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RIVERS LAWMAKERS DIFFER OVER BILL ON WOMEN'S SHARE IN FAMILY PROPERTY

By NBF News
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THE Rivers State House of Assembly was practically divided yesterday over a bill seeking to allow women share in family or community property.

Some members expressed divergent views on the bill sponsored by Michael Okechukwu Chinda, a member representing Obio/Akpor Constituency.

An opponent of the bill, Ibiso Nwuche, member representing Ahoada-East Constituency II, reasoned that Section 43 and 44 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, has taken care of the provisions in the proposed bill.

He said that any attempt to pass the bill would suggest that it is more important than the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria.

He explained that issue of ownership of property lies on the owner's decision on who to will his or her property to and urged the House drop the bill, saying it was not relevant at this time.

But Mr. Matins. Chike, member representing Obio-Akpor Constituency I, said it was necessary to protect the rights of women.

Citing section 11 of the bill that states: 'Any person who tries to evict a widow from her marital home commits an offence and shall be liable to imprisonment for three years or fine of N50,000', Chike lamented that several widows who have only female children have been ejected from their husbands' homes with relatives inheriting their husband's property.

He prayed the chamber to consider some of these injustices and commit the bill to a committee level to properly examine it rather than discarding it outright.

There was uproar in the House when Mr. Ikuinyi Ibani, member representing Andoni-Constituency, prayed that the bill be sent to local council legislators to enable them confirm it with the various cultures and traditions of the people.

It was at that point the sponsor of the bill, Chinda rose and argued that the objective of the bill is not narrowed down to a particular local council but to women across the state.

He explained that the bill seeks to address the erroneous belief and practice, which prevents women from sharing in family or community property, adding that a female child has equal rights with the male child in terms of inheriting their parents' property and wealth.

Others who spoke in favour of the bill include Felitia Tare, Gift Wokocha, Kelechi Godspower and Victoria Nyeche. They submitted that it was necessary to revisit the provisions of Nigerian laws in order to give room to equity and justice.

But Golden Chioma and Robbison Ewor who were among those who strongly opposed the motion, warned that if passed, the bill would not be implemented.

In his ruling, the Speaker, Otelemeba Amachree, sought the leave of the chamber to commit the bill to committee level and the members voted in favour of it.

Consequently, Amachree committed the bill to the Committee on Women Affairs and urged members to organise public hearings on the matter, publish it in two newspapers and report back to the House in two weeks.