Again, Police, PSC Set to Clash over Recruitment of 10,000 Constables

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*PSC vows to resist attempt to hijack its mandate
*Force yet to approach S’Court after losing at A’Court

Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

The last has not been heard of the tussle between the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Nigerian Police over the recruitment of 10,000 police constables, as both organisations are planning separate exercises for 2021.

The PSC, had on Wednesday, in Abuja, disclosed that as soon as the 2020 recruitment exercise for which the aptitude test was conducted last week, was concluded, the commission would begin the 2021 exercise.

But the Inspector General of Police (IG), Usman Alkali Baba, at the weekend called for applications from suitably qualified applicants for the 2021 recruitment exercise.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2018 given approval for the recruitment of 60,000 police constables for six years.

The 2020 recruitment exercise, however, ran into troubled waters when the police insisted that it had the mandate to recruit constables.
But the PSC had stood its ground, also insisting that it was constitutionally empowered to conduct recruitment for the police.

The exercise soon became a subject of litigation with the police under the former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, winning the first round at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The ruling of the high court was later set aside by the Court of Appeal which declared that the Police Service Commission was constitutionally empowered to conduct recruitment of police constables.
While the police authorities had given the impression that they would challenge the judgment at the Supreme Court, they were yet to approach the apex court.

On resumption of duties as the new police chief, Alkali Baba had visited the PSC, and in the spirit of reconciliation, called on the PSC to resume its duties giving the impression that the litigation saga was over.

The two agencies later held a one-day retreat at the Force Headquarters on the way forward.
But at a briefing in Abuja, Chairman of the PSC, Mr. Musiliu Smith, a retired Inspector-General of Police, stated that as soon as the 2020 exercise which was delayed by the litigations, was concluded, the commission would embark on the recruitment of another 10,000 for 2021 and subsequently kick-start the 2022 edition in fulfillment of the presidential directive for the recruitment of 60,000 police constables.

He said the position of the commission became necessary following repeated calls and inquiries from Nigerians on whether the commission was part of the process of the ongoing completion of the 2020 recruitment exercise.

He said aptitude tests for shortlisted applicants from the earlier suspended 2020 recruitment were held on Friday, October 29, and Saturday, October 30, 2021, across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“Mr. President, had, in 2018, approved the recruitment of 10,000 Nigerians annually into the constable cadre of the Nigeria Police Force for six years. This is to inject needed additional personnel and to bridge the manpower gap in the force, especially with the resurgence of banditry, terrorism, and kidnapping in different parts of the country and regular loss of personnel through dismissal, retirement, natural death, accident, and others”, he said.
The retired IG said the 2020 recruitment exercise which was suspended midway was the third edition after the successful 2018 and 2019 exercises.

“It is necessary to state that the ongoing completion of the suspended 2020 edition was a joint decision of the commission and that of the Nigeria Police Force and it was meant to further fast-track the injection of required personnel into the force. A joint committee of the commission and that of the Nigeria Police Force met severally in the commission and approved a timeline for the completion of the exercise,” he said.

He noted that with the completion of the aptitude tests across the country recently, successful candidates were undergoing medical examinations at the 17 zonal police headquarters in the country after which fit and proper 10,000 candidates would be recruited by the commission and sent to the police colleges/training schools for training.

“The commission is aware of the manpower gaps in the Nigeria Police Force especially with rapid wastages of officers and men due to many reasons earlier highlighted.

“The commission wishes to commend Mr. President for his kind and gracious approval for the recruitment of 10,000 Nigerians into the constable cadre of the Nigeria Police Force continuously for six years. We are grateful to the National Assembly for the support in approving releases of required funds for this exercise,” he added.

On the litigation, the PSC chair hinted that the police might still be forging ahead with the court matter.

“The Appeal Court delivered a favourable judgment to PSC. They (police) have given the impression that they want to go to the Supreme Court.

“We will encourage them to go there because that is the highest court in the land”, he added.
But the police high command at the weekend called for applications from suitably qualified applicants for the 2021 recruitment exercise.

The public notice titled: “2021 Recruitment into the Nigeria Police Force,” said in the first paragraph that “the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in conjunction with the Police Service Commission (PSC) invites applications from interested and qualified Nigerians for enlistment into the Nigeria Police Force as Police Constable (Recruits)”.

However, a top official of the PSC told THISDAY yesterday that the commission would resist any attempt to hijack or undermine its mandate.
“The commission is amazed and disappointed by the development but will resist any attempt to hijack or undermine its mandate,” the source said.

The Court of Appeal had in its judgment, declared that the Police Act 2020, enacted in September of the same year as it affects the constitutional mandate of the Police Service Commission is unconstitutional and void.

The provision of the Act, it ruled, was obviously in conflict with paragraph 30 Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, which empowers the commission to appoint persons into offices in the Nigeria Police Force except for the office of the Inspector General of Police.

The details of the Appeal Court judgment in the appeal instituted by the commission against the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja, was contained in the Certified True Copy (CTC) received by the Commission on Tuesday, October 13, 2020.

Justice Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, one of the three Justices of the Court in his concurrent judgment, ruled that Paragraph 30 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution gives the power to the commission to appoint persons into offices in the Nigeria Police “and did not exclude constables and cadets to Nigeria Police Academy from offices in the Nigeria Police into which the appellant can appoint persons”

He further declared that no Act of the National Assembly or law can take away or curtail such power.
Justice Agim noted that even if the Nigeria Police carried out the disputed enlistment under a directive or approval of the President of the federation, “the enlistment would remain contrary to the Constitution and therefore unconstitutional and void. Such a directive cannot repair its unconstitutionality and illegality”.

In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Olabisi Ige, the Court of Appeal gave a declaration that by Section 1 subsection 3 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) “any piece of legislation or instrument relied upon by the defendants (including but not limited to the Police Act and the Police Regulations) in exercising or purporting to exercise the powers to appoint, promote, dismiss or discipline persons holding or aspiring to hold offices in the Nigeria Police Force, being inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution particularly section 153 subsection (1)(m), Section 153 subsection (2) and section 215(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Paragraph 30 part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution, is invalid, null and void and of no effect whatsoever”

It also gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Police, and other defendants, jointly and severally, from interfering or further interfering in any manner howsoever with the commission’s discharge of its constitutional and statutory functions in “respect of the appointment, promotion, dismissal, or exercise of disciplinary control over persons holding or aspiring to hold offices in the Nigeria Police Force other than the Inspector General of Police”.

Attempt to reach Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, a Commissioner of Police, was unsuccessful, as he did not respond to text messages sent to his mobile phone on the issue.