Apr 7, 2018

Gender Equality In The Nigerian Police? | Zeniath Abiri

Gender discrimination is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s gender in circumstances where the gender difference is irrelevant to a person’s rights, abilities or performance. Though it may affect any gender, women and girls are the most commonly affected. The right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, etc, is protected by Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution as well as by many international instruments, which Nigeria has ratified and enacted into law.

However, some of the laws enacted in Nigeria, contain provisions which to encourage and perpetuate discrimination against the female gender. The discriminatory provisions in the Police Act and Regulations Cap P19, L.F.N, 2004 (the Act), shall be the focus of this discourse.

The discriminatory provisions are mainly contained in Regulations 118 – 126 of the said Act. Those Regulations deal primarily, with the enlistment and duties of female police officers.

1.     Qualification for Enlistment:

Regulation 118 of the Act, provides for the criteria to be met by a female, seeking enlistment into the Nigerian Police Force (hereafter referred to as NPF). By paragraph (g) thereof, such a woman must be UNMARRIED. 

2. Duties of Female Officers:

By Regulation 121 of the Act, the following shall be the duties of female members of the NPF;

 (a) investigation of sexual offences against women and children; 

 (b) recording of statements from female witnesses and female accused persons and from children;

 (c) attendance when women or children are being interviewed by male police officers;

(d) the searching, escorting and guarding of women prisoners in police stations, and the escorting of women prisoners to or from police stations;  

(e) school crossing duties;

(f) crowd control, where women and children are present in any numbers. 

An extension of the above is found in Regulation 122 of the Act, which provides;

“Women police officers recruited to the General Duties Branch of the Force may, in order to RELIEVE MALE POLICE OFFICERS from these duties, be employed in any of the following office duties, namely- 

(a) clerical duties;  

(b) telephone duties;

(c) office orderly duties.” 

These duties are far too mundane for any police officer and seem to suggest that the female police officer is incapable of carrying out the more technical aspects of police work.

3.     Permission to Marry:

It is interesting to note that by Regulation 124 of the Act, a female police officer needs to apply in writing, for PERMISSION to marry, from the Commissioner of Police, of the state police command, where she is serving. The written application must state the name, address, and occupation of the person she intends to marry.

That section further provides that permission will be granted for the marriage if the intended husband is of good character and the WOMAN POLICE OFFICER HAS SERVED IN THE FORCE, FOR A PERIOD OF NOT LESS THAN THREE YEARS.

The latter part of that section implies that a female police officer in Nigeria, will not be allowed to marry, any time less than 3 years after joining the NPF. This is besides the rather appalling fact that she must apply for and obtain permission before she can be allowed to marry.

4. Pregnancy of unmarried women police:

By Regulation 127 of the Act, 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 of the NPF. 

It is interesting that these are only applicable to women, in the Nigeria Police Force. A comparison of these provisions with those contained in Section 72 (2) of the Act (the subsection dealing with the enlistment of male police officers, into the NPF), will show no such restrictions exists with respect to male police officers. What if a male police officer impregnates a girl, out of wedlock? What is the point of placing such ridiculous conditions on women? Why are the male and female officer subject to different rules?

While many will agree that these provisions are discriminatory, subsection 3 to Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution, which arguably permits discrimination on this ground. Section 42 (3) of the Constitution is now reproduced for clarity:

“Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes restrictions with respect to the APPOINTMENT of any person to any office under the State or as a member of the armed forces of the Federation or member of the Nigeria Police Forces or to an office in the service of a body, corporate established directly by any law in force in Nigeria.”

It suffices to say, that the provisions of Section 42(3) of the Constitution, deals with the appointment, while the aforementioned discriminatory provisions of the Act, extends to serving female police officers.

The above provisions of the Police Regulations sharply contrast the provisions of Articles 2, 3 and 18(3) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ratified and enacted by Nigeria, in accordance with Section 12 of the Constitution and subsequently referred to, as the African Charter), where the right to freedom from discrimination is guaranteed. After a combined reading of those Articles,  it is my opinion that the provisions of Section 42(3) of the Constitution have now been overridden. The provisions of the said Articles are reproduced hereunder;

“Article 2.

Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.

Article 3.

 l. Every individual shall be equal before the law.

2. Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.

Article 18(3).

The State shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of the woman and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions. “

It is interesting to note that these offending provisions in the Police Regulations which were enacted in 1968, at a time when the societal attitude to women in the workplace was very different from what it is today, still remain on our statute books. This is more so as there is no rational justification for the imposition of these discriminatory provisions, since they do not in any manner promote the efficiency or discipline of the female police officer and today, women occupy very senior roles in the Police and have shown themselves to be just as competent and as disciplined as their male counterparts. An example is the rise of Farida Waziri, through various notable ranks in the NFP, up till Assistant Inspector General of the NFP.  The move to expunge these regulations is thus, long overdue.

Relying on the provisions of the African Charter, and the principles of equity, good conscience, a move can be made for the discriminatory provisions of the Police Act and Regulations, to be expunged. It is my hope that the needful is done, in the nearest future.

 Zeniath Abiri
Managing Partner 
Abiri & Mustafa Legal Practitioners