has more or less messed up the economy, be the one to take such a policy decision?


Most of what is going on in the country, is disgraceful and discouraging. If the politicians spent half the time they are spending on fighting for offices, on how to restore Nigeria, I’m sure things would be better for us. There are more critical decisions ahead, and they are upon us – for example, marrying Nigeria’s foreign exchange regime into one rate, instead of the official and black market rates that presently obtain, and the issue of the removal of the fuel subsidy. It is experts that are debating these issues, not the Politicians, in whose hands these decisions will ultimately lie. 

Finally, to be clear, for our mischievous colleagues who are busy confusing the unknowing public that by virtue of Section 135(1)(a) of the Constitution, President Buhari can continue in office in excess of his four year term until the election petitions are determined, and that no one needs to be sworn in till then because the provision states that the President holds office until his Successor takes the oath of that office, this is false. There must be a community reading of that provision with Section 135(2)(a) of the Constitution, which states that an elected President stays in office for four years, commencing from the date he took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office; in the case of President Muhammadu Buhari, that would be May 29, 2023, since he took the Oaths on May 29, 2019.

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