There is more to the controversy

The Nigeria Police, last weekend, declared Senator Isah Misau, Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, a deserter who left the service in controversial circumstances. A statement by the police authorities alleged that the former police officer, now a senator, failed to report for duty since September 24, 2010, after he was redeployed to Niger State Command. The lawmaker was also said to have tendered a forged resignation letter to the public, and paraded himself as a Deputy Commissioner of Police, instead of a Deputy Superintendent of Police. This was in addition to engaging in partisan politics and contesting elections while he was still deemed to be a serving police officer.

These are grave allegations. Graver still is the growing suspicion that the confounding claims by the police are trumped up charges to cries of institutional corruption made by the lawmaker. Even if the claims against the senator are true, they raised more questions about the effectiveness of the Police Service Commission and the overall integrity of the Nigeria Police as a credible institution of state charged with maintaining law and order in the wider society.

Regarding the lawmaker`s alleged desertion, Nigerians would ask, for instance: When did the police authorities know about that and what disciplinary or other steps were taken thereafter, as required by law? Was he queried, declared wanted or missing, when he failed to report at his presumed new duty post? For a lawmaker who was duly registered as a member of a political party in his home state, what did the police commissioner, Criminal Investigation Department and other security services do at the time? Were the police and security agencies not deemed to have investigated and cleared him as a fit and proper person to contest elections?

Senator Misau collected nomination forms, participated in his party primaries and emerged a candidate in the full glare of the public and the law. He was known to have campaigned openly, and in the print and electronic media. He was also provided with the requisite police and other security services lawfully expected in the circumstances of party politics and elections. Since he won the election the police authorities did not raise any issues about his years of service until he made damaging allegations against the authorities.

The police in their statement said it is on record that Misau contested and lost the Bauchi Central Senatorial seat in 2011 under the then Action Congress of Nigeria. Was he written, sued, or charged between 2010 when he allegedly deserted and 2011 when he emerged an unsuccessful senatorial candidate? Why did it take two years after his election in 2015 for the police to be making self-indicting claims?

We hold the Nigeria Police in the highest esteem as an institution of state. We believe that trying to maintain law and order in a society fraught with institutional, structural, fiscal and human capital challenges is a herculean task. But the police authorities have enough problems as it is, without undermining the institution with the manner in which they are handling their engagement with Senator Misau.

We state without reservation that the senator should be made to face the full wrath of the law if, indeed, the allegations against him are true. It is unconscionable that any Nigerian should abscond from duty and be making laws for the rest of us. But the duty of establishing culpability here lies with the police authorities that has proved, at least on this matter, not be above board.

We urge President Buhari to step in by asking the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister to investigate both the claims and counter-claims at the end of which justice must be done.