The sack of Miss Olajide Omolola, a corporal serving at the Iye Divisional Police Headquarters in Ilejemeje Local Government
Area of Ekiti State by the state police command headed by Commissioner Babatunde Mobayo, has exposed some of the discriminatory provisions in the Police Act and regulations. Miss Omolola was dismissed for getting pregnant out of wedlock, and she can only be reinstated at the instance of the Inspector-General of Police. According to the commissioner, Corporal Omolola “violated section 127 of the police regulation, which carries serious punitive measures against flouters.”
Section 127 of the act provides: “An unmarried woman police officer who becomes pregnant shall be discharged from the Force and shall not be re-enlisted except with the approval of the Inspector-General.” There are other regulations which are considered discriminatory against women, like sections 121 and 122 which restrict women police officers to certain duties; 123 which prohibits women from drill under arms; and 124 which requires women police to apply for permission to marry. Clearly, these provisions expose women to discriminatory practices, which in some circumstances can be exploited by their male bosses.
Thankfully, the senate in its debate to amend the Police Act and the Nigeria Police Regulations highlighted these discriminatory provisions and struck them down. In 2019, Senator Francis Ezenwa, representing Imo State, sponsored a bill for an Act to Amend the Police Act CAP P19 LFN 2004 and expunge the gender discriminatory provisions of regulations 122, 123, 124, and 127 and for Other Related Matters. Even though the bill is yet to become a law, it is germane that the law makers have marked the obnoxious provisions for death.
On our part, we urge relevant authorities to ensure the bill is signed into law, as such provisions drag the image of our country in the mud, when issues of gender equality are under consideration. Nigeria in the eyes of the world is a democratic and egalitarian society, adjudged by the standards applicable in other countries. Also of significance, she is signatory to many international protocols on gender equality and as such should not allow such discriminatory law to be in operation.
We also think those regulations impinge on the provision of section 42(1)(a) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) which provides: “a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not by reason only that he is such a person – be subjected either expressly, or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinion are not made subject.”
It is important to note that the obnoxious regulations also leave much power in the hands of superior police officers, who could abuse same. A provision that a police woman should apply for approval to marry can be exploited by unscrupulous police superiors. Even the requirement that only the IGP could restore an unmarried pregnant woman to her job, could become a weapon in the hands of those who will facilitate the opportunity to approve the restoration. Yet, the male counterpart, who wishes to get married, is not required to gain the approval of the superiors.
No doubt Police Regulations 122, 123, 124, and 127 are discriminatory against the female gender. So, we urge the IGP to reinstate Constable Omolola without further delay. We also call on the National Assembly and the Federal Executive Council to work together to expunge those regulations and make the Police Act and its regulation amenable to modern standards.