Senate, IG Face-off: What Next?

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Davidson Iriekpen considers the options before the Senate over the refusal of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to honour its summons

The Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, last Wednesday for the third time, failed to honour the invitation by the Senate to appear before it. The Senate first invited him on April 25 when it gave him a 24-hour ultimatum to appear before it to explain the circumstances surrounding the arrest of one of them, Dino Melaye, and killings across Nigeria. However, the IG sent his deputy, who was turned back. The police chief later through a statement explained that he was on an official assignment with President Muhammadu Buhari in Bauchi. He was again told to appear the following Wednesday, May 2.

When the day came, the lawmakers stood down their Order 17 to allow the police chief to enter the chamber; but he was not around. On this occasion, Senator Ibrahim, the chairman Senate Committee on Police Affairs, said he had not been able to reach Idris for a while. He informed his colleagues that after the first summon, the National Assembly clerk wrote to Idris and thereafter, he met with him and implored him to honour the invitation. The lawmakers deliberated on the development and resolved to give Idris one week grace to honour the invitation. He was asked to appear on May 9. But on this day, not only did he fail to appear, he equally failed to state why.

In a unanimous decision, the Senate declared the IG as “an enemy of democracy,” and a person who is ‘unfit to hold public office.’
Many observers believe that even if the IG feels justified to turn down the Senate’s summons because he did not want to answer questions on the inhuman treatment meted out to Melaye, he should have honoured the invitation to answer questions on incessant killings across the country.

Since the beginning of the year, over 2,500 Nigerians have been killed in Rivers, Kaduna, Zamfara, Adamawa, Kogi, Kwara, Benue, Nasarawa states by herdsmen, bandits and armed robbers. Not only has the IG not been able to come up with strategies to solve the killings, his body language does not suggest that he feels the agonies of what the people who have lost their beloved ones feel.

Last February, after the massive killings in Benue State, President Buhari ordered Idris to relocate to the state and to stop the killings. He disobeyed the directive. Since then, many more people have been killed with no strategies from the IG.

Surprisingly, there are some lawyers who feel that the IG was justified for not honouring the invitation of the Senate. For instance, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN said the Senate “did not get it right” by tagging him “an enemy of democracy.”

Speaking on a Channels TV programme, Sun Rise last Thursday, Falana said the Senate made a mistake by bringing Melaye’s case into the picture. He said even with the killings, IG is not the right person to summon, rather, the minister of interior and the Attorney-General of the federation. He added that even though he condemned the arraignment of Melaye while on a stretcher, he had told the lawmakers to not “individualise problems of police brutality.”

He said: “By virtue of section 67 (2) of the constitution, either chamber can summon a minister when the affairs of his or her ministry are under consideration. The only other occasion a public officer can be summoned by the National Assembly is when proceedings are ongoing to expose corruption and when a law is being debated either with a view to amending it or to have a new law entirely. But there is no such powers given to the National Assembly by the constitution to summon everybody.

“The National Assembly has my sympathy, but what can be done? The constitutional review is ongoing. You can deal with this lacuna, or the gaps you have identified. But don’t go outside the limit of your powers. When you do that, you ridicule the constitution. And that is what is going on.

“When you do that, you lose public support. It is the height of hypocrisy to say because the police has brutalised our member, the IG must come. What of thousands of Nigerians that are brutalised daily? Don’t single out the harassment of your member to summon the IG, that is where they lost it. They shouldn’t have mixed Melaye’s case with the killings. As far as the constitution is concerned, the person to summon is the minister of interior and the attorney-general, and they have the powers to do that. The minister can be summoned but there is no provision for summoning the IG or the customs boss to appear in one uniform or the other, it is not there.”

On his part, another lawyer, Carl Umegboro, described the action of the Senate as out of order. He said it was tantamount to undue influence to summon the head of a security agency for arresting and prosecuting a suspect it believed to have committed crimes.

He also faulted the Senate’s rejection of the IG’s representative, saying it was absurd. He argued that the Police Act and Regulation empowers the IG to be represented by a DIG in any functions, adding that rejecting a DIG assigned to duty at its chamber in line with the Police Act and Regulation was a disrespect to the institution and Nigerian constitution

But in the face of the judgment of Justice Abba Bello Mohammed of an Abuja High Court in March which the IG himself instituted against the Senate when he was first summoned, many analysts feel that the arguments by Falana and Umegboro in support of the IG are unconvincing.

