Buhari’s indecision on Police recruitment allowed PSC, IGP crisis to fester – Asogwa

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Ken Eluma Asogwa is a human rights lawyer and solicitor to the Police Service Commission. In this interview with MAYOWA SAMUEL, he speaks on the endless recruitment tussle between the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission. Excerpts:

Uba Group

What are your thoughts regarding the renewed bickering between the Police Service Commission and the Inspector General of Police over recruitment of Constables and other officers? Which of them has the constitutional right to recruit personnel into the force?

The law is very clear here. The federal character is provided for in Section 14 subsection 3 of the Constitution and what the federal character says is that in making appointments into federal government offices, there should be recourse to the federal character and what this simply means is that you should respect the sensitivity of Nigeria by balancing whatever appointment you are making. In short, Section 14(3) says the composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out I’m such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any if its agencies. Now, I am part of this issue that is brewing between the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police. There is a clear case of one agency trying to usurp the powers of another. The Police Service Commission is a creation of the Nigerian Constitution, it is not just an agency that was created by an act of the parliament and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives the Police Service Commission the power to hire police officers, the power to discipline police officers and the power to dismiss police officers. The police officer that the act does not give the police service commission the power to hire is the Inspector General of Police who is to be hired by the President of Nigeria. Now, what happened here now is that the Police Service Commission has been recruiting people from inception. Just some years ago when the last Inspector General of Police came on board, he decided that the power for recruitment should lie with the Nigeria Police, taking away the powers of the Police Service Commission. Now, this IG is coming in now to put his imprimatur on that illegality by trying to continue with that illegal recruitment. The Police Service Commission is saddled with the responsibility of recruiting for the Nigeria Police, they are saddled with the responsibility of disciplining and dismissing the erring members. Why I read that Section 14(3) is that what triggered this thing are persons who are very parochial because I knew what triggered this. I’ve been part of this, I’ve been the lawyer in the saddle in this matter. Nigerians may not know because a lot of the dramatis personae are refusing to say it. Now that I’m talking to the media, I’m an independent man and I can tell you what is going on. The Police Service Commission made some promotions very recently. This thing began sometime in July when the Police Service Commission promoted some officers from the rank of DCP to the rank of Commissioners of Police and to AIG and DIG. Now, when they finished this promotion, they left out five DCPs (Deputy Commissioners of Police) who are from one section of the country, and promoted some DCPs even to the rank of AIGs. Now, a Commissioner in the Police Service Commission wrote to the Chairman of the Police Service Commission who represents that region to draw his attention to the fact that they left out a whole region without anybody being represented in the promotion. The Chairman then wrote to the IG to say look, you need to respect the federal character that says that when you want to hire, make sure it reflects the balancing of the federal character. IG wrote back to him to say that what determines the promotion by the Nigeria Police is competence and not federal character. Federal character is a provision of the constitution, IG said that it is competence. Meanwhile, the IG’s letter was written by the Force Secretary, AIG Hafiz Inuwa who wrote on behalf of the IG, as the Force Secretary to say that the five officers who were not promoted that the Police Service Commission is trying to promote them far and above their ranks. Meanwhile, the AIG that wrote this letter to the Police Service Commission was a classmate of the five persons who were still trampled, who are still in the rank of DCP while he himself is already an AIG. So, this thing is not as straightforward as people are thinking but a lot of the people who are inside there might not be able to comment in the media because they are afraid, and I have to tell you. While we are dealing with that matter, another round of cases now came up about the fresh recruitment. The Police Service Commission put up an advert to recruit people to the position of Constables and the Force PRO said that people should discountenance the recruitment, that they don’t have the power.

