Pregnant policewoman sack and the gender bias controversy
By Chinelo Nwangene
Nigerians have continued to express outrage over the controversial dismissal of a female corporal, Olajide Omolola by the Nigeria Police Force for getting pregnant out of wedlock.
Omolola, a police corporal attached to the Iye Ekiti Police Station in Ilejemeje area of Ekiti State, was dismissed last month by police for getting pregnant barely a year after graduating from the police academy. The lady who passed out of police cadet on May 24, 2020 was said to be six months pregnant.
A memo with reference number CJ:4161/EKS/IY/Vol.2/236, DTO:181330/01/2021 from the Department of Finance and Administration in Ado Ekiti to the Divisional Police Officer at Iye Ekiti, read in part: “She (Omolola) stands dismissed from the Force. Dekit her. Retrieve police documents in her possession with immediate effect. O/C CFO Ekiti only. You are to relay signal to IPPIS Abuja for the stoppage of her salary with immediate effect.
Omolola’s dismissal drew widespread outrage across the country with many commentators berating the police authority for enforcing a discriminatory law. Others claimed that the aspect of the Act that the police authority in Ekiti relied on to justify Omolola’s sacking had been repealed in the amended Police Act signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2020.
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, President, Women Arise for Change Initiative, one of the leading voices against Omolola’s sack, described it as “pure discrimination”. She argued that many policemen have at one time or the other impregnated ladies whom they were not married to yet they were not punished or dismissed for it. She stressed that the Force must respect the equality of rights, and accord same regard to both genders in the Force.
“We should be able to interrogate the system and also find out if the leadership within the system can also provide the number of men within the police force who have impregnated women out of wedlock and that have also served similar punishment.”
“It is quite sad knowing that at this point in the history of our country, an institution like the Nigeria Police Force could slam such heavy punishment on a policewoman. It is quite insensitive. The decision of the police authorities typifies the assault encountered by the average Nigerian woman in their workplace. Our institutions must respect the equality of rights,” she stressed.
Chinemerem Ezeonyilimba agrees that similar punitive measures should have been meted out to policemen who impregnate women. “When did it becomes a crime for a lady to be pregnant? All these policemen sleeping about with other women, impregnating them and even refusing to take responsibility, no one has ever heard them being sacked.
“Many of those who killed, extorted and destroyed people’s properties are still in the force committing more crimes and their so-called bosses are still comfortable working with them. It’s time to make the rules right in this country than always watching the people at the top suppressing the junior ones.
Martin Beck Nworah also queried the rationale for dismissing the lady over pregnancy. She queried: “How many men have been sacked for being single and impregnating ladies? What sort of buffoonery is at play here? This reeks of sheer stupidity and a poor attempt at a grandiose display of idiocy. That woman should be recalled and a deserving apology should be tendered to her. Una dey dash husband?
Ughwubetine Fredrick also condemned the sack, describing it as unlawful. “Nigeria Police can’t choose how their personnel live their personal lives especially now that husband is scarce. As long as she performs her duty diligently, I don’t see any crime she committed. I think she should sue the Nigeria police,” he stressed.
Ololade Harlesh Shmurda views the dismissal of the policewoman as punishment meted out of malice rather than rule of law. “From the look of things, I think something is fishy here. I don’t think that pregnancy is the main issue here. Who knows whether some of the top officials want the lady but she already has her man, so getting rid of her is the punishment. Are they trying to justify that getting pregnant out of wedlock is a crime in Nigeria now?”
David Emenikwu who dismissed the sack as double-standard argued that the Act cited by the police for the punishment has become obsolete and overdue for repel. He argues: “What if the person that impregnant her is a police man? Are they going to stop him from work too or punish only the woman? There are some judgments we pass as mere humans that we don’t know the implications, but we pass them just because we are in a position to do that. Since it is her colleague that did the job, they should have punished him in the same way rather than to single out the lady as if she committed a crime someone has not done in this life.”
Emenikwu urged the police authority to temper justice with mercy to avoid ruining the lady’s life. “Come to think of it, age is no longer on her side. Though the pregnancy might be by mistake but those at the top of positions in the Nigeria Police Force should not make that lady to commit suicide because of law enforcement and other things that has been killing Nigeria today. If it is in Europe or other western countries, government will take care of her baby. So, I’m pleading with Nigerian government to help her.
The Police Commissioner, Ekiti Command, Mr Babatunde Mobayo, who tried to justify the sack, disclosed that Omolola violated section 127 of the Police Regulation, which carries serious punitive measures against flouters.
While section 126 of the regulation stipulated that married woman police who is pregnant may be granted maternity leave, Section 127 stated that unmarried woman police who becomes pregnant shall be discharged from the Force and shall not be re-enlisted except with the approval of the IGP.
According to Mobayo, the rule stated that woman police must undergo post-training experience on the field for at least two years before marriage and three years before childbearing. “In police organisation, we have rules and regulations, which are being carried out within the ambit of the constitution. The police officers are not even allowed to keep their children that are above 18 years of age in the barracks. Some of these laws were taught in the Police College before we graduated.
“Some stipulated the number of years you must spend before you get married. If you are in Police College, you are not supposed to get pregnant. When you pass out, you still need basic training and for your attention not to be distracted, you must spend a certain minimum of a period before you get married for you to perform efficiently.”
CP Mobayo also dismissed claims that Omolola’s fundamental rights had been infringed upon by the police, arguing that the Police Act 2020, which is undergoing amendment in the Senate has not repealed that. “What some people talked about that her fundamental human rights had been trampled upon and that women should not be discriminated against while also saying the law has been repealed were not true. The regulation is still in place”.
According to the CP, the Police Amendment Bill 2019, which was brought and sponsored by Senator Uzenwa Onyebuchi at the Senate has not been passed. “The amendment being sought has not been done neither had the bill gotten presidential assent. It has just been referred to the Senate Committee on Police Affairs for further scrutiny. Aside from the foregoing, the amended Police Act is different from police regulation,” Mobayo clarified.
He equally dismissed speculation that the punishment was a vendetta. “We saw the medical report and we did due diligence on her case. We can’t shy away from the oath of office we took, but the IGP can still reverse whatever we do on the field.
“About 300 policewomen were graduated here last year. How would the public feel if they see all of them pregnant in less than a year? It will look ridiculous. We are not the drafters of the rules, we met them there. All these disciplinary actions are what made us to be able to control our men. No Police Constable is underaged and they should be able to know what to do not to get pregnant within the time prohibited by regulation”.
Meanwhile, indications emerged that Omolola’s dismissal may be reversed following widespread public outcry. On January 27, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu ordered for a probe into the case. “Let us do our own investigation and find out because whatever I say must be authoritative.” The police boss said this during the commissioning of a project at the SPOs quarters on Oba Aladejobi Street, in the GRA area of Ikeja, Lagos State.