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Powers, achievements, and failings of the Nigeria Police: Need for urgent attention(5)

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By Aare Afe Babalola

This week, I shall examine the other relevant provisions of the law dealing with the running of the Police. Section 5 of Police Act cap 359, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 dealing with the makeup of the Police provides that there shall be an Inspector General of the Nigerian Police, such number of Deputy Inspectors General of Police, Assistant Inspectors General as the Nigeria Police Council considers appropriate, a Commissioner for each State of the Federation and such ranks as may from time to time be appointed by the Nigerian Police Council.

The effect of the above provisions is that the responsibility of determining the number of Deputy Inspectors Generals and Assistant Inspectors General of Police is that of the Police Council. Section 6 of the Act put the entire Police under the command of the Inspector General of Police while that of each State of the Federation is placed under its respective commissioner of police subject to the authority of the Inspector General.

This in essence means that the State Commissioner of Police is directly responsible and accountable to the Inspector General of Police. This situation has remained a very controversial one. Many state Governors have decried a situation in which the Commissioners of Police in their states are not in reality answerable to them.

There have been instances in which Governors have accused the Government at the Centre of using its direct control of the Police to meet political ends.  Section 7 and 8 of the Act spell out the duties of Deputy Inspector General of Police and Assistant Inspector General of Police respectively.

Because of the importance of Police Council I hereby re-produce verbatim the provision of section 9 of the Act:

9(1) Notwithstanding, the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is hereby establish a body to be known as the Nigeria Police Council (herein after in this Act referred to as the “Council”) which shall consist of:

  1. a) The President as Chairman
  2. b) The Chief of General Staff
  3. c) The Minister of Internal Affairs
  4. d) The Council shall be charged with the following functions
  5. a) Policy formulation and administration of the force
  6. b) Matters relating to the appointment, promotion and discipline of members of the force
  7. The Director General in Police Affairs department of the Presidency shall be the Secretary to the Council
  8. The President shall be charge with operational control of the Force.
  9. The Inspector General shall be charge with command of the force subject to the directive of the Presidency.

From the above provisions, the importance of Police Council cannot over emphasized. Both in composition and function. The Police Council’s power appears to be awesome.

Let me quickly add here when the Police Act became operational there was no full blown Ministry in charge of Police affairs, hence subsection 3 of section 9 of the Act quoted above makes reference to the Director General in the Police affairs Department of the Presidency. As is well known under the present dispensation there is a separate distinct and functional Ministry of Police Affairs with a Minister in charge who stands on equal pedestal with other Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This welcome development further reinforces the indispensability of the Police under a functional democracy. Going by the provisions of the Act therefore, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria remains the directing mind of the Police Council.

Powerlessness of the

State Governor

For reasons I shall state in detail later concerning the powerlessness of the State Governor in their respective States, I must refer to the provisions of section 10 of the Act which states thus,

10 (1) The President may give to the Inspector General such directions with respect to the maintaining and securing of public safety and public order as he may consider necessary and the Inspector General shall comply with those directions or cause them to b e complied to.

(2) Subject to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the Commissioner of a State shall comply with the directions of the Governor of the State with respect to maintaining and securing of public safety and public order within the State or cause them to be complied with.

Provided before carrying out such direction, the Commissioner may request that the matter should be referred to the President for his directions.

For purpose of clarity, the term “Commissioner” used in the above section 10 of the Act according to section 2 of the same Act means “ A Commissioner of Police, a Deputy Commissioner of Police or  an Assistant Commissioner of Police.

Technically, it would appear that sub-section (2) of section 10 empowers the Governor of a State to give directives to the Commissioner of Police in matters pertaining to the maintenance and securing of public safety and order. Sadly though the proviso to the subsection gives a discretion to the Commissioner to refer it first to the President. There is no doubt that in the chequered history of the relations between the Governors of States (or region) and the Police in Nigeria, this has always been a ready excuse for an unwilling Police Commissioner especially under civilian dispensation where the party in power at the Federal level differs from the one operating at the State level to discountenance any “directive” (if any) from the Governor.

To be continued.

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