IG Should Reverse Sacking Of Pregnant Officer, Omotola Olajide - 9jaflaver

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IG Should Reverse Sacking Of Pregnant Officer, Omotola Olajide

WHEN in September 2020, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), signed the amended Nigeria Police Act into law, Nigerians were delighted that a framework had been finally put in place that would ensure sweeping police reforms and revolutionise the antiquated orientation of police personnel.

But it seems this has become a pipedream going by the recent sacking of a police corporal, Omotola Olajide, for getting pregnant out of wedlock.

Rather than amend the police regulations to align with the new Police Act, the Nigeria Police Force has maintained the discriminatory Regulations 122, 123, 124 and 127. The repulsive regulations require female police officers to apply for permission to marry, while the intending fiancé is investigated for criminal records. It also stipulates that an unmarried police officer who becomes pregnant must be discharged from the Force, and shall not be re-enlisted except with the approval of the Inspector-General of Police.

Without mincing words, the sacking of Olajide is discriminatory and unconstitutional. It confirms the widespread belief that while most countries of the world are working tirelessly to expand the freedoms and rights of marginalised groups, Nigeria refuses to advance, choosing to cling to the ways of an archaic past. To worsen the matter, the Ekiti State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Mobayo, shamefully stated, “The lady in question passed out May 2020, which is eight months ago and now she is with six months pregnancy. The Police Act 2020, which is undergoing amendment in the Senate, has not repealed that.” It is saddening that the most senior police officer in a state is ignorant of a law signed by the President. What is the fate of the citizenry if the police chief of a state is ignorant of the law he is supposed to enforce?

For the police, an unmarried police officer who gets pregnant is deemed unfit to wear the uniform and must be dishonourably discharged. However, if an unmarried male officer impregnates a woman, such an act is deemed a personal matter, which attracts no punishment. Such thinking has no place in a post-modern world. According to a rights activist, Innocent Chukwuma, who is also the Regional Director for the Ford Foundation, the ignorance of the new law by the police is based on the failure of the Federal Government to gazette and make it available to all government establishments. Chukwuma argues that until this is done, the police will be reluctant to uphold the new ordinance. That such a simple administrative process would be delayed for over four months demonstrates the unseriousness of the government in ensuring urgent police reforms. But ignorance is no excuse before the law.

Several reports suggest that even judicial pronouncements that guarantee the rights of women are not enforced. For instance, the provision of the repealed Police Act, which prohibits a female officer from marrying a man of her choice without the permission of the Commissioner of Police in the command where she is serving, was declared illegal and unconstitutional by a Federal High Court, Lagos, in 2012. Steven Adah, the judge, held that Regulation 124 was illegal, null and void due to its inconsistency with Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution. This states that every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed by the basic law 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. But this judgement is still being ignored by the police.

For too long, Nigeria has paid lip service to the promotion of women’s rights despite being a signatory to several international protocols such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination, the Maputo Protocol and the Beijing Platform for Action. According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5, women and girls, everywhere, must have equal rights and opportunity, and be able to live free from violence and discrimination. The UN states that women’s equality and empowerment are integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development and that all SDGs depend on the achievement of Goal 5.

But Nigeria has constantly failed to effectively set a legal framework for gender equality, which has led to the systematic marginalisation of women. The Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill has continued to stall at the National Assembly due to religious and ethnic politics. This cannot continue.

For Nigeria to meet the UN target of gender equality by 2030, urgent action must be taken to eliminate the many root causes of discrimination that still curtail women’s rights in private and public spheres. The UN wants such discriminatory laws changed and legislation adopted to advance equality proactively. Civil rights groups must be alive to their responsibilities by ensuring that instances of discrimination against women are constantly challenged, while victims should not hesitate to seek redress in the courts. The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation must do more to ensure that existing laws are enforced.

In the meantime, the IG should review the police regulations to align with the spirit of the new Police Act; the sacking of Olajide should be immediately reversed to make it clear that gender discrimination is no longer welcome in the Nigeria Police

Source:- Punch ng

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