By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, on Thursday, described as illegal, the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to retain the retired Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, in office for another three months.
In separate interviews with Vanguard, the senior lawyers, maintained that President Buhari acted in breach of the Nigerian Police Act, 2020, as amended.
The SANs were unanimous in their opinion that Adamu, who was due for retirement on February 1 having spent 35 years in service, is no longer a valid police officer in the eyes of the law.
According to Afam Osigwe, SAN, who was a former Secretary General of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Adamu, is no longer a police officer capable of being appointed in acting or substantive capacity to head the Nigerian Police Force.
He said: “The action of the President is in violation of Police Act 2020. The Act expects a police officer to retire upon the attainment of 60 years or after 35 years in service.
“It appears that the ex-IGP has attained that position. I have read the provision of the Act and it says that only a person who is a police officer can be the IG.
“So for the President to legitimately or lawfully extend the tenure of the IG, he has to be a police officer. Unfortunately, Adamu is no longer a police officer capable of being appointed in acting or substantive capacity to head the Nigerian Police Force.
“It would have been a different thing if for example, he is still in service as a police officer and has spent the number of years stipulated in the police Act 2020 and he is leaving office as IG by virtue of the eflusion of time of his tenure as IG and he remains a police officer. In which case, the President, will be extending the tenure of a person who happens to be a police officer.
“The point I am making is that for the appointment by the President to be lawful or in sync with the Police Act 2020, Adamu has to be shown to be a serving police officer.
“Having attained the retirement age, the President can no longer by any stretch of imagination extend his tenure because he is no longer a police officer.
“So he (President Buhari) lacks the power to foist on the Nigerian Police Force, a person who is not a police officer, which is what he would appear to have done at this time”.
Similarly, a renowned constitutional lawyer, Mr. Dayo Akinlaja, SAN, noted that it was not in doubt that Adamu has reached the mandatory retirement age.
He argued that the action of President was contrary to the provision of both the Police Act and the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
According to Akinlaja, SAN: “I would not know, probably, there is a law that I am not privy to that allows the President to extend the tenure of a retired IG.
“But going by the Constitution and the amended Police Act, it is very clear that anybody who would be qualified for appointment to the office of the IGP must be a serving member of the Nigerian Police Force.
“Once that is a given, it follows to my humble mind that for anybody to serve in that office in whatever capacity, whether in acting or substantive capacity, the person, as a condition precedent, must be a serving member of the Nigerian Police Force.
“If there is no debate about the fact that the IGP has retired or reached retirement age, it follows in my own humble view that he cannot continue in that office.
“So, once it is against what the Constitution and the Police Act has prescribed, I want to believe that what the President has done does not enjoy the support of either the Constitution or the Police Act”.
On his part, another constitutional lawyer, Mr. Abeny Mohammed, SAN, maintained that President Buhari’s action was an indication that “he is not in charge”.
He said: “It has become the habit of the President to extend the tenure of Service Chiefs and Inspectors General of Police.
“It shows lack of diligence on the part of the President that when a senior police officer, the Inspector General of Police is about to retire, he should have done his homework by preparing another person that should take over.
“That is why many people believe that he is not in control or in charge of the affairs of this country.
“I don’t subscribe to extension of tenure. It kills the morale and zeal of serving officers. Somebody that would have stepped in, will now be waiting.
“I have not looked at the Police Act. He may have the power to extend for a few months the tenure of the IGP, but it is a very bad habit that shows lack of diligence on his part as the President of this country”, he added.