A human rights lawyer and activist, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, has said Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba does not have the power to direct movie actors, producers and others on how to portray Nigerian Police Force in their productions. The lawyer who said this in a statement released on Tuesday stated that it is a violation of freedom of expression to tell actors how to showcase Nigerian police while doing their jobs. Easterner had reported that IGP decried the illegal possession and use of police uniforms and accoutrements by filmmakers and skit makers in Nigeria. IGP said this in a statement released on Sunday by the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumuyiwa Adejobi.
It said the IGP “equally frowned on the demeaning manner in which movie makers and skit makers portray the police institution in their movies and skits, using the police uniform without recourse to the provision of Section 251 of the Criminal Code law, and Section 133 of the Penal Code Law which criminalise such unauthorised use with accompanying necessary sanctions’.
Malcolm, however, said in a statement made available to Easterner, that it is the right of filmmakers to portray the police however they like and stopping them will amount to violating their freedom of expression.
“I will like to start by saying that the Inspector General of Police has no powers to direct the movie makers and skit makers on how they choose to portray the Police institution in their movies and skits no matter how demeaning because to do so will amount to the violation of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression,” the lawyer said.
He continued: “It is however imperative for the people in the make-believe world to understand that they are not permitted under the law to use or be in possession of police uniform, kit and accoutrement without the authorization of the police. In fact, it is a criminal offence to do so as expressed by the Inspector General of Police and it is punishable under the law.
“Having said that it is instructive to note that there is nothing in our laws that prohibits movie makers and skit makers from preparing costumes depicting the Nigerian police uniform for their business as long as it is not the police property which therefore makes it private property and the police consequently cannot arrest them for owning a costume because the Nigerian constitution makes it is clear that every Nigerian citizen has the right to own both moveable and immovable property.
“As long as such uniforms are used as costumes for acting and are not used to impersonate the police or commit any crime the police cannot arrest and prosecute movie makers and skit makers because to do so will amount to the infringement of their constitutional right to freedom of expression and right to own property.
“In view of the above, I advise film and skit makers to be law-abiding and not to succumb to the threat and intimidation of the police to stop them from exercising their right to freedom of expression and right to own property.
“The police naturally will be quick at ensuring prompt authorisation of all applications for approvals of usage of police items in movies and skits which will portray the police in good light and will definitely refuse to grant the applications that portray the police in a bad light. Once confronted with the latter situation I advise the affected film or skit maker to prepare its own police costume strictly for the make-believe world and by so doing will not be offending the law.
“Movie and skit makers must have it at the back of their minds that they do not have the liberty to portray the police in bad light without justification. In doing so they must the guided by the principles of truth, honesty and defence of public interest. The movie and skit makers have the licence to tease, mock and criticize the police while plying their trade because not even the President of Nigeria is free from their knocks as long as their contents are true, honest and in the interest of the public.”
“I, therefore, urge Emmanuella and little Success, Nkem Owoh, Bishop Ime, Williams Uchemba, Brodashaggi and Officer Woos, Francis Otega and Funnybone, Aki and Pawpaw, Eniola Badmus, Mr Ibu, Officer Eno Obong and other movie and skit makers to continue with their good works as law and not to allow themselves to be cowed,” he added.