A Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, has declared illegal and unconstitutional the provision of the Police Act, prohibiting a female police officer from getting married without the permission of the Commissioner of Police in the command where she is serving.
The landmark judgment was a sequel to the suit filed by the Women Empowerment and Legal Aid Initiative (WELA), challenging the constitutional validity of Regulation 124 made pursuant to the Police Act (Cap P19 ) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria which states that:
“A woman Police Officer who is desirous of marrying must first apply in writing to the Commissioner of Police for the State Command in which she is serving, requesting permission to marry and giving the name, address and occupation of the person she intends to marry.
“Permission will be granted for the marriage if the intended husband is of good character and the woman police officer has served in the force for a period of not less than three years.” Funmi Femi-Falana, Executive Director of WELA, argued that it was illegal to ban a woman police officer for three years before entering into a marriage and that seeking the permission of a Police Commissioner is an infraction of her fundamental right to dignity and freedom of choice.
She further contended that since a male police officer is not subjected to the same inhibitions, Regulation 124 is inconsistent with section 42 of the Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex.
Falana however, urged the Federal High Court to expunge Regulation 124 from the Police Act as it is not reasonably justifiable in a democratic State like Nigeria which has domesticated the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Responding to Falana’s argument, the Attorney-General of the Federation through his Counsel, B.R. Ashiru maintained that Regulation 124 is designed to protect women police officers from falling into the hands of criminals. It was his submission that the purpose of the law is to prevent women police officers from marrying men of bad character.
He also defended the 3-year ban on the ground that it is meant to ensure that a woman police officer is not pregnant “during the rigorous training she must undergo after her employment”. In his judgment, the trial judge completely rejected the arguments of Ashiru, the representative of the Attorney-General, while upholding the submissions of Falana.
The Judge held that Regulation 124 was illegal, null and void due to its inconsistency with Section 42 of the Constitution. Having declared it unconstitutional the judge proceeded to annul Regulation 124 by virtue of Section 1(3) of the Constitution.