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Ekiti Signs Equal Opportunity Bill

The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has admonished Ekiti men that the signing of the Equal Opportunities Bill into Law does not translate to equal responsibility between men and women.

He said this just as his Wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, warned that the country’s development will continue to be retarded and its security under perennial threat except the vulnerable members of the society were adequately catered for.

They spoke after the governor signed the Equal Opportunities Bill (EOB) initiated by his wife into Law in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, on Tuesday.

The governor’s wife and the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Social Development and Gender Empowerment, Mrs. Fola Richie-Adewusi, had shortly after the signing ceremony led a sensitization rally and awareness round major streets in Ado-Ekiti.

The day coincided with the last day of the 16 days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence and the 2013 International Human Rights Day, which informed the decision of the IHR officials to be part of the rally.

The EOB is an executive bill sponsored by the ministry of women affairs, social development and gender empowerment, to protect the economic and social rights of women, widows, the elderly, the retarded, physically challenged and other vulnerable members of the society.

It provides equal opportunities for all persons and prohibits all forms of gender-based discriminations and inequalities in public and private institutions.

Among its provisions, the Law prescribes two-year jail term for any person convicted of sexually abusing a retarded or physically challenged person, without an option of fine.

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The State House of Assembly had on November 6 held a public hearing for the bill, while the Assembly passed it into law the following day with overwhelming majority vote.

In his address after signing the bill into law, the governor said that his administration was committed to a world of rights for all citizens irrespective of status and class.

He emphasized that his signing of the bill was a reflection of the determination of his administration to implement its gender equality and women empowerment agenda as contained in the eight-point agenda of the administration.

Fayemi said, “I should mention that Equal Opportunities law is for the good of all. It sets to enhance the rights of men, the rights of women, the physically challenged, the elderly and other vulnerable persons in our society.

“The law will no doubt ensure the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and protect the wellbeing of all citizens to achieve rapid, equitable economic growth. However, I must tell our men that equal opportunities law does not translate to equal responsibilities.”

He assured the people that the state government would implement the law to the letter and encouraged the ministry of women affairs and other stakeholders to ensure that there was adequate advocacy and awareness for the law, warning that ignorance would not be taken as an excuse from any offender.

Describing the Ekiti House of Assembly as one of the most progressives in the country, Erelu Bisi Fayemi said that two states that attempted to pass the EOB before Ekiti had not been able to do so due to dissenting voices.

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She said the aim of the new law was to have a just and egalitarian society, which provides equal opportunities for every citizen and protect them against discrimination due to their gender, physical attributes or social standing.

The First Lady was upbeat that the new law would strengthen existing legislations put in place to promote gender equality and women empowerment, widowhood rights, among others.

She said, “It is almost impossible for any society to think that they can achieve any kind of transformation while leaving women behind. It’s just like trying to clap with one hand.

“No society can attain its full economic potential except the vulnerable group in the society is adequately catered for. The same goes for security, except we cater for the needs of the vulnerable, the country’s security will continue to be under threat.”

The governor’s wife said she would consider sponsoring a prize at the next Nigeria Media Merit Award, in collaboration with other stakeholders, for gender-friendly reporting.

The event was attended by the Deputy Governor, Prof. Modupe Adelabu; Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Dr Adewale Omirin; Secretary to the State Government, Dr Ganiyu Owolabi; among other members of the state executive council.

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