Legal Nigeria

WELA, Adeyanju seek release of female soldier detained for accepting marriage proposal

By Eniola Daniel and Silver Nwokoro

Deji Adeyanju

Women Empowerment and Legal Aid (WELA) and the Convener, Concerned Nigerians, Comrade Deji Adeyanju have condemned the detention of a female soldier, Sofiyat Akinlabi by the Nigerian Army for accepting marriage proposal.  
Akinlabi was reported arrested at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Camp at Ilorin, Kwara State, last week.Director of Army, Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu said she was arrested for getting involved in a public display of amorous relationship with a male youth corps member and that she failed to serve for three years before getting married.
But WELA in a petition said Akinlabi has not contravened the regulation on the restriction of marriage for three years.
In the petition signed by Funmi Falana to the Chief of Army Staff, Farouk Yahaya, WELA stated that the restriction of female military personnel from contracting any marriage for three years upon enlistment, which is not applicable to male military personnel is illegal and unconstitutional.  

It stated: “ In the case of Women Empowerment and Legal aid v. Attorney-General of the Federation (2015), the High Court held inter alia; “in the instant case, the discrimination is not as to the fact that women were not recruited into the police force, but that they were recruited and subjected to some restrictions and disabilities as regulation 124 is the requirement that a woman police officer cannot marry, until a written application is made to the Commission of Police, and the Commissioner not only approves request to marry but must approve the choice of the man to be married. This with all respect is bizarre.

“Any Law or Regulation that makes or attempts to make the Commissioner for Police a plenary Guardian or a Guardian Angel to make or approve suitors for female police officers is not only unlawful, but it is also repulsive to the right of the woman police officer as a human being to make her own self-choice of suitors without the intervention of the state machineries.
“The most fundamental issue is if this is the policy laid down for the police, does it apply to the menfolk. It is not. So it is only issued to women police officers because of their gender as women and it is very much unconstitutional.
“In view of the foregoing, we urge you (COAS)  to use your good offices to order the release of Private Sofiyat Akinlabie from further custody. Furthermore, her decision to marry the male youth corps member should be respected as both of them are entitled to freedom of association guaranteed by Section 40 of the Constitution.”
Also, Adeyanju condemned the Nigerian Army for denying Akanbi access to members of her family and refusal to provide her with food, sanitary materials and medical care. He said  such gross violation of human rights,  abuse of power and excessive use of force is absolutely uncalled for and condemnable.
Adeyanju warned that the detained female soldier should be released before it sparks national, global outrage.