Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Riman Fatun of a Federal High Court in Awka, Anambra State, has faulted the extension of the tenure of Mr. Usman Baba Alkali, as the Inspector General (IG) of Police.
Accordingly, the court declared Usman’s appointment and continued stay in office as unlawful and unconstitutional.
Justice Fatun’s position was contained in a judgment delivered on May 19, 2023.
THISDAY sighted a Certified True Copy of the judgment dated May 23, 2023 yesterday.
The plaintiff, Okechukwu Nwafor, in the suit number: FHC/AKW/CS/58/2023, had asked the court to hold that the continued stay in office of Usman as IG is against the clear provisions of the Police Act, 2020.
While Usman had clocked 60 years on March 1, 2023, Buhari had in January extended his tenure, knowing full well that he was to clock 60 years which is the compulsory year for retirement.
The plaintiff had, amongst others, argued that only an officer within the listed rank, with four years in service, can be appointed as IG, not one with less than four years.
In his judgment, the court while granting the reliefs of the plaintiff ordered Usman to stop parading himself as the Inspector-General (IG) of Police.
Besides, the court ordered the President to convene a meeting of the Nigeria Police Council to appoint a new Inspector General of Police who will hold office for four years.
Other respondents in the suit besides President Muhammadu Buhari and Usman, are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice; and the Nigeria Police Council.
After listening to lawyers in the matter, Justice Fatun held that, “I find merit in this suit- Accordingly, judgment is entered in favour of the Plaintiff as per the reliefs”.
The court in arriving at its decision disagreed with the respondents that the plaintiff lacked the necessary locus standi to initiate the suit, stating that, “locus standi is not necessary on constitutional cases as the application of the concept could impede the administration of justice.
“There is liberalisation of the concept of locus standi where it involves constitutional matters. The Plaintiff is a Nigerian and tax payer as averred in his affidavit…which has not been controverted,” the judge held.
Fatun held that the Inspector-General of Police is a public servant and by virtue of the fact that he is a member of the staff of the Nigeria Police Force, an authority established from the Federation by Section 214 (1) of the Constitution and in subject of the Federal Public Rules 299 (PSR) thereof which provides for the compulsory retirement of all grades of public service officers at the age of 60 or 35 years of service, whichever comes first.
“In the instant case, the 2nd defendant’s (IG’s) birthday comes first. By the said Rule, the 2nd defendant is obliged to step down on March 1, 2023. The PSR retirement age provision is mirrored in Section 18 (8) of the Police Act, on the word “Shall” is used in the provision, it is mandatory.
“Section 7 (6) of the Police Act provides for a four-year term or tenure for the Inspector General of Police and the word ‘Shall’ is also used in the said provision.”
The court further held that, “despite the prerogative power of the President, he is limited to the provisions of the Constitution. The Inspector General of Police retirement is a statutory and constitutional issue and no other law of the land can change the ground norm.”
The reliefs sought by the plaintiff include: “A declaration that by a communal reading of the provisions of sections 215(a) and 216(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), Sections 7 (2) &(6) and 18(8) of the Nigeria Police Act 2020, the appointment of the 2nd defendant is unlawful and invalid, the 2nd Defendant not being a person capable of fulfilling the mandatory requirement of tenure of office of Inspector General of Police and /or the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) having not been complied with;
“a declaration that the 2nd defendant is not qualified to hold the office of the Inspector General of Police for the sole reason that doing so will lead to absurdity which will amount to a complete breach and total disregard for the clear and unambiguous provision of section 7 (6) of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020;
“a declaration that the 1st defendant has no power whatsoever to extend the condition for the retirement of a Police officer as contained in section 18(8) of the Nigeria Police Act 2020;