Can Security Agencies Forcefully Shave A Hair Style Of A Person?. An Appraisal Of The 1999 Constitution And Anti- Torture Act, 2017
By Faruku Barade Wamakko, (LLB, BL IN -VIEW).
It has became a habitual practice in our correctional centers, police stations, highways and states security offices like Hisbah, marshals and town security aids popularly called in Hausa language as “Yan doka”, that where a suspect before them is having a hair style or beard style that is not comfortable to them, they usually forcefully asks him to shave it or forcefully use razor blades or scissors to shave it for him. Sometimes they asked him to pay a find in lieu of the shaving or if refused at all, beat him up and detain him. At times they threatened the suspect of framing a criminal charges against him and may most times induce and or extort monies from the suspect.
Very recently, it happened as I embarked on a journey from Abuja to sokoto, I was on a commercial vehicle, loaded with passengers who are predominantly villagers/locals and whose business is hawking of wares in cities/urban areas. As we approached somewhere within Tsafe Local government in Zamfara state, our vehicle was flag down by some officers of Nigeria police force, and Our driver immediately pulled over. They pointed two of the passengers and asked them to come down. Without any fair hearing, they asked them to pay a find of one thousand naira (N1000) or else they will shave up their hair style. As I asked one of the policemen, he told me that they are safeguarding morality. The person’s hair styles resemble that of bandits and is against morality. I laughed so extensively as I was wondering when morality becomes a law without legal codification in Nigeria. When I further asked as to whether there’s any law either by state, federal or bylaws as to legality of their act, the officer replied that it was on ground of morality.
Just recently in Benue state, the same act was done by one organization called HUNTERS OF TERRORIST. The men of the organization shaved the hairs of many indigenous people living in one village in Benue state. The same scenario also happened recently in kano state, where the men of Islamic group called HISBAH ( an organization created by the laws of Kano state), shaved the head of somebody and gave reason that the hair style is unislamic.
So the aim of this article is to assess the legality or otherwise of the practice of force shaving of hair by the security agencies generally, vis-a-vis the consideration of the said practice in accordance with the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and Anti- Torture Act of 2017.
In Nigeria, the constitution is the ground norm that gives validity to all other laws. It’s a supreme law that superceded all other legislations, being it a federal, state or local government.
It is that legal framework without which all other laws, norms, rules, practices, guidelines etc are unborn.
The supremacy of the constitution cannot be overemphasized as its compliance must be observed by all authorities and persons through out the federal republic of Nigeria. See section 1(1) of the 1999 constitution.
The supremacy of the constitution is also to the effects that, any law which appears to be inconsistent with the provision of the constitution, the constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of inconsistency be void. See section 1(3) of the constitution.
The constitution also gave to the National assembly powers to make laws regulating the affairs of the country. see section 4(1) of the 1999 constitution.
Pursuant to the powers giving to the national assembly under the aforesaid section, the national assembly enacted a law called ANTI- TORTURE ACT 2017. The aims of this act is to strengthen the constitutional provisions and emphasize on the protection of rights of individuals against torture. Thus, the creation of ANTI – TORTURE ACT 2017 came in to existence.
*ON WETHER A FORCE SHAVING OF HAIR BY SECURITY AGENCIES AMOUNT TO A TORTURE*
It is my submission that force shaving of hair style of a person by security agencies being them police, prison Warder or any security agencies of the federation or state is amount to torture and grave violation of fundamental human rights guaranteed by the constitution.
*DEFINITION OF TORTURE*
Section 2(1) of the ANTI- TORTURE ACT 2017, defined torture as follows:
” *torture is deemed committed when an act by which pain and suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person to:*
*a. Obtain information or confession from him or a third person,*
*b. Punish him for an act he or third person has committed or suspected of having committed; or*
*c. Intimidate or coerce him or third person for any reason based on discrimination of any kind*”
Furthermore, sub section (2b)(xi) of the aforesaid section further defined torture to include:
*”Mental or physical torture, which is understood as referring to such cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment calculated to affect or confuse the mind or undermine a person’s dignity and morale, such as:- inflicting shame by stripping a person naked, parading him in public place, SHAVING OF HIS HEAD or putting marks on his body against his will.”*
Thus, there’s no doubt to mention that going by the provision of section 2(2b)(xi) of the act, shaving of a person’s head against his will amount to torture and degrading his dignity of person.
