Daily Law Tips (Tip 679) by Onyekachi Umah, Esq., LL.M, ACIArb(UK)

Introduction:
There is a recent call on social media for the use of national flag during protests across Nigeria to avoid harm from law enforcement agents and the Nigerian armed forces. There is also a contrary claim, that there is need for a license before the National Flag can be used in a public place. Many are not sure of the true legal implication of the use of the National Flag in a public place in Nigeria. This work examines the legal implication of flying the National Flag in Nigeria; revealing the duties of flyers, the offences and punishments relating to the National Flag and the duty of the Police to the National Flag.

The National Flag and the Public Places:
The National Flag is the official Flag of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The National Flag was designed by Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi and officially flown on 1st October 1960, although it was adopted in 1959. It is made up of two colour; Green and White. “The green panels represent agriculture; the white stands for peace and unity”.

The National Flag can be flown in a public place in any part of Nigeria. Any person that intends to fly or display the National Flag in any public place needs the approval (license) of the Federal Minister of Interior Affairs, unless the National Flag is being displayed or flown to show patriotism and support for Nigeria.

Hence, the National Flag can be flown and displayed in any part of Nigeria and in a private or public place without any permit/approval, in a show of support for Nigeria. It is safe to assume that no law enforcement agency can arrest any person that is patriotic and supportive of Nigeria. The term “Public Place” includes any highway, wharf, street, bridge, parks, and thoroughfares, among other places.

Duties of Flyers of the National Flag:
Generally, in any part of the world, a Nigerian must obey and respect the National Flag. The National Flag cannot be flown or displayed on the same staff (pole, pipe, stick or rod) or cross bar with the flag of any other State, or the flag of any other country. Also, the national flag must not be dirty, tattered, defaced and torn when displayed or flown.

States in Nigeria are allowed to have their respective state flags and to fly such in their states and in any part of Nigeria even without flying the National Flag. No state flag can be flown in the Federal Capital Territory without the National Flag. However, if the National flag and a state flag are to be flown in any state, then the National Flag must be at least of the same size with the state flag and the National Flag must be flown higher and above the state flag.

The Federal Minister of Interior Affairs can through a license authorise the flag of another country to be flown and displayed in a public pace in Nigeria with or without the National Flag. For avoidance of doubt, no embassy, high commission, consulate or means of transportation or foreign ship is to be considered as a public place. So, they don’t need the license of the Minister for any foreign flag to be displayed or flown on or in them.

Offences Relating to the National Flag:
There are several offences created by law that relate to the National Flag. The offences include;
1. Defacing or destroying the National Flag.
2. Flying or displaying the National Flag in a defaced or bad condition.
3. Flying the National Flag on the same pole/stick/staff with any other flag.
4. Flying the National Flag on the same level with any flag of any state in Nigeria.
5. Flying the flag of any foreign country without license/approval of the Minister for Interior Affairs.
6. Use, display or flying the National Flag in a public place without the intention of supporting Nigeria.
7. Where a license is obtained to use the National Flag, using the National Flag contrary to the terms of such license.
8. Flying the National Flag for any business, trade, profession or calling and not for patriotism (support for Nigeria).

Punishment for Offences Relating to the National Flag:
Where there is an offence, there is always a punishment. The above offences relating to the National Flag have punishments. The punishment for any offence relating to the National Flag is a fine of One Hundred Naira (N100.00). Where the offence continues, the fine is Ten Naira (N10.00) for each day.

Duty of the Police Relating to the National Flag:
The Nigeria Police Force has a duty to seize and remove any flag that is being used to commit an offence in any part of Nigeria. The removed flag is to be disposed in a manner/way to be determined by the Federal Minister of Interior Affairs.

Recommendation and Conclusion:
The National Flag of Nigeria can be used and flown in any part of Nigeria, whether in private or in public places without any permit/approval, so far as the National Flag is being used to show support for Nigeria (patriotism). However, in the use of the National Flag, the National Flag must be clean and not tattered to avoid committing an offence. Also the National Flag must not be flown on a stick/pole/pipe/staff that carrys any other flag or on the same height with any flag of any state in Nigeria.

The punishment for offences relating to the National Flag is N150.00 only and there is no option of imprisonment. The punishment is unpatriotic and cannot deter offenders. It is a mockery of today’s realities. Hence, there is need for the National Assembly (federal legislatures) to amend the federal law (The Flag and Coats of Arms Act of 1960). The 60 years old federal law needs an urgent amendment!

My authorities, are:
1. Section 1, 2, 3, 24, 214 and 215 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
2. Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the Flag and Coats of Arms Act, 1960
3. A. Igoni Barret, “I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag” (Aljazeera, 3 September 2015)<https://www.aljazeera.com/program/episode/2015/9/3/i-remember-the-day-i-designed-the-nigerian/ > accessed 20 October 2020.
4. Onyekachi Umah, ”Can Any State In Nigeria Own A Flag And Fly It Instead Of The National Flag?” (LearnNigerianLaws.com, 7 November 2018) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/daily-law-tips-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-tip-222-can-any-state-in-nigeria-own-a-flag-and-fly-it-instead-of-the-national-flag/ > accessed 20 October 2020.
5. “Federal Republic of Nigeria” (FOTW, 10 October 2015) <https://fotw.info/flags/ng.html > accessed 20 October 2020.
6. Onyekachi Umah, “Six Duties Of All Nigerians In Any Part Of The World” (LearnNigrerianLaws.com, 28 August 2019) <https://learnnigerianlaws.com/six-duties-of-all-nigerians-in-any-part-of-the-world-daily-law-tips-tip-402-by-onyekachi-umah-esq-llm-aciarb-uk/ > accessed 20 October 2020.

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