It is heartening that both Arase and Egbetokun are working together in the interest of national security

Despite his constitutional role as chairman of the Police Council, former President Muhammadu Buhari allowed the crisis between the office of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Police Service Commission (PSC) to degenerate for years. Rather than working together, the two institutions were undermining one another without anybody calling either side to order. It is in that regard that we commend a recent visit by the current Inspector General of Police (IGP), Olukayode Egbetokun to the PSC Chairman, Solomon Arase, himself a retired IGP. There is a need to end the acrimonious relationship that has had serious implications for national security.

Last August, spokesman for the PSC, Ikechukwu Ani, claimed that the Supreme Court had laid to rest the contentious issue between the commission and the NPF over the annual recruitment of 10,000 constables as directed by the former president. That planned recruitment was the genesis of the crisis that played out in the media and the courts. According to Ani, the Supreme Court “unequivocally pronounced” the commission as the agency statutorily mandated to do so. Since the NPF did not dispute the statement, it meant the matter had been resolved.

The crisis became heightened in 2021 when 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… is invalid, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.” 

The appeal court had also given an order of perpetual injunction restraining the NPF 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, as we pointed out at the time, is that as the law stands in Nigeria 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 and the IGP Office fought in public space.  

 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. Since addressing the safety and security challenges is the function of the men and officers of the police, taking recruitment of personnel to a body outside the Force does not bode well for accountability. Besides, appointing a former IGP as chairman of the PSC as has become the tradition is also untidy.

 While it is good that both Arase and Egbetokun have decided to work together in the interest of national security, it is important for the National Assembly to examine the relevant statutes for possible amendments in a manner that will eliminate contentions, and ensure effective policing in Nigeria.

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