There is a new discriminatory gender restriction imposed in this year’s edition of Nigeria’s You WIN programme, says Timi Olagunju, 26, of Lagos, Nigeria. He argues it creates an unconstitutional restriction that prevents Nigerian men from applying for funds through the young entrepreneurs programme.
Isn’t it true that little drops of water make a mighty ocean? Little strokes of the cutlass fall great oaks? And in Nigerian pidgin “small potopoto na him dey spoil white agbada”, or ‘minute mud stains can ruin one’s magnificent apparel’.
In that spirit, this article is looking out for the little things – such as a little gender discrimination – that defile the Nigerian vine.
Some months ago my article on the You Win (Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria) programme praised President Goodluck Jonathan for the program he launched in 2011. The program was intended to run for possibly three years, with 1,200 Nigerian youths each year given the opportunity to receive between one million naira (N1, 000, 000) and ten million naira (N10, 000, 000) to start up or grow their business. In three years, the You WIN programme would have succeeded in raising 3,600 young Nigerian entrepreneurs. In fact, my distant sister and a friend qualified in 2011 and they have received a marginal part of the money as you read this. One of the duo started up a laundry business on www.xtramileclean.org.
However, there is a new discriminatory gender restriction imposed in this year’s edition of the You WIN programme. It creates an unconstitutional restriction that prevents Nigerian men from applying for this year’s funds. The bone of contention lies in the new Federal Government policy that changed the You WIN programme from an all-youth inclusive programme to a programme exclusively for the female population to the total exclusion of Nigeria’s male population.
As a patriotic Nigerian, a lawyer and coordinator of the Nigerian Youths in Motion (NYM), I could not fold my hands and allow this little fox to defile our vine. I could not fold my hands and allow the Nigerian Government to deviate from its originally laudable objective for the You WIN programme. Rather than ‘sit-down-look approach’ as Nigerians call it, we acted.
In addition to using the power of the written and spoken word, we marched on Monday, 17th September, 2012 to the Federal High Court, Ikeja-Lagos, to file a law suit questioning the constitutionality and economic desirability of the Nigerian Government’s decision to convert the You WIN Youth programme into an exclusively female programme (www.scribd.com/doc/105810152/Timi-Olagunju-v-Nigerian-President-6-Ors).
Firstly, Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution prohibits the Nigerian Government or any of its agencies from discrimination on the basis of sex or any of the grounds provided in the constitution. This is clearly supported by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, 1983. The 1999 Constitution says any executive or administrative action of the government SHALL ensure: ‘that a citizen of Nigeria of a particular sex SHALL NOT by reason that he is such a sex be subjected to restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other sex are NOT subject to’.
When the Nigerian President launched You WIN on www.youwin.org.ng in 2011, he said: “In line with renewed commitment to regular performance evaluation and measurement, this administration will monitor the programme closely over the next three years of its implementation to ensure that it remains responsive to the NEEDS of young Nigerian MEN and WOMEN”. If it is so said, then why have a new policy to ascribe exclusive privilege to the female population at the expense of the male population?
It would not have been an issue to quietly consider the female population’s proposals ahead of proposals from male applicants. But to completely and publicly exclude the male population is unfair, economically unrealistic and unconstitutional. In a session we had with some young Nigerians, especially in Lagos, it is clear that the high hopes of many young men who waited a full year for the second edition of the programme turned into frustration.
“If the 2012 You WIN became ‘2012 You WIN for MEN only’, how would the public react?” some asked.
The question to be raised with the pen and in the courts of law is: “Does power really belong to you and me, the Nigerian people; or does it dwell in the unfair discretion of the privileged few?’.
Let the court of justice and your fair court of public opinion decide.
www.twitter.com/timithelaw – #youwincase
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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