Following the allegations levelled against the IG by Senator Hamman Isa Misau, the Senate had invited the police boss to appear before it to clear the air on the allegations. But he ran to court, claiming that his fundamental rights had been breached.
But delivering his judgment, Justice Abba Bello Mohammed declared that the Senate had not infringed on the fundamental rights of Idris by merely inviting him for investigation by its ad-hoc committee. He held that Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution empower the National Assembly to investigate any matter and summon any person.

The judge added that the mere fact that Senator Misau raised allegations against Idris on the floor of the Senate cannot influence the decision of the committee set up by the Senate, since Misau is not a member of the committee. He thereafter held that Idris’s right to fair hearing has not been infringed upon by the Senate to warrant the intervention of the court and thereby dismissed the suit.

Based on the above judgment, many have since faulted Falana and Umegboro’s arguments. They reminded the two lawyers that when Senator Misau raised the allegations upon which the IG was summoned last year, he refused to honour the invitation and instead proceeded to arraigning the senator for making injurious falsehood against him and the Nigeria Police Force.

Another argument that has fallen flat was that of Falana who said the Senate has no powers to summon the IG over killings. He noted that the right person to summon should have been the minister of interior. But the court through Justice Mohammed has established that Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution empower the National Assembly to investigate any matter and summon any person.

For emphasis, Section 89 specifically states: “summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or produce any document or other things in his possession or under his control, an examine him as a witness and require him to produce any document or other thing in his possession or under his control, subject to all.”

But a Lagos-based lawyer who spoke with THISDAY on account of anonymity, said the IG and gang of lawyers and defenders, are seeking to confuse issues and play on the intelligence of Nigerians. He said the resolution of the Senate leading to the IG’s invitation was clear and wondered why the lawyers should support impunity.
“It is sad that lawyers are supporting the IG, a lawbreaker. We have watched and seen how the Congress has summoned FBI Directors on several occasions, so why can’t the IG be summoned by the National Assembly?. What is the primary responsibility of the police? Is it not to maintain of law and order as well as protection of lives and property? If there is a breach along the line of this responsibility, why should the IG feel he cannot be invited to offer explanation to the arm of government which is constitutionally empowered to ask questions and investigate the breach.

“No responsible body of representatives of the people will ignore sad reports given by members on the floor of the Senate. For instance, on April 24, two Catholic priests and 17 members of their congregation were murdered as reported by Senator George Akume. Also, Senators Kabir Marafa and Tijani Kaura had earlier intimated the Senate of the killing of 35 people in Maradun Local Government Area, over 100 people killed in Anka and 36 people killed in Birani Village in Zurmi Local Government Area, all in Zamfara State. Many other killings have occurred in Kaduna, Taraba and Benue States. The IG definitely should not have any problem with an invitation for him to tell the Senate what he and his men are doing to stop the killings as well as their challenges and needs in doing this,” he said

To confirm that he deliberately ignored the Senate’s summon, after the verdict by the upper legislative chamber, IG responded, saying he had no apology whatsoever. The police boss also said the resolution of the Senate during its plenary on Wednesday that he was unfit to hold public office was a blackmail just as he said the action of the Senate was not only unfortunate but also a witch-hunt as well as mischievous.
Refusing to address what he is doing to tackle the killings of Nigerians across country, the IG hinged the summons solely on Melaye’s arrest and arraignment.

But the Senate last Thursday warned him to stop holding on to the straw on why he refused to comply with its invitation and explain what he is doing on the spate of killings across the country. In a statement by its spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate said the crux of the matter that informed the invitation is the ceaseless spate of killings across the country and that matters concerning the arrest of Melaye has in fact been overtaken by events.

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Since the beginning of the year, over 2,500 Nigerians have been killed in Rivers, Kaduna, Zamfara, Adamawa, Kogi, Kwara, Benue, Nasarawa states by herdsmen, bandits and armed robbers