*ON WHETHER TORTURE IS AGAINST THE LAW*
The constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 under section 34(1a) provides thus:
*”Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly, no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;*
So also section 1 of the ANTI- TORTURE ACT 2017, strictly prohibits the act of torture and even placed it a duty on government to protect the rights of individuals against torture. The section provides thus:
*”The government shall:*
*a. Ensure that the right of all persons including suspect, detainees and prisoners are respected at all times and that no person placed under investigation or held in custody of any person in authority shall be subjected to physical harm, force, violence threat or intimidation or any act that impairs his free will and;*
*b. Fully adhere to the principles and standard on the absolute condemnation and Prohibition of torture set by the constitution the federal republic of Nigeria and various international instrument to which Nigeria is a state party.”*
Clinch from the provisions of the sections above, it is my submission that the act of torture is illegal and a grave violation of fundamental human rights.
*ON WHETHER PROTECTION OF MORALITY CAN JUSTIFY AN ACT OF TORTURE*
On no account whatsoever an act of torture is justifiable not even on moral ground. Section 3(1) of ANTI- TORTURE ACT 2017, provides thus:
*”No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a thread of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoke as a justification for torture.”*
Therefore, it’s my submission also that moral ground or morality can not be advance as a justification for an act of torture nor does morality takes the position of law. Moral rules are mere rules that lack a sanction mechanism. They only become a laws when they go through a legal codification. That’s why Austin (a positivist scholar) opined that a rule of morality is not a law and lack the attributes of a law. For law to be considered as a law it must have a commanding attribute From a sovereign and it must be accompany by sanction. It’s obvious that a rule of morales are not legally codified and therefore lack a force of law
In Nigeria, the law is certain and the constitution made provision that no person shall be punish for any offense not found in a written law. And the written law referred to here, is an act of national assembly or a state laws, bylaws or any subsidiary legislations made there under. See section 36(12) of the constitution.
*REMEDIES AVAILABLE FOR AN ACT OF TORTURE*
There are two forms of remedies available for an act of torture. Thus are: civil remedy which attracts compensation and public apology AND criminal remedy which attracts sanctions.
The legal basis for these remedies can be found in the constitution and the anti – torture act 2017.
In the constitution, section 46(1) provides thus:
*”Any person who alleges that any of the provisions of this Chapter has been, is being or likely to be contravened in any State in relation to him may apply to a High Court in that State for redress.*
The redress available in this regard are compensations and public apology.
While section 8(1) of ANTI-TORTURE ACT 2017, provide for criminal remedy for torture, that any person who commit an act of torture shall be punish with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 25years. However if the act of torture resulted to a lost of life, the person who committed the act shall be consider as a murderer and Shall be punish according to the relevant laws. The act also consider such other remedy/ remedies for compensation in addition to the punishment.
It’s my unshakable believe that anything improper is unlawful and the law is no respecter of any person no matter your position or place in social strata. Therefore it’s my submission that the act of force shaving of person’s hair by security agencies is absolutely improper and unlawful. The law does not allow any person to change another person’s physical appearance against his will. So also the act of force shaving is an alien to our local legislations. It has no justification whatsoever in the law and therefore illegal and unlawful.
This work is published under the free legal awareness project of Sabi Law Foundation (www.SabiLaw.org) funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International (www.BezaleelChambers.com). The writer was not paid or charged any publishing fee. You too can support the legal awareness projects and programs of Sabi Law Foundation by donating to us. Donate here and get our unique appreciation certificate or memento.
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