I have been reading a lot of commentaries, especially on Twitter, about the outfit Comedian Bovi wore to the Headies yesterday. Some persons are calling for his prosecution, because according to them he has committed an offence against the Nigerian flag.
Well, for those who have been asking me, yes there is something like committing an offence against the Nigerian flag.
Section 7 of the Flag and Coats of Arms Act, 1960 states that: “Any person who flies or exhibits the National Flag in a defaced or bad condition shall be guilty of an offence against this Act.” Section 8 states that: “Any police officer may seize and remove any flag in respect of which any offence against this Act has occurred, and may cause any flag so seized and removed to be disposed in such a manner as the minister may direct.”
But it doesn’t just end there. The person who puts up such a defaced flag will also be convicted of an offence and punished accordingly.
Section 10 States that: “Any person guilty of an offence against this Act shall be liable to a fine of one hundred naira and in the case of a continuing offence to a fine of ten naira for every day or part of a day during which the offence is continued after the day on which such person is first convicted.”
But has Bovi committed such an offence. The answer is a resounding “No!”
Bovi’s shirt is not a flag. A picture of a flag in a book, in a drawing, in a shirt, is not a flag within the contemplation of the Act.
Let’s look at Section 4 (1) to get the full import: “Subject to the provisions of this section, if in any public place in Nigeria the National Flag is to be exhibited or flown for any purpose, it shall not be exhibited with or be flown on the same staff or exhibited with or be flown on the same staff or crossbar…”
So, you see, a flag is meant to be flown or exhibited on a staff or crossbar for it to be a flag properly so called. Bovi’s shirt is not a flag and his body is not a staff or crossbar for the purposes of exhibiting or flying a flag.
l even dare to say that as long as your intention is not to exhibit or fly the flag, you can present it in any condition that will pass your message or deliver your purpose. That’s freedom of expression.
If you are looking for who to arrest and prosecute, you should leave Bovi’s shirt alone and go to all the government offices, schools and institutions that are flying and exhibiting the flag in tattered and defaced conditions.
First Baba (FBI) is a Legal Practitioner and writes from Abuja.