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 It is time the President addressed this issue once and for all

Despite his constitutional role as chairman of the Police Council, President Muhammadu Buhari has allowed the crisis between the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Police Service Commission (PSC) to degenerate. Rather than working together, the two institutions have for years been undermining one another without anybody calling either side to order. Yet, in a period of national insecurity when we need a synergy of positive mix of ideas between the IGP office and the PSC, this needless squabble is to say the least unfortunate.  

In a letter to IGP Usman Baba leaked to the media, the PSC decried the recent posting of the Commissioner of Police for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) without its notification. “The commission is all the more concerned by this act of illegality as the 2023 general election approaches wherein state governors may want postings of commissioners of police of their choices to their states, which can lead to political violence and crisis during the elections,” the PSC, currently headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Clara Ogunbiyi, warned in the letter that makes a dangerous political insinuation in a crucial election season. 

 This crisis has gone on for far too long. Two years ago, the Court of Appeal declared certain aspects of the Police Act 2020 signed into law by President Buhari unconstitutional and void. According to the court, “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.” 

Although the appeal to that judgement is now before the Supreme Court, the appeal court had also given an order of perpetual injunction restraining the police and the IGP from interfering in 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.” The implication is that as the law stands today, the powers to recruit, discipline and promote all cadres of officers of the police reside with the PSC. And it is on the strength of these powers being allegedly infringed upon that the commission has been fighting in the public space, even though that is also unfortunate.  

Ordinarily, the functions of the Police are to maintain public order, enforce the law, detect and investigate crime, etc. These functions make it difficult for the institution to whimsically disobey the law. But we also cannot understand the present situation where the powers to recruit and discipline reside outside the Force with the IGP rendered practically impotent. As we have repeatedly argued on this page, addressing the safety and security challenges currently confronting Nigeria is the function of the men and officers of the police. That should make the IGP more than a ceremonial head. This is also an issue that needs to be addressed, hopefully by the National Assembly. 

Meanwhile, for the umpteenth time, we urge President Buhari to discard his attitude of indifference by inviting the two sides to work out a solution in the interest of our national security.  

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