The Nigerian Senate has rejected a bill seeking for an amendment of the Nation Youth Sevice Cops Act to allow the religious beliefs of corps members to be reflected in their corps uniforms.
The bill would have made provisions for female corps members to wear hijabs and skirts if it was successful.
Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba-South), the sponsor of the bill, in the course of the second reading at the plenary on Wednesday, dislcosed that the aim of the amendment was to amend Sections 13 and 16 of the principal act.
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha (Taraba-South), while leading the debate for the second reading at the plenary on Wednesday, said the proposed amendment sought to amend Sections 13 and 16 of the principal act.
He explained that the amendment was to “increase the penalty for the offences contained in the Act to make such fines reflect the present value of the naira.”
He also disclosed that the intention of the amendment was to “ensure that regulations made by the NYSC directorate prescribing uniforms and exercise regimen do not violate the religious practices and beliefs of corps members.”
Bwacha’s proposal was that a new Sub-section 3 be inserted to Section 16 of the NYSC Act to read, “In exercising its powers under Sub-section 2(a) and (b) of this section, the directorate shall take into consideration the need to prescribe or adopt uniforms and exercise regimen or drills that do not violate the religious practices relating to modest dressing, and accordingly specify alternative uniforms and exercise regimen that conform to the religious dictates and conscience of corps members as recognised by the 1999 Constitution.”
However, several senators who made their opinions known on the bill pointed out loopholes. Senator Biodun Olujimi, the Deputy Minority Whip insisted that religious sentiments should not be introduced to the scheme’s dress code while Senator Jeremiah Useni stated that there was no need for the bill.
Also, Senator Sam Egwu, said, “We should not waste our time on an issue that we have no constitutional right to amend. This is a paramilitary organisation and that is why drilling and exercise are contained. We have major issues to discuss. If we want to talk about NYSC, it is not uniform; that is a minute issue that we should not waste our energy on.”
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu pointed out that the constitution would have to be amended for any amendment to the NYSC act to stand, pointing out that this was a long process which would also require the contributions of the state House of Assembly.
Ekweremadu, “I am not trying to stop the bill. Even if you pass the bill, you must send it to all the states in accordance with Section 9(2).”
The bill was met with rejection after the proceedings of a voice vote after its second reading.