Daily Law Tips (Tip 660) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction: 

Military and paramilitary formations are very disciplined and often perceived as exclusive heaven for men. However, only few women are found in such sectors and without huge discrimination. This work reveals and condemns the unconstitutional and discriminatory practise that requests female officers to seek approval before marriage (work place discrimination).

Discrimination Hubs:

Discrimination is sometimes perpetuated even by the few ones appointed to keep nations safe and peaceful. In some military or paramilitary forces like police and others, female officers are not allowed to marry without the approval of their superiors or the management. However, the male officers are free to marry anytime without an approval or even notice of any person. This procedure or requirement on female officers are said to be taught in training schools, or contained in signals and orders of their formation, like the Regulation 124 of the Police Force and the section 8 of the Terms and Conditions of Service for National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). This type of discrimination is also present in other workplaces/employment relationships; private and public sector. 

Discrimination and the Constitution of Nigeria: 

Well, the greatest of all laws in Nigeria is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The constitution is greater than any institution, arm of government, formation, force or organization as well as all orders, laws, regulations, manual, training, signals and directives in Nigeria and even outside Nigeria. And, anything, action or directive even law, that contradicts the constitution is self-destructive and nullified.

The great constitution of Nigeria, has declared men and women equal and expects them to be treated equally. No sex is greater than the other, not minding what religion and tradition may say. The constitution frowns at discrimination including discrimination on the sex of a person. Hence, it is the right of any Nigerian not to be discriminated against because of his/her sex. 

Hence, any order, signal or directive that requires only female officers to seek approval before marriage is discriminatory and as such is a violation of fundamental human rights of all concerned female officers. It is also contrary to the constitution of Nigeria and it is consequently null and void (dead on arrival). Nothing can rise against the constitution of Nigeria and stand. 

Remedies for Victims of Discrimination: 

The concerned female officers have fundamental human rights that must be respected and protected by all. Where any fundamental human right is violated, the victim can go to court to seek remedies, including huge financial compensation. It is advisable to engage the service of a legal practitioner of one’s choice. Also, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) or the Gender Advocacy and Women Resource Center (GAWRC) can be contacted. 

Attitude of Victims: 

Unfortunately, some female officers seem to be comfortable with discrimination. Some of them claim the discrimination is designed to protect female officers from bad husbands. It is a pity. It is obvious that protracted discrimination can affect the psychic of a victim to the extent the victim accepts and even trivializes his/her discrimination, including the protection and promotion of perpetrators and concealment of discrimination. At this point, there is huge need for free legal awareness among other things, because until people understand their rights, they cannot detect a violation or choose a reliable channel for remedy. Click to read my earlier works on women rights in Nigeria.

Conclusion & Recommendation: 

Discrimination in demand for approval for marriage is unconstitutional and illegal. Even though most concerned female officers may not be courageous to seek legal remedies, for fear of further discrimination, there is need for positive change. Concerned institutions/formations must be pressured to reverse their unconstitutional discriminatory practices. The legislators having oversight functions over such institutions, as well as the heads of such institutions are called out to take action! Say NO to discrimination at work! Click to read my earlier works on women rights in Nigeria.

My authorities are:

1. Sections 15(2) and 42 (1) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

2. Articles 2 and 13 of  the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

3. Article 7 of the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

4. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of LAFIA LOCAL GOVT v. EXECUTIVE GOVT NASARAWA STATE & ORS (2012) LPELR-20602(SC)

5. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of ANEKWE & ANOR v. NWEKE (2014) LPELR-22697(SC)

6. The judgment of the High Court in the case of WELA vs. Attorney-General of the Federation (Unreported) Suit No: FHC/IKJ/CS/M128/2010 of 30th April, 2012 Adah J. (as he then was). The judge in this case declared illegal and unconstitutional the said Regulation 124 on the ground that it was inconsistent with the provisions of section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

7. “Let’s Have Gender Justice Now”, Femi Falana (Premium Times, 7 March 2013) accessed 23 September 2020.

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