A bill for an Act to make provisions for optional paternity leave to all married male employees in private and public service, on Thursday failed to scale through second reading in the House of Representatives in Nigeria.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Edward Pwajok ( Plateau-APC), subsequently failed to scale through as it was roundly defeated with a unanimous voice vote.
Members, who balked at the idea of granting paternal leave to Nigerian male workers, said that the Nigerian cultural and economic environment was not ripe for such privilege yet.
According to Pwajok, the proposal for a two week or more (depending on the decision of the of House) paternity leave is to ensure that mother and child get adequate care from the father.
He said the leave became important if the mother or the child had health challenges which would make the presence of the father very significant.
The lawmaker also said that the presence of the father would afford the child the care he or she deserved during that early period.
“No better person can support a newly born baby than the father which will make the child more emotionally stable if the father stays close.
“This will not be peculiar to Nigeria alone, it’s done globally,” he said. While Reps. Saheed Fijabi (Oyo-APC) and Nasir Ali (Nassarawa-APC), supported the proposal saying that since it was a joint responsibility to take care of the children, the leave will afford the husband to take care of the child too.
On the other hand, Rep. Betty Apiafi (Rivers-PDP), said that since maternity leave issue was discussed in the Labour Act, it would have been better it came as an amendment to the Act and not as a bill.
Also Reps. Nzoma Nkem-Abonta (Abia-PDP), Rita Orji (Lagos-PDP), Nicholas Ossai (Delta-PDP) and Kingsley Chinda (Rivers-PDP) aligned with Apiafi that the amendment of the Labour Act would be preferable.
According to the lawmakers, the men should be out trying to provide for the upkeep of the family rather than staying back at home.
They also wondered how many times a man with six or seven wives would go on leave if the bill becomes law.
The motion was defeated by the members when it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker, Mr Yakubu Dogara.