Members of the Civil Society Organisations have called on President Bola Tinubu to as a matter of urgency resolve controversies over the appointment of Inspectors-General of Police in the Nigeria Police Force.
A statement by six CSOs said the appointment of IGPs under successive administrations had triggered avoidable controversies.
They said the controversies, which had been allowed to fester over the years, is now crying for the immediate attention of and resolution by the President as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and more specifically as Chairman of the Police Council.
According to the group, the appointment by former President Muhammadu Buhari of Usman Alkali Baba as the Acting Inspector General of Police in April 2021 following his sudden removal of Muhammed Adamu while he was on an official assignment in Owerri, Imo State, expectedly stoked the unending controversy on the contradictions between the De Jure and the De Facto procedure on the appointment of the Inspector General of Police for Nigeria.
The group stated: “Baba replaced Adamu who was IGP from 15th January 2019 to February 1, 2021, when he was due and expected to retire before Buhari extended his tenure by three months.
“He was suddenly removed on April 6, 2021, and replaced by Baba.
“The controversy surrounding Baba’s appointment bordered on a number of issues.
“The first was about the way Adamu was removed while on a national assignment which many considered untidy.
“Baba’s appointment was also considered as nepotistic and brought back debates over Buhari’s history of appointments which always skewed heavily in favour of Northern Muslims in a multicultural and pluralistic society much against the letter and spirit of Nigeria’s Federal Character, a Constitutional imperative.
“The appointment was also considered a gross violation of the extant provisions of the Police Act 2020.
“The Nigeria Police Force (Establishment) Act, 2020 which came into force on the 17th of September 2020, repealed the colonial 1943 Police Act.”
The group explained that the Police Act 2020 prescribes a four-year term of office and retirement age of 60 or 35 years in service, whichever is earlier.
It added: “This is in line with the civil service rules which the Police Act refers to.
“With regards to age, Section 18, paragraph 8, says that every police officer shall, on recruitment or appointment, serve in the Nigeria Police Force for a period of 35 years or until he attains the age of 60, whichever is earlier.
“As at the date of his appointment, Usman Baba was 58 years old and following the rules should have retired in two years’ time while he was stepping into an office with a four-year tenure.”
The group explained that the controversy over Baba’s tenure as IGP resurrected two years later when it was expected that he had attained the maximum number of years of service stipulated by the Civil Service rules and therefore should go.
This renewed controversy, said the group, followed the announcement by the then Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi, that the IGP will not be retiring when he turns 60 on March 1, 2023.
The group further said: “In appointing Baba or extending his tenure – as with previous similar appointments or extensions, there was no evidence that President Buhari sought the concurrence of the Police Council as is required by both the Constitution and the Police Act.
“Section 7 of the Police Act, paragraph 2 says that the person to be appointed as IGP shall be a senior police officer not below the rank of an Assistant Inspector-General of Police.
“In addition, Section 7 paragraph 6 of the Police Act also states that the person to be appointed to the office of the IGP shall hold office for four years.
“We believe that the intention of the law is that whoever will be appointed should be in office for the full length of the term.
“This enables the person so appointed to enjoy secured tenure and have time for long-term visioning and planning.
“The appointment of all three IGPs who served under Buhari from one section of the country – Ibrahim Idris Kpotun, Muhammad Adamu, and now Usman Alkali Baba – in the very least violated the Federal Character Principle enshrined in the constitution, a Constitutional guarantee of inclusivity.
“The Police Act 2020 also states that the IGP shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Police Council from among serving members of the Police Force. This did not happen to our knowledge.”
The group urged the newly sworn-in President Tinubu to avoid the wrongful, patently illegal and unconstitutional steps of the past Buhari regime, which led to controversies and judicial challenges of appointments made by the then president.
The group said that the judicial challenge of Baba’s appointment and the recent ruling by a High Court in Anambra State nullifying that appointment was a national embarrassment, to say the least.
The group added: “The penchant of some past presidents to irregularly promote a preferred Commissioner of Police to the rank of AIG for the sole purpose of making such an officer qualified for appointment, with the collateral consequence of forcing the premature retirement of all his senior officers must stop.
“Those mainly affected by this wrong-headed practice are usually AIGs and DIGs who can no longer remain in office because they are seniors to the candidate so handpicked and appointed by the President.
“This is unfair to the affected senior officers who are forced to retire before their due dates. It is also a waste of manpower and the national and international resources invested in training them.
“These are besides the destructive loss of institutional memory, a critical asset that provides foundational stability.
“In appointing a new IGP to replace Baba, President Tinubu should avoid a repeat of the pitfalls, errors, and brazen illegalities of the past.
“The President should take due cognizance of the provisions of the Police Act 2020 regarding four-year tenure.
“He should appoint only candidates who have up to four years and above in service. Appointment must be made in consultation with the Police Council as stipulated by both the Police Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
“The President should also ensure geopolitical balancing and equity in line with the constitutional Federal Character Principle.
“In short, appointments must be based on legal and constitutional stipulations, merit, competence, qualifications, seniority, and existing line of succession. The highest considerations must be professional and managerial competence rather than partisan or personal political preferences or nepotistic or other mundane considerations.
“We offer this advice to help this new administration chart a refreshingly new course, which, to us, is in tandem with the President’s commitment to the rule of law and the undertaking he publicly gave in his inauguration address on May 29, 2023.”
Members of the group are Okechukwu Nwanguma, Executive Director, RULAAC, Lagos; Z. Olukayode Sebanjo, ED, Confluence of Rights, Nigeria and retired Director of the National Human Rights Commission in Lagos; Samuel Ihensekhien Jnr, Abuja; Saviour Akpan, COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peacebuilding, Akwa Ibom State; Princess Hamman-Obels, Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development, Abuja; and Samuel Akpologun, Ace and Vanguard Legal Practitioners.