Female federal lawmakers on Monday took the floor of the Senate to defend the section of the Labour Act that empowers the minister of Labour on the employment of women in a specified type of work.
The Act empowers the Labour Minister to make regulations prohibiting or restricting, subject to conditions as may be specified in the regulations, the employment of women in any particular type or types of industrial or other undertakings or in any process or work carried on by such undertakings.
The bill however passed second reading on the floor of the Senate with lawmakers describing the Act as “discriminatory” the provision that prohibits the employment of women into some positions, considered to be too strenuous for women.
Specifically, the bill entitled “A Bill for An Act To Amend The Labour Act Cap L1 LFN 2004 And For Other Matters Connected Therewith 2012”, seeks to delete section fifty seven of the Labour Act.
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, noted that, “Although it may be argued that the above provision is to protect working women, it appears that in modern times the intention may be counterproductive as it does not match up to modern realities.”
Tinubu argued that, without amending section 57 of Labour Act, Nigeria may be “unwittingly fostering the reduction of opportunities for women’s participation in the economy since such will leave the prospect of employment of the girl child who is the woman of tomorrow to the sole discretion of the minister who may exercise his power arbitrarily to the detriment of women.”
In his remark, President of the Senate, David Mark emphasized that, the intention of the existing bill was not to discriminate against the women, but to ensure their protection, noting that, “the bill has now addressed a very genuine section in that Act.”
Accordingly, he referred the bill to the committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity, to report back in three weeks.
Others lawmakers who contributed to the debate included Senators Ita Enang, Chris Anyanwu, Smart Adeyemi and Nkechi Nwogu and Smart Adeyemi, who said, “The Law we seek to amend is draconian”.
Attempt by Ita Enang to object to dissuade the upper chamber from debating the bill on the grounds that certain provision of the 1999 constitution gives the Labour minister power over employment of women, was unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, a bill seeking to draw funding for the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation from First Line Charge, suffered setback.
The bill which was intended to grant autonomy to the Auditor-General of the Federation as well as establish an Audit Service Commission with additional powers and functions, was referred to the Constitution Review.
This development was sequel to a point of order raised by Senator Pius Ewherido to the effect that, Section 162 (9) of the constitution, where the Auditor General derives his mandate, ought to be amended first before consideration of the bill.
He argued that doing anything to the contrary will amount to “putting the cart before the horse.”