March 21, 2023

IGP, PSC and professionalism in the police force

lady in Ibadan

By Emeka Oraetoka

It is not true that PSC has no power to recruit IGP because he, the IGP, was first recruited into the police force by PSC before he rose to the rank of IGP. What the Constitution did not assign to PSC is the power to appoint IGP within the rank of qualified persons to that office. It follows that the PSC should have the power to at least recommend the suspension of the IGP to the President in council; where necessary. This will enable the Nigeria Police Force maintain the much desired professional discipline and cohesion —Nigerians for Professionalism and Discipline in Nigeria Police Force.  

THAT a sitting Inspector General of Police, IGP, is not answerable to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the Police Service Commission, PSC, is perhaps the greatest disservice to the Nigeria Police Force, NPF. So, how does the President oversights the IGP? Or is a sitting IGP equivalent to Caesar’s wife, who is above suspicion? The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended clearly defined the functions of PSC. Specifically, the mandate of PSC reads: The Commission is one of the Federal Executive Bodies captured in Section 153 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended; Paragraph 29 and 30 of the third Schedule of the Constitution states that; The Commission shall have power to – (a) Appoint persons to offices (other than office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force; and (b) Dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding any office referred to in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph. Also Section 6 of the Police Service Commission (Establishment) Act, 2001 holds true on the powers of PSC.  

In spite of the constitutional mandate of PSC, the commission appears helpless and hopeless in discharging its function because of the fact that it has no authority (legitimate power) over the office of the Inspector General of Police, OIGP. The drafters of the Constitution should have known that immediately you elevate someone who has been under an authority, above that authority, the institution is destroyed automatically. The constitutional elevation of IGP above PSC via the non-assignment of power to the commission to call a sitting IGP to order, is not in the best interest of both the PSC and the Nigeria Police Force, in terms of discipline and cohesion.

The unnecessary power tussle being witnessed almost on a daily basis, between the PSC and the IGP, is clearly a direct result of the constitutional elevation of the IGP above PSC; thereby giving the IGP “above the law” status. If not so, why would the office of the IGP be in court with PSC over an issue that is clearly outside the IGP’s jurisdiction? Will this be contemplated if the PSC has constitutionally defined oversight function over the office of the IGP? At best, the relationship between the IGP’s office and PSC can be likened to what follows when the proprietor of a school tells a class teacher, in the presence of his pupils, that the teacher must not raise his stick against anyone in the class, notwithstanding the offence committed.  

It is obvious that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has no avenue of over-sighting the activity of the Inspector General of Police, and that is a big problem confronting policing in Nigeria today. Shortly after the 2015 presidential election, the then president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan sacked the IGP, Suleiman Abba. The action of the President, clearly confirmed the absence of an established body that oversights the IGP. If there is, a recommendation for the sacking of the IGP would have emanated from that body.

This practice of recommendation either for the sacking or suspension of Police chief, where necessary, is what is obtainable in other climes. This writer was privy to about over hundred plus (100+) letters written to IGP Ibrahim Idris in around 2015, by the PSC for interaction on how to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of police in general. It is annoying and frustrating to note that Ibrahim Idris neither honoured nor replied any of the letters from the PSC.

It was this rude behaviour from IGP Ibrahim Idris and the attendant helplessness of the PSC that prompted the lamentation by retired IGP Mike Okiro, the then Chairman of PSC, in a newspaper article where he said that IGP Ibrahim Idris was suffering from “non-authority of hire and fire syndrome” and that is probably the primary reason for a lot of body language-induced indiscipline in the Nigeria Police today.

When an Inspector General of Police, refuses to honour a simple letter from PSC, he sends a dangerous message, through his body language, to policemen under his command that nothing can happen to them, irrespective of the issue on ground. By that body language, the IGP thus gives policemen license to behave the way and manner they like, since their IGP cannot be sanctioned by the President via PSC, for whatever reason.     

In 2017, the then IGP, Ibrahim Idris, was in the eye of the storm after being accused of corruption by Senator Isah Misau, who was the Chairman of Senate Committee on Navy. The Police authorities in turn accused him of vendetta over being under investigation for alleged desertion of the Police. That show of shame would not have been contemplated, if the Police Service Commission has oversight function over the IGP. Senator Isah Misau who resigned his commission as a police officer before becoming a senator, would have routed his accusation against the IGP through the PSC, if the commission has power to call the IGP to order.

Similarly, the disgrace of the former IGP Tafa Balogun by the EFCC would not have happened if the PSC was empowered to oversight the office of the Inspector General of Police. This is because whatever allegation(s) EFCC had against him, Tafa, would have been reported to the President through the PSC. The helplessness of PSC occasioned by  “non- authority of hire and fire syndrome” lamentation of Sir Mike Okiro, went a step further under Musilu Smith’s PSC leadership, when Mohameed Abubakar Adamu-led police management went to court against PSC over recruitment of police constables.

If not for the disrespect IGP has for PSC, why should Police under Adamu go to court with PSC over what is captured in black and white in the Constitution as the function of the commission? For avoidance of doubt, here is what is in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended Paragraph 29 and 30 of the third Schedule of the Constitution states: “The Commission shall have power to – (a)  Appoint  persons to offices (other than office of the Inspection-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force.”  

Nothing can be more humiliating to Police Service Commission than the court case instituted by IGP-led Nigeria Police Force over who has the constitutional mandate to (appoint, hire or recruit) persons to offices (other than office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force. The lamentation of the Chairman of PSC, Retd IGP, Musilu Smith on January 29, 2022, as reported in many dallies, clearly explained the precarious situation the PSC has found itself in terms of not having power to oversight the IGP.

That the Nigeria Police Force took the PSC to court of first instance, and got a favourable judgment against it, is enough reason for the IGP in office when the court case was instituted to be punished. In a sane clime, will the establishment that has the same power as PSC and with oversight function on IGP, be explaining itself to anyone in this circumstance? If PSC has oversight power on IGP, will it be necessary to say this: “It is necessary to state unequivocally that the recruitment of police officers from the rank of constables to cadet inspectors and Cadet ASPs are and remains the constitutional responsibility of the commission and this was also affirmed not long ago by a judgment of the Federal Court of Appeal?”

What the PSC would have done was to recommend the suspension of IGP to the President because it was clearly an act of insubordination on the part of the IGP. The court case instituted by the then IGP marked the peak of humiliation of PSC. Instances of the practice of total police oversight abound around the world. In Denmark, the equivalent of the Police Service Commission is Danish Independent Police Complaints Authority, DIPCA. The body has powers of oversight over all police officers, including their National Police Commissioner. For instance, among the powers vested on DIPCA is to inquire if the Police have abused their powers and this applies to their National Police Commissioner as well.

Similarly, in Fiji the Constitutional Office Commission, COC, which is equivalent to Nigeria’s PSC has oversight powers over their Police Commissioner. COC exercised this power of recommendation not too long ago, when the pacific island nation’s COC recommended to President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere the suspension of the Commissioner of Police Sitiveni Qiliho. In South Africa, the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service, CSPS, performs the same function as the PSC in Nigeria, but it has an oversight function over the South African Police Service, SAPS, including the National Police Commissioner. 

Oraetoka, an Information Management and Research Consultant, wrote in from Abuja