According to section 17 (1) (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which say: "That every citizen shall have the equality of right, obligations, and opportunity before the law; section 42 of the same constitution also says that no Nigerian citizen shall be discriminated against because of a particular sex, religion or ethnic group". And it also guarantees the right to private and family life. Furthermore, Article 18(3) of the West African Charter on the People's Human Rights also frowns against discriminatory practices on grounds of sex." And Nigeria is signatory to this charter.

In the light of the above assertion, it worrisome to note of the plight of a dismissed former employee of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Miss Udoka Tochukwu, on account of her engagement to a driver with the Niger Delta Development Agency, Mr. Ozorumba Osondu in her recent testimony to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges and also that the agency recommended the abortion of her pregnancy in an attempt to stop her from getting married. Its more dishearten that this kind of policy is in operation in the 21st Century Nigeria that some government agencies still operates such obnoxious rules and babaric practices that contravenes the constitution amidst the fight against discrimination of women, and gender equality around the world.

The Nigeria Police Force is guilty of this offence as a section of its Act expressly spell out that before a female police officer get married, she must notify and get permission from the Police Commissioner of her command. This is gross violation of the right of female police Officers and gender discrimination. What about their Male counterpart? Does the same rule apply? If no, this section of the police Act should be deleted immediately. Also of importance to note, is the practice whereby some Police stations do not allow female citizens to take people on bail despite Inspector General of Police directive (IGP) against such practices.

Before now, The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) operated same discriminatory practices against women before a Federal High Court sitting Port Harcourt on June 1, 2009 presided over by Hon. Justice G.K. Olotu in his declaration in a suit brought before it by Dr. Priye Iyalla-Amadi, wife of renowned author, Elechi Amadi, against the Director General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (first defendant) (NIS), (second defendant) and the service itself against the previous administrative policy of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) compelling a married Nigerian woman to produce a letter of consent from her husband as a condition for issuance of international passport as unconstitutional and a violation of Section 42 (1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution and Article 18(3) of the West African Charter on the People's Human Rights, being discriminatory on grounds of sex, hence unlawful and unconstitutional. The policy equated Nigerian married women alongside with minors by the government as persons who require consent from the head of the family. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has not help matters also in this regard. Section 26 of the 1999 makes discriminatory provisions against women in terms of the inability of their foreign husbands to acquire Nigerian citizenship automatically by marriage and this is not the same with male citizens with their foreign wives. This section needs to be amended.

In 2006, the federal ministry of Women's Affairs (FMWA) pushed for the adoption of the National Gender Policy to replace the National Policy on Women, which was adopted in 2000. The overall policy goal is to build a just society devoid of discrimination, harness the full potentials of all social groups regardless of sex or circumstance, promote the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and protect the health, social, economic and political well being of all citizens in order to achieve equitable rapid economic growth; evolve an evidence - based planning and governance system where human, social, financial and technological resources are efficiently and effectively deployed for sustainable development. While one of its policy objectives is to include the principles of United Nation's Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other global and regional frameworks that support gender equality and women empowerment in the country's laws, legislative processes, judicial and administrative systems. Nigeria acceded to United Nation's Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1984 and signed the ratification document in 1985.

Finally, it's my candid opinion that every Nigerian citizens should be treated equally with dignity and given the same right by government agencies since Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Clifford Ogbeide
Centre For Strategic & Development Studies,
Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma, Nigeria
Email: [email protected]

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Articles by Clifford Ogbeide