35% Affirmative Action: Court gives judgement in favour of Nigerian women

Women lawyers and members of civil society groups celebrate the judgement at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday, April 6, 2022

• Orders Federal Government to reserve 35% of public offices for women

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, delivered judgment in favour of some Nigerian women groups asking the Federal Government to implement the 35 per cent affirmative action.

Justice Donatus Okorowo, in a judgment, granted all the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs.

Justice Okorowo said he agreed with the plaintiffs that the Federal Government’s subscription to Article 19 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights implied that the defendants were bound by its provisions.

He, therefore, dismissed the objection of the defence.

The plaintiffs, in the suit marked: FHC/ABC/CS/1006/2020, are the Incorporated Trustees of Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Women Empowerment Legal Aid, and Centre for Democracy and Development West Africa.

Others are Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Vision Spring Initiative, and Women in Politics Forum, among others.


The groups, through their counsel, Funmi Falana, had sued the Federal Government and the Attorney General of the Federation as defendants in the suit.

They had sought the court order, ensuring the 35 per cent affirmative action policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria as contained in Sections 42, 147 (3) and 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended; the National Gender Policy, 2006, in the governance of the country, among others.

But the Federal Government’s legal team led by Terhemba Agbe urged the court to strike out the suit on the grounds that it did not disclose any cause of action against the defendants.

He argued that the policy was not a law that could be enforced in court.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Okorowo upheld the submissions of the plaintiffs on the National Gender Policy and the 35 per cent affirmative action.

According to him, this court is not expected to achieve less for Nigerian women since the constitutional obligation of this court is to apply the law.

“The two issues for determination are resolved in favour of the plaintiffs,” the judge said.

Reacting on behalf of the women groups, Esther Alaribe of the
Women Radio wfm91.7, said, Nigerian Women represented on the judgement day by a counsel of the Falana and Falana Chambers, Barrister Marshal Abubakar, had suffered marginalization in the Nigerian Political Space.

“As a result, they proceeded with a litigation process to clearly state and reiterate the anti-discriminatory provisions of the Nigerian constitution and Gender Equality in Nigeria as enshrined in the Constitution.

“The litigation process which has been on since 2020 has come to an end with victory for Nigerian Women and it is hoped that with this clear interpretations of the provisions of the Constitution, Nigeria’s political space will reflect inclusive governance and allow for an enabling environment for women in politics,” she said.

Nigerian Women were represented by a coalition of women groups including the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), Women Empowerment and Legal Aid (WELA), Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD- WEST AFRICA), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Vision Spring Initiatives (VSI), YIAGA Africa, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) and 100 Women Lobby Group.