Senate Declares IG Enemy of Democracy, Unfit for Public Office

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  • PDP calls for sanctions against Idris
  • Police boss accuses lawmakers of blackmail, says he has no apology

Damilola Oyedele and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The standoff between the Senate and the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, took a turn for the worse Wednesday when the upper legislative chamber declared him “an enemy of democracy” and as someone “who is unfit to hold public office” in Nigeria and abroad.

But the police IG said he owed no one an apology for discharging his duties and accused the senators of blackmailing him into perverting the course of Justice because of Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi APC).

The Senate declaration followed his refusal to honour its summons for the third time in two weeks.

The IG was first summoned to appear on April 26 and then May 2, 2018 over the spate of killings across the country and the inhuman treatment meted out to Melaye in the course of his arrest, detention and arraignment by the police.

On both occasions, Idris had sent the Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations), Mr. Habila Joshack, to represent him.

The Senate, however, turned Joshack back and insisted that Idris appeared himself.

Ahead of the Tuesday’s summons for the IG to appear Wednesday, the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had met with President Muhammadu Buhari to report Idris’ penchant for disregarding summons by the legislature.

Saraki on Tuesday then hinted that the IG would appear before the Senate Wednesday but he was a no-show again, leading the Senate to declare him an enemy of democracy and unfit for office.

The declaration against Idris was taken at a closed-door session, which the lawmakers retreated into after it was obvious that he had shunned their invitation for the third time.

Saraki, following the closed-door session which lasted for 50 minutes, read the resolutions taken.

“The Senate noted that this has been a gross disrespect to our constituted authority and to also know that his earlier refusal to appear before an investigative committee was overruled by a competent court of jurisdiction just in April this year.

“The Senate therefore views this persistent refusal as a great danger to our democracy and hence the Senate resolved to declare the IG as an enemy of democracy and not fit to hold any public office within and outside Nigeria.

“The leadership of the Senate was also mandated to look into the matter for further necessary action,” Saraki said.

He, however, did not explain what “further necessary action” would entail.

Speaking earlier before they retreated into the closed-door meeting, Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan said the conduct of the IG was unfortunate.

Lawan disclosed that he, alongside the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police, Senator Abu Ibrahim, had been unable to reach the IG.

“Public officers should do what is in the interest of the public. If any officer feels he cannot do what is in public interest, he does not need to occupy such office,” he said.

Lawan added that the persistent summons to the IG did not make sense anymore, until the Senate takes a definite position on the slight.

Senator Isa Hamman Misau (Bauchi APC) wondered why Idris was afraid to brief the Senate on the state of security in the country.

“If what he is doing is right, then why is he refusing to come, unless he is hiding something or he is incompetent,” Misau said.

He maintained that constitutionally, a senator in his official capacity is higher in hierarchy than the IG.

In his contribution, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia PDP) said the conduct of the IG was one that gradually eats away at democracy.

“Democracy dies when people abuse governmental power. What we have seen today of the conduct of the chief law officer of the country, is an abuse of governmental power.

“He has no respect for this institution, there is absolutely no way we can dress it up,” he said.

Abaribe said Idris had also disrespected his office in the eyes of the international community.

“If the chief law officer does not obey the law, how does he expect miscreants to obey the law? If we do not deal with this abuse of power, all of us would regret it, because nothing would stop someone else from doing the same thing,” Abaribe said.

Senate spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, at a briefing Wednesday had said Idris was expected to appear, following the meeting Saraki and Dogara had with Buhari.

“The word we got from our leadership was that he was given instructions to appear today,” Abdullahi said.

Reacting to the impertinence of the police IG, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) condemned in its entirety the repeated snub of the Senate by him.

The party charged the Senate to take the next step within their legislative instruments and powers to restore the respect and dignity which the generality of Nigerians and the 1999 Constitution bestow on them.

The party described the action by Idris as an assault to democracy.

“PDP notes that this deliberate assault on our democratic process, willful denigration of the National Assembly and recourse to totalitarianism has not been reprimanded by President Muhammadu Buhari, as the chief security officer of the nation,” the party said.

A statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, added: “It is instructive to state that never in our democratic history as a people and a nation, has a service chief or an Inspector General of Police treated the National Assembly with as much dishonor and disdain like the current IG.”

The opposition party noted that in the world all over, the legislature is a bastion of democracy and “our constitution, in recognition of this, provided a special place for our National Assembly as the representatives of the people, to serve as a check on the executive arm”.

“We therefore condemn this offensive on our democracy by IG Idris as well as the deliberate insult being heaped on each of our legislators by appointees of President Buhari.

“We invite Nigerians to note that totalitarianism does not begin in a day. It starts from a deliberate disrespect to statutes, laws and institutions that engender democracy and rule of law.

“Consequently, the PDP, as a party, urges the President of the Senate and senators to protect the institution of the legislature and our democracy by not limiting their action only to finding Mr. Ibrahim Idris as unfit to hold public office,” PDP said.

But the police boss doubled down Wednesday, saying the Police Force he leads does not owe any individual or group any apology in discharging its duties.

He accused the Senate of trying to blackmail him into perverting the course of justice because of Melaye, adding that the lawmakers were attempting to witch-hunt him

In a statement by the spokesman of the Police Force, Jimoh Moshood, Idris said he would not to be intimidated.

He asked the public to disregard the statement of the Senate and promised to continue to discharge his duties to the best of his ability.

The statement by Moshood said: “In accordance with the extant laws in Nigeria, the functions, duties and responsibilities of the Inspector General of Police as stated in Section 215(1a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, and the Police Act and Regulations Section 309(1) can also be carried out as mentioned in sections 7(1),312(1), 313(2) of the Police Act and Regulations by a senior officer of the Force of the rank of Deputy Inspector General of Police or an Assistant Inspector General of Police who, if permitted by the Inspector General of Police to act on his behalf or represent him in an official capacity at any official function, event or programme within and outside Nigeria, can do so in consonant with the provisions of the Police Act and Regulations.”

Moshood, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, said Idris had delegated some of his subordinates to represent him before the lawmakers, an option the senators strongly rejected, mandating the IG’s appearance in person rather than through a surrogate.

The statement by Moshood also disclosed that the police IG had informed Saraki in a letter on Tuesday that he would not be honouring Senate’s invitation again on Wednesday.

Moshood said the IG considered Wednesday’s attack on his person by the senators as “deliberate blackmail, witch-hunting (sic) with mischievous motives to hand-twist him to pervert the end of justice in a felonious and serious offenses relating to Senator Dino Melaye”.

The IG was quoted to have said: “The Nigeria Police Force as a law abiding organisation will continue to hold the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria in high esteem but wishes to impress on the Senate not to harbour criminal elements among its fold or condone criminality.

“The Force will not be intimidated by any individual, groups or institution, constituent or otherwise to abdicate from its constitutional responsibilities of protection of lives and property and due enforcement of the rule of law, and law and order across the country.”