Uncenessary Bickering Between the Police and PSC

Until the Nigeria Police Force and the Police Service Commission exercise restraint or the president intervenes, the disagreement between the two agencies will continue to constitute an embarrassment, not only to the two organisations but to Nigeria, Wale Igbintade writes

The recent public spat between the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Police Service Commission (PSC) over recruitment of police constables has again embarrassed the two organisations and also threatened federal government’s efforts to ensure an improved manpower for the Force.

Before now, the contention between the two agencies was on who has the powers to recruit police constables until the Supreme Court laid the dispute to rest by ruling in favour of the PSC.

However, the current trouble started when the NPF rejected the recent recruitment conducted by the PSC. The Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, had in a statement argued that though the Supreme Court gave the PSC the power to recruit constables for the Force, it did not give it the power to recruit unqualified and untrained individuals.

He alleged that the exercise was marred with corruption and irregularities.

The statement added that the rejection of the list by the Inspector General of Police (IG) followed a deluge of complaints from unsuccessful candidates and stakeholders over the disappearance of names of those who were screened and successful up to the final stage.

 “Several names of persons purported to be names of successful candidates are those who did not even apply and therefore did not take part in the recruitment exercise,” he reportedly said.

Adejobi added that the list also contained names of candidates who had failed either the Computer-Based Test (CBT) or the physical screening, as well as those disqualified after being found medically unfit.

He argued that it is the police that would bear the brunt of the recruitment of unqualified individuals and not the PSC.

But the PSC challenged the NPF to provide evidence that the recruitment was tainted with corruption and irregularities.

The spokesperson of the commission, Ikechukwu Ani,  in a statement demanded that its list of successful candidates and that of the police be subjected to a forensic audit using the result of the JAMB computer-based test.

The commission denied that the recruitment was marred with irregularities and asked the police to provide evidence. It appealed to President Bola Tinubu to protect it and rein in the NPF to respect the constitutional mandate of the commission to recruit, noting that the Force was created to enforce the law and not to circumvent it in whatever guise. Ani also said the successful candidates should be allowed to proceed on training without delay.

Also, the PSC Staff Joint Union insisted that the recruitment process followed due process, stressing that the exercise aligned with the result of the CBT of JAMB. 

The union insisted that the IG’s claim that the recruitment exercise was marred with irregularities and alleged corruption was diversionary.

In a statement jointly issued by Ogundeji Remi and Adoyi Adoyi, on behalf of the Joint Union Congress of the PSC, the union stated that despite the powers of the PSC as spelt out by the Constitution and the subsequent interpretation of such powers by the Supreme Court, the Nigeria Police Force would still not allow the commission exercise its constitutional powers to recruit persons into the police. 

Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended,) states that PSC “Shall be responsible for the appointment and promotion of persons to offices (other than the office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force; dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons (other than the IG) and formulate policies and guidelines for the appointment, promotion, discipline and dismissal of officers of the Nigeria Police Force.”

 On the other hand, Section 18(1) of the Nigeria Police Act 2020, which was assented to by former President Muhammadu Buhari, states that: “The responsibility for the recruitment of constables into the Nigeria Police Force and recruitment of cadets into the Nigeria Police Academy shall be the duty of the Inspector-General of Police.”

 This is not the first time the PSC and NPF would clash on the same issue. Since 2018 when President Buhari gave a nod for the recruitment of 60,000 police constables (10,000 each year), only less than this number have been recruited in the last four years due solely to the same disagreement.

When the approval was given in 2018, the arrangement was that 10,000 men each would be recruited in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022, but the disagreement between the two organisations halted the exercise from 2019 until late last year when the issue was partially resolved.

 The commission had filed a suit before a Federal High Court in Abuja, which was dismissed in December, 2019 for lack of merit.

 But when it appealed the decision, the Court of Appeal agreed with its prayers and nullified the recruitment of 10,000 constables by the NPF. It held that the Police Act relied on by the IG “is null and void being in conflict with the constitutional powers vested in the Police Service Commission.”

The NPF consequently approached the Supreme Court, which on July 11, 2023, laid to rest the contentious issue. The apex court held that the PSC is statutorily mandated to recruit constables for the NPF.

But rather than coming together to find a way to work together, the two organisations have been working at cross purposes and bickering.

Those sympathetic to the PSC believe that it was in bad faith for the NPF to come up with a new excuse to discredit the commission after the Supreme Court.

One of the reasons allegedly proffered by former US President Barack Obama for excluding Nigeria from his state visit to Africa was because of the weakness of the country’s institutions, which to Obama, put democracy in peril.

The current situation whereby the IG and the PSC are publicly throwing missiles at each other without restraint, will not augur well for the nation. It will embolden criminals and leave the rank and file demoralised. As is usual with every conflict of this nature, police officers who are deemed to be sympathetic to one faction against the other will suffer persecution while two giants fight. The fact that successive heads of the PSC, who were retired Police officers, have not resolved the dispute should be a pointer to the fact that it is entrenched and institutional. 

The ball is in the court of  President Bola Tinubu, and he should kick it in the right direction. 

This rivalry will not end until there is a definite action from the president.

The president, as the head of the Nigeria Police Council, appoints the IG who reports to him.

The president also appoints the Chairman of the PSC.

He should therefore set up a committee to harmonise the various issues agitating the parties to this conflict and implement a solution that is in accordance with the law and the Supreme Court’s decision.

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