Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has faulted the membership of the Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, which was announced by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday. HURIWA says the board that has retired Inspector-General of Police Suleiman Abba as chairman is lopsided and against the Federal Character provisions of the Nigerian constitution.
The association accused the president of being insensitive to the provisions of the constitution and the heterogeneous nature of the country by appointing Abba from Jigawa State and Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto from Sokoto State, both from the North-west geopolitical zone, as chairman and secretary, respectively, of the board. It stressed that the Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi, was also from Sokoto State, in the North-west.
In a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, HURIWA said it was shocked that Buhari did not involve the states in the constitution of the trust fund, despite the fact that the Nigeria Police is a common agency of all tiers of government.
The group vowed to mobilise the human rights community to institute a lawsuit on the issue if the president failed to rescind the appointments within 78 hours.
HURIWA said in the statement, “It is a universal truism that the policing institution of any nation will determine to a substantial extent the collective wellbeing of that sovereign entity and it is the efficiency, effectiveness and result oriented characteristics of such a policing institution that defines the nature of the rule of law of such a nation-state.
“In effect, a strategically disciplined and professional, competent policing institution, which requires 21st century compliant tools and personnel, that can qualify a nation-state as functional and fit for purpose.”
The human rights group said as one of the organisations that championed the enactment of the law that culminated in the emergence of the Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, it supported the concept of a dedicated and transparent funding mechanism for the Nigeria Police as represented by the trust fund.
“We are, however, astonished and shocked beyond comprehension that in constituting this trust fund, there is no attempt to involve the states of the federation,” HURIWA stated.
It added, “Contrary to widely held views, the Police Force is actually a common agency of all tiers of government, particularly the states and federal government. The fact remains that the states, as the federating units, have significantly shouldered the tasks of substantially funding and equipping the respective branches of the national policing institution in these subnational levels. There is little doubt that the state governments have remained a strategic funding partner and backbone of the national policing institution for decades.
“The constitutional division of powers between the states and the federal government demarcates and assigns functions and responsibilities to all the tiers of government. The states and the federal government have powers to make laws and enforce them. The Police Force is the only coercive authority available to all the governments to enforce their laws.
“That is why the Nigeria Police Council, which has a constitutional mandate for ‘the organisation and administration of the Nigeria Police Force’ is chaired by Mr. President and has all state governors as members, and in the appointment or removal of the Inspector General of Police, the president shall consult the Nigeria Police Council.”
HURIWA said, “If the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Establishment Act 2019, has no state representation, creative ways should be devised to ensure that the states are properly represented, or in the alternative, to amend the Act to achieve the same. In any case, the states of the federation have been bearing a disproportionate share of the funding and equipping of the Nigeria Police as the police contingents in the various states are not provided with basic funding to operate and deliver on their mandate by the federal government.”
The group said it was “insensitive and lopsided to appoint” the police trust fund chairman and secretary from one part of the country.
“No doubt, these are highly qualified individuals, but the present administration has been severally accused of breaching the Federal Character principle enshrined in the constitution (Section 14(3),” HURIWA said, explaining, “The constitution imposes a duty on Mr. President to ensure that in the composition of an agency of this nature, ‘there shall be no preponderance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups.’”
The association stressed, “Except we have fifth columnists who don’t wish Mr. President well, these kinds of discriminatory appointments should be filtered by his aides and brought to his attention before publication. We believe his staff have not served him well in this instance.
“We strongly advise, and, indeed, most respectfully urge Buhari to immediately recall the recent approval given for the constitution of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund pursuant to the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Establishment Act 2019, in the national interest, to accommodate state interests and to reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria in the commanding height and management of the fund.”