BUHARI INDECISION AGAIN FRUSTRATES SEAMLESS SUCCESSION IN THE POLICE

UnderTow

First it was the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, now it is the Nigerian Police. Leaders who don’t want to quit when their time is up.

Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, should have hung up his uniform, complete with boots and beret, on February 1 this year in line with the Police Act (2020). But as has become the custom with the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, controversy has reared its all too familiar and unwelcome head. The IGP commenced service on February 1, 1986 and has now spent 35 years and five days in the police force. In that period, he spent about three days illegally in office, working under a cloud of uncertainty, donning the police uniform to the frothing chagrin of Nigerians and generally receiving opprobrious media attention. Section 18(8) of the Police Act compels the IGP to retire after 35 years in service or attaining the age of 60, whichever comes first. The public believes that the man to blame for the IGP’s predicament is the president who appointed him and recently extended his tenure in office by another three months. There are some others who are convinced that the IGP actively sought the tenure extension he was eventually granted, but these are nebulous police matters, and except top-level drama occurs at the presidency, the travesty will remain unclear for quite a while. Already, Mr Adamu was operating under harsh but seemingly deserved public scrutiny. The public has since postured to double its scrutiny of every breath he continually draws in office.

Extending the embattled IGP’s tenure in office on Thursday, the presidency, through the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammad Dingyadi, had said: “Mr President has decided that the present IGP, Mohammed Adamu, will continue to serve as the IG for the next three months, to allow for a robust and efficient process of appointing a new IG…This is not unconnected to the desire of Mr President to not only have a smooth handover, but to also ensure that the right officer is appointed into that position. Mr President is extending by three months to allow him get into the process of allowing a new one.”

The process that the president is now about to get into, according to the minister, is outlined in the Police Act, Section 7(3) of which is clear that the Inspector general of Police shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Police Council from among serving members of the Nigeria Police Force. Many issues remain unclear, however, in the president’s conduct. When, if he did, did the IGP hand in his retirement letter? What were the presidency and the Police Council so busy with that they could not prevent this extension, another of several controversies, from occurring? Was it slothfulness or pure irresponsible indecision? Or was it a general scornful disregard of the law and due process?

Nigerians noted the prompt and decisive manner President Joe Biden of the United States nominated and appointed his top officials and aides shortly after winning the election. Analysing his efficiency and promptitude, experts diagnosed his rapid appointments as being a zeal to perform admirably. They are not wrong. Any president who has a handle on his presidency and possesses a clear ideology will not dally on matters such as the appointment of the IGP. Retired police chiefs and experts agree that former IGP, Ibrahim Idris, was not half as efficient as his predecessor, Solomon Arase, and was serially disrespectful to the National Assembly, and could not properly control the rogue Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). They say he ran the force aground and that Mr Adamu simply inherited the problem but was not ideological and visionary astute enough to turn things around. Indeed, they argue that the IGP’s impuissance was exposed nakedly first in his repeatedly disobeyed disbandment of the hated SARS and eventually during the abysmal and impolitic handling of the #EndSARS protests.

The presidency and the IGP will not agree with that point of view. The former because it is as culpable as the latter for the structural decay, and moral as well as morale impoverishment of the Police Force, and the latter because he believes he has done his best and that should count for something. The Police Council, meanwhile, has been silent, unwilling to attract attention to itself in the fiasco that has created an anorexic relationship between the police and the rule of law. Paragraph 27 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria explains that the Nigeria Police Council shall comprise the following members: the President who shall be the Chairman; the Governor of each State of the Federation; the Chairman of the Police Service Commission; and the Inspector-General of Police. Accused of possessing only a kindergarten understanding of human rights and the law, the police force has continually operated seemingly unchecked for years. Although empowered by Paragraph 28(b) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution to perform supervisory functions on the Nigeria Police Force, what has the Police Council done or said? Yes, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, like many other governors before him, recently piped up on the necessity of state police forces. No, the public does not expect the Police Council to say a word concerning the legality or otherwise of the tenure extension of the IGP. No one wants to fry that kettle of fish for now, so they will let sleeping dogs lie.

The excuse for elongating the tenure of the IGP is only as valid as the argument that the Police Council and the president slacked most woefully and disrespectfully. They knew the IGP’s tenure was coming to an end and should have taken the appropriate steps to ensure that smooth handover the president is so desirous of. At the very least, they could have appointed the next most senior police officer to function as the IGP in an acting capacity. But to walkover the law in the manner brazenly adopted by the president, with not so much as a blush or a stammer, is the unimaginable reality that Nigerians are forced to cope with. The Police Force is desperately in need of some visionary leadership, one that can display the necessary fidelity to champion the cause of the policemen employed in the force that they may function better and more effectively. The IGP could not provide that leadership, and preparations should have been made for his impending retirement months ago. But again, indecision has haunted the Buhari-led administration. It remains to be seen how quickly the irreversible disaster can be mitigated.