A Nigerian government official attracted worldwide attention this month for cutting off the hair of a number of female employees. Andrew Kumapayi is a commander for the Nigerian Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in Rivers State, Nigeria. He was performing a “routine inspection of officers’ hair and nails” when he determined some hairstyles to be non-compliant. Images of Kumapayi cutting the hair and of piles of hair on the ground were quickly shared online, originally on the FRSC Rivers State Facebook Page. Although these pictures were taken down fairly quickly, the images were saved and shared and have now been seen around the world. The most common reaction has been outrage.
FRSC regulations say that “women cannot have hair that drops below the collar.” Other rules say that women must “maintain a hairstyle that can be tucked into their beret” for parades and doesn’t specifically talk about hair length. Even if the women were indeed in violation of these rules, many are saying that Kumapayi’s response was extreme and uncalled for. Lauretta Onochie, an aide to Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, tweeted about the incident. She shared the images and summed up the incident as “HUMILIATION OF WOMEN TAKEN TOO FAR.” The Daily Trust made the observation that the incident was reminiscent of “the dark days of military rule when punishments such as frog jump, whipping and being made to crawl were common.” They concluded that Kumapayi was, at best, “guilty of doing the right thing in the wrong way” and should be punished accordingly.
Kumapayi and other officers involved have reportedly been recalled while the incident is investigated. The removal of Kumapayi and others happened quickly after the images began circulating. Onochie tweeted, “The ‘men’ who did this have been suspended by FRSC.” She also thanked the FRSC administration for its swift action in recalling the individuals. It’s unknown which other officers were involved and recalled along with Kumapayi since the images only show him actually doing the cutting and public shaming. So far, Kumapayi has not commented on the incident.
The official spokesperson for FRSC, Bisi Kazeem, has said the results of the investigation will be made public.