Obasanjo canvasses appointment of only civilians to head PSC

  • Says ex-police heading PSC is asking a thief to catch a thief

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday x-rayed the idea of appointing ex-police chiefs to head the Police Service Commission and concluded that it should not be, saying appointing an ex-police chief to the position of the chairman of the PSC is akin to asking a thief to police a thief. He then recommended that a strong willed civilian should be made to head the PSC.

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He stated this while delivering his remarks at the public presentation of the book, ‘Policing The Nigeria Police,’ written by the first appointed chairperson of the PSC, Simon Okeke, in Abuja.

In what appears to be a thumbs down for the Police, Obasanjo, who was the chairperson of the occasion, said “The police must be policed by a strong civilian peoples’ community, not police being policed by the police. If that is addressed, I believe we will get better police than we have today.

“This is because there are jealousies and biases within the police, and therefore when you make a retired policeman the head of the commission it is like asking a thief to catch a thief. Those jealousies and biases will come to the fore.”

Obasanjo said the mandate of the PSC is well spelt out in the Police Act of 2001 and the same Act described the functions of the IG.

While speaking, Obasanjo noted that the book did not only chronicle the experiences of Okeke while heading the commission but highlighted the challenges as well as the root causes of the rift between the authorities of the Nigerian Police and the PSC.

According to him, the current issues of the PSC which have resulted in the recurring reluctance of past and present Inspectors General of Police not to accept the oversight role of the commission are rooted in the appointment of former police personnel to head the commission.

He said, “From the book, and of course as president, I cannot say I do not know some of these Acts. The IGs tend to want to take more than their mandate allows them to take.

“The headship of the commission, I believe must be a civilian, not a retired police officer. A retired Police officer should be a member of the commission, not the head,” he stated.

The former president, however, noted that the PSC is saddled with enormous powers and oversight over the Nigeria Police, and there was a need to address issues affecting it.

Speaking on Nigeria’s federal structure, Obasanjo said, “I believe Nigeria by our structure of federalism should not have one and unitary police establishment. It is contrary to the idea of federalism.”

He also rejected the description of the Police as a Force, saying, “I believe the police should be a Police Service and not a Police Force.”

Obasanjo further recommended the training and retraining of police professionals while condemning the use of officers to protect independent individuals in the country, both authorised and none authorised.

“This has led to out of 380,000 officers, 180,000 are on private duties carrying out duties corruptively,” he said.

The Senate had recently confirmed the appointment of a former IG, Solomon Arase (rtd.) as the new Chairman of the PSC, following his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari.

There has been power tussle between the office Inspector-General of Police and the Police Service Commission over functions relating to recruitment, appointment, transfer, and promotion of officers over the years.

Arase will take over the leadership of the commission from the acting chairman, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court.

Ogunbiyi replaced the former chairman, Musiliu Smith, who resigned in September 2022, on the grounds of ill health.