By Onyebuchi Sampson
Condemnations have continued to trail the new dress code approved for policewomen by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba Alkali.
The new dress code unveiled at the IGP’s meeting with Strategic Police Managers on March 3, 2022, permits policewomen to wear stud earrings, and headscarves under their berets or peak caps as the case may be while in uniform.
He noted that the Nigeria Police workforce has officers from every local council in the country with a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds, and increased inclusion of female folks.
“This brings the need to guarantee inclusion, gender mainstreaming, ethnic and religious diversity in the workplace for optimum output and professionalism.
It also informed the improvement for effective global workforce diversity management. Other countries that have adopted the same dress code include Canada, the United States of America, Sweden, Turkey, Australia and the United Kingdom amongst others,” the IGP added.
But, a civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), through its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the introduction of a new dress code for female police officers, negates the provisions of the 1999 Constitution that forbade the elevation of any religion as then state religion.
The group argued that the use of hijab and studded earring would not in any way increase the efficiency of police officers nor protect them from flying AK-47 bullets fired by daring criminals and bandits in the country of late. HURIWA’s Onwubiko also said that the new dress code is illegal, unconstitutional and sectarian, alleging that it was a move to fulfil the “Islamisation agenda” of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
“Despite the many challenges including declining staff numbers, low morale, poor training and poor welfare confronting the Nigeria Police Force under IGP Usman Baba, it is unfortunate that he chose to prioritise religious adornment over weightier matters.
“HURIWA wonders how the new dress code is of any use to the shrinking 300,000 police officers in the country whose salaries are barely paid by the government and whose dilapidated barracks are unfit for pigs let alone human beings,” Onwubuiko added.
Also, human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, said the new dress code approved for policewomen by the IGP is not only illegal and unconstitutional, but that cannot use his office to enforce religion.
He stressed that religion of public officers, including members of the security agencies, should be a private matter to them.
According to him, the IGP is not competent to use the platform of his office to enforce religion.
He said: “On March 4, 2022, the Inspector-General of Police purported to unveil a new dress code for the Nigeria Police Force, especially female officers, who are to be allowed to wear coverings or hijab, etc.
“The religion of public officers, including members of the security agencies, should be a private matter to them. The Inspector-General of Police is not competent to use the platform of his office to enforce religion.
“Section 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates that the government and all its agencies should be neutral in religious matters.
“Section 42 of the same Constitution prohibits discrimination in all its ramifications. In this regard, there will be no end to confusion attending to the new dress code prescribed by the IGP.
“What will be the official uniform for policewomen who are in the Catholic Church? How should policemen and women who are in the Celestial Church dress up when the practice of their church is against wearing shoes at all?
“And how should traditionalists who are in the police force dress up, with charms and amulets round their uniforms?
“The Nigeria Police has existed as an institution since 1945 and it is strange that of all the issues confronting that agency, such as low morale, poor welfare, poor infrastructure, poor training, poor welfare, etc, religious adornment should be the priority of the Inspector-General of Police.
“The police should focus on combating crime, improve citizen’s engagement and help guarantee safety of lives and property. The religious preferences of policemen and women should be their private matters.”
Also, a Lagos based lawyer, Uchechi Igwe, said the dynamics of the code goes beyond Christian and Muslim and even beyond Right and Wrong.
He added that the IGP has no such powers to effect such changes that go against the standard apparel and colour without recourse to our laws/constitution.
“The IGP can’t wake up one morning, for instance, and say the black boots police wear should be changed to yellow.
“He does not have such a power, only the National Assembly (NASS), the court and to a certain extent, an executive order from the president can effect such changes.
“If hijab (which I have no problems with as many of my cousins are Muslims) is to be allowed in the Federal force then it would have to go through constitutional routes either at the NASS or Court of law,” he added.