By Abdul Haqq Buhari
The media was awash with the news that an unmarried policewoman, Miss Olajide Omolola has been sacked from the police force for getting pregnant. The Ekiti State Police command had reportedly sacked and defended the sack by quoting Section 127 of the Police Act which says that any Police officer who is unmarried and eventually gets pregnant shall be disengaged from the force. It must be noted that Section 124 of the Police Act was repealed by the court because it was discriminatory and unconstitutional, the repealed section provided that a woman must take permission from the Commissioner before getting married.
The purported sack by the State Command is totally illegal, discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Such act should not be left unchecked. This section is discriminatory and poses a fundamental question which the court asked in Women Empowerment and Legal Aid v. Attorney General of the Federation (2015) 1 NHRLR at 57 where the Federal High Court Per Adah J. (as he then was) held as follows:
“The most fundamental issue is if this is the policy laid down for the police, does it apply to the men folk. It is not. So it is only issued to women police officers because of their gender as women and this is very much unconstitutional.
Section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(CFRN)1999 (as amended) clearly guarantees right of freedom of discrimination on, amongst other grounds, ground of sex. The section relied upon to sack Miss Omolola from the force is totally unconstitutional. It is inconsistent with the provisions of Section 42 of the Constitution of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999 (as amended).
Similarly, in Victoria Cristello v St. Theresa School, a New Jersey appeal court ruled that a parochial school lacked a permissible basis when it fired a teacher for being pregnant and unmarried. The court went further to state that when premarital sex is used as the reason for termination, applying the policy unevenly by observing or having knowledge of a woman’s pregnancy constitutes a pretext. The case is a cautionary tale for employers that impose a morals code on their workers, but fail to enforce that policy evenly on men and women.
The court in Timothy vs Oforica (2008) 9 NWLR PART 1091, Page 204 – 213 stated inter-alia, that no law – or custom that stands in the way of our constitution should be allowed to stand tall no matter the circumstances.
Nigeria has domesticated International Conventions which frowns at discrimination on ground of sex. Article 2, 3 and 18(3) of the African Charter, General Recommendation 19 of CEDAW and Article 1(a) of the International Labour Organisation’s Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention No. 11 eliminate discrimination on ground of race, ethnic group, colour, sex, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.
Article 18(3) of the African Charter provides that the State shall “ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of the women…as stipulated in international declarations and conventions.”
Furthermore, Section 5 (3) of the Police Act, 2020 provides that ” The police force is charged with the responsibility of promoting and protecting the fundamental human rights of all persons as guaranteed under the African Charter and Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act and other International Legal Instruments on Human Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory.”
For the police to go ahead to orchestrate gender discrimination against a female police woman based on the police regulation is not only unconstitutional but also a flagrant breach of International Conventions. It appears that the police have forgotten some of its responsibilities and they need a reminder through court processes.
Finally, the Nigerian Police Force should without any further delay reinstate Miss Olajide Omolola to the Police Force again because the purported sack is illegal and unconstitutional.