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Court of Appeal declares dismissal of pregnant umarried police officers illegal

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has declared illegal Regulations 126 and 127 of the Nigerian Police which allows for the dismissal of an unmarried policewomen who become pregnant during their service.

The three-man panel of the court also asked the respondents, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Police Service Commission, and the Nigerian Police Force, to carry out a comprehensive review of the entire Police Regulations to ensure that they accord with the demands of a modern society operating under the rule of law.

Justice Olubunmi Oyewole read the lead judgment which was unanimously adopted by the other members of the panel, Justice Bukola Banjoko and Justice Okon Abang.

The court gave the judgment in the suit filed by the appellants, the incorporated trustees of the Nigeria Bar Association, against the three respondents.

The legal battle began on February 15, 2021, when the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) filed an originating summons challenging the discriminatory practices within the Nigerian Police Force.

The appellants asked the court to determine among other things: Whether the provisions of Regulation 127 of the Nigeria Police Regulations made pursuant to the Police Act, Cap 19 Laws of the Federal of Nigeria, 2004, to the extent that it provides that “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 Police” does not violently contravene the provisions of Sections 37 & 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and therefore unconstitutional, null and void.

The NBA also asked the court to make “AN ORDER striking down Regulations 126 and 127 of the Nigeria Police Regulations made pursuant to the Police Act, Cap 19 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, as same is in violent conflict with the provisions of Section 37 & 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

After taking the arguments, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja delivered his judgment February 21, 2022, where he dismissed the appellant’s action for lacking in merit.

Dissatisfied, the Appellant approached the Court via a Notice of Appeal filed on the March 15, 2022, containing six grounds.

In the judgment, the Court of Appeal unanimously allowed the appeal, overturning the Federal High Court’s decision in favour of the NBA.

The court held that Regulations 126 and 127 of the Police Act “interfere with the privacy of the lives of female police officers and discriminate against them on the basis of their gender”.

Justice Oyewole said, “I do not agree with the learned trial Judge that the regulations in issue are necessary for morality and discipline in the Police Force as morality and discipline do not have gender bias.

“It is unthinkable that the Nigerian Police of this day and age operates on the principle that female officers need to be specially moderated and regulated while their male counterparts are free. This is unacceptable in a decent and democratic society governed by the rule of law.

“The argument that the deprivation involved were consented to by prospective female police officers who cannot subsequently complain flies in the face of the constitutional provisions expressly granting them the rights involved as citizens of this country.

“The rights given go beyond those for the personal benefit of the individuals involved as could be waived by them. They are public rights which accord with the demands of a fair, equitable and humane society. These are standards and values demanded of modern nations and which are outside the purview of any individual to waive.

“I therefore hold that the said regulations 126 and 127 are inconsistent with the provisions of section 37 and 42 of the Constitution and are therefore null and void to the extent of their inconsistency pursuant to section 1 (3) of the Constitution.

“The Respondents are advised to carry out a comprehensive review of the entire Police Regulations to ensure that they accord with the demands of a modern society operating under the rule of law.

“I accordingly resolve the two issues in favour of the Appellant and against the Respondents. This appeal is meritorious, and it is hereby allowed. Consequently, the decision of the lower court in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/178/2021 delivered on the 21st of February 2022 is hereby set aside.

“Instead, the questions for determination in the said Suit are answered in the affirmative while the reliefs sought therein are granted as prayed. Parties shall bear their respective costs”.

 

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