The Cross River Government on Friday urged Timber Dealers Association in the state to register women as timber dealers, saying women have the right to engage in any business.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs Stella Odey, made the call when she met with the association members in Calabar.
Odey reminded them that the 35 per cent slot agitation for women in appointments did not apply to politics alone, but to every sphere of human endeavour.
“There is no law in Nigeria that says you should discriminate against women; they have the right to engage in any business they want to engage in.
“It is clear that you do not carry the women along, because if you do, you would have given them a place in the association’s executive even if it is as secretary or treasurer,’’ she said.
The rule of the timber association in the state is that women are only allowed to submit the name of a male child or male relation in the event of death of a husband who was a member.
Chairman, International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Cross River chapter, Mrs Beatrice Awa, who attended the meeting, said there was no law in Nigeria that reserved certain jobs for men or women.
According to Awa, a situation where a woman is refused to take over her husband’s timber business when he dies because she is a woman, is absolutely archaic and should not be mentioned in the 21st century.
“As a lawyer and a woman, if my husband dies as a timber dealer and you tell me not to inherit his business because I am a woman, by that act alone, I will go to court,” she said.
The Director, Citizens Rights, Ministry of Justice, Mrs Florence Agbiji, observed that the association’s regulation may have been there for a long time, but that the Constitution of Nigeria superseded such rule or cultural practice.
She said that Section 42 of the Constitution gave every citizen of Nigeria the right to freedom against discrimination, and that it was enforceable.
Responding, Secretary of the timber association, Mr Ekpenyong Akiba, said that the group had not registered a woman because timber business was tedious.
Akiba said that women were not sidelined in the business as many of them were gainfully employed in the timber market as sales girls and cashier.
He, however, assured that the executive committee of the association would meet and deliberate on the issue.