“If I don’t have evidence that Mr. President is complicit in this, then I don’t need to start accusing him unnecessarily but like I said, his ambivalence allowed this to fester, he’s being lethargic about it. So, whether he is complicit or not is not for me to define, it’s for Nigerians to look at it”

How can people read Nigerian laws upside down? It’s a very clear cut constitutional provision. So, why are Nigerians paying for salaries of hundreds of people who work in the Police Service Commission without doing anything? The job that the Police Service Commission has is to recruit, discipline and dismiss police officers. If you take away this from them, then why are you creating unnecessary bureaucracy that is not contributing anything? So this is the fact as I know it. In short, let me tell you. There is a Court of Appeal judgement that was delivered on 30th September 2020 and the lead judgement was read by Justice Peter Olabisi Ige. Let me read out the first part of that judgement, it says, “The court held that by the combined provisions of Section 153, subsection 1n; Section 153, subsection 2; and Section 215, subsection 1b of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Paragraph 30, Part 1 of the 3rd schedule to the Constitution, as well as Section 6 and 24 of the Police Service Commission Establishment Act, the Police Service Commission is the sole statutory body exclusively empowered and responsible for the appointment, promotion, dismissal and exercise of disciplinary control over persons holding or aspiring to hold offices in the Nigeria Police Force, except for the appointment of the Inspector General of Police.” This is the judgement of the Court of Appeal, this was a case between the Police Service Commission and the Inspector General of Police of Nigeria on who should recruit or dismiss. This judgement of the Court of Appeal remains the law of the land, except there is a Supreme Court judgement that overturns this. And as I’m talking to you, the Police has even refused to appeal this judgement. The Appeal to this judgement that was delivered in 2020, is not even lying before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and someone just decided… When did we get to this level that the Constitution of Nigeria is being trampled upon like this. I’m not talking about an ordinary Act of the National Assembly. Every patriotic Nigerian should be worried about this situation.

With President Muhammadu Buhari being the head of the Nigeria Police Council, how should he wade into this matter to resolve this crisis?

The President should use his powers as the Chairman of the Police Council to call the IG to order. The only thing he needs to do is to tell the IG to respect the laws of the land, simple.

When a similar case happened under the immediate past IG, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, the president didn’t do anything about it. Will you be surprised if he once again doesn’t wade into this matter?

It is the ambivalent of Mr. President that emboldened the former IG, that is emboldening the current IG to continue in this illegality because if the President had spoken, nobody will take the words of Mr. President for granted but it’s just because we live in a country where institutions don’t work. Do we even need Mr. President to come out and read out the riot act before someone obeys the law? Do we even need that to happen before someone understands that he needs to obey the law? But what is playing out is that, you know, I’m a lawyer, so I need to speak with evidence. If I don’t have evidence that Mr. President is complicit in this, then I don’t need to start accusing him unnecessarily but like I said, his ambivalence allowed this to fester, he’s being lethargic about it. So, whether he is complicit or not is not for me to define, it’s for Nigerians to look at it. Like I said, you don’t need him to speak on this for someone to obey the law, but when you are the Commander-In-Chief, and you see that people who are supposed to protect the laws of Nigeria, which is the police, are violating the laws, then the Commander-In-Chief should be able to call the IG to order.

What’s your particular role in this recruitment duel between the PSC and IGP?

I am representing the Police Service Commission in this respect. I’ve spoken to the guy who is heading their Union, you know they said they put up a warning strike. But the truth is that, the situation we have now is that we are in a very problematic situation. We are not going back to litigate whether it is the IG that should recruit or the Police Service Commission that should recruit, a judgement had already been given in that respect. Now, what we are dealing with now is, asking somebody to enforce the judgement. Meanwhile the same person who is to enforce this judgement is the police who are violating the judgement. So, we are going to court to get an order of mandamus to order the Inspector General of Police to obey the court judgement already given. The question that should be on every Nigerian should be why is this thing happening now? Since the creation of the Police Service Commission, they’ve been recruiting, dismissing and promoting. Why now? Why under this administration? Must this administration kill every institution in Nigeria before they go? This is a very problematic situation because this is the Police that is charged with the responsibility of protecting the law but they are the ones violating it.

Are you aware if the strike will still hold on Monday, August 29, as scheduled?

I understand that there are so many stakeholders that are trying to intervene to allow for some intervention but how much should we keep making some of these interventions? Nigeria is not being fair to these guys, I’m reading in the media, there are a lot of people criticizing them that people are still dealing with the ASUU strike while they are trying to compound their problems without them knowing why these guys want to go on strike. We are not being fair to them. Look at criminals in the various vices such as banditry and terrorism terrorising all over Nigeria. The Police shouldn’t have time to be dealing with recruitment, it’s time consuming. They should be going to the forests and be fishing out the bandits terrorising Nigeria, instead of distracting themselves with power that doesn’t belong to them.