The Nigerian Senate on Thursday rejected a bill which aimed at approving the use of skirts by female members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
Media reports confirm the legislative proposal was sponsored by Sen. Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP-Taraba), and debated by lawmakers in the House on 8 March, 2018.
Speaking against the bill, Senator Bwacha told his other colleagues that its promulgation means an upturn of Sections 13 and 16 of the Principal Act that infringes on the religious rights of some NYSC members. Bwacha, who is Deputy Minority Leader, also highlighted that the NYSC was a laudable scheme that established in 1973 by the then military Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, and must considered purely on military grounds.
The NYSC Scheme was part of Nigeria’s federal government effort to rebuild, reconstruct and reconcile Nigerians following the unfortunate incidents of the civil war which ended in 1970.
While most Nigerians believe the scheme has lived up to its expectation as a reliable platform for nurturing young patriotic Nigerians, fostering unity and promoting a better understanding of our religious and cultural differences, critics of the rigid uniform laws say it has, however, become necessary to amend the Principal Act, in view of the need to address some observed lapses and shortcomings.
These lapses include out outdated penalty for “clothing offences” contained in the Act, which is need of urgent review.
Moreover, Section 16 of the Principal Act mandates the NYSC Directorate to make regulations or by-laws relating to discipline, exercise regimen, uniforms, and the welfare of corps, among others, but the dress code and drills adopted by the Directorate have become a basis for tension and controversy. Some corps members, due to their fashion tastes, faith or personal preferences, have resorted to the use of skirts and other stylish adjustments in their supposedly military outfits.
In Sen. Bwacha’s opinion, “The major bone of contention is that some of the uniforms and drills contravene religious beliefs and practices of corps members and invariably their right to freedom of religion, thought and conscience under the Nigerian Constitution.
“This bill essentially addresses the above-mentioned lapses in the Principal Act,” he said.
Most lawmakers who spoke during the presentation said it is unnecessary and a waste of time.