Insecurity and politics of IGP tenure extension
Speculations have continued over the alleged extension of the tenure of the Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris, amidst rising violence and crimes in the North-east and other parts of the country. CHIZOBA OGEBCHE examines some of the issues being raised.
The 19th Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, on March 21, 2016, to replace Solomon Arase.
Idris, who joined the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) on January 3, 1984, was expected to have retired from service on January 3, 2018, having attained the mandatory 35 years of service. However, the date has come and passed and the Police boss has remains in office, just as the Presidency has remained silent on the tenure of the IGP.
This is as not less than 10 course mates of IGP Idris have been duly retired, including the former Commissioner of Police in charge of Special Fraud Unit, Lagos, Kola Shodipo; former Commissioner of Police, Kaduna state, Austin Iwar; CP Isaac Eke; and Deputy Commissioner of Police Chinwuba Isiakpuna.
Police boss actions fuel speculation
Prior to the date the rumour mill had been buzzing over the alleged extension of the tenure of IGP Idris by President Buhari just as recent actions by the Police boss, including the deployment and redeployment of some CPs, were interpreted in some quarters as act of a man not planning to leave service anytime soon.
In a bid to pre-empt the alleged extension, the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had raised the alarm through its Presidential Campaign Organization (PPCO). The organisation had charged President Muhammadu Buhari to follow it’s free and fair elections promise with action by not extending the tenure of the IGP.
Publicity Secretary of PDP, who also double as PPCO Director Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, while addressing journalists in Abuja, said that with IGP Idris in charge the 2019 elections may not be free and fair.
“One of the ways and the method to showcase that Mr President’s statement is believable is for him not to extend the tenure of the IGP,” he said.
According to him, “This is important because majority of Nigerians believe Mr President is going to use the IGP to rig the 2019 general elections. If does not extend his tenure, he does not need any other message to demonstrate to Nigerians that is committed to free and fair elections.”
APP, CUPP head to court
Similarly, Action Peoples Party (APP) and Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) had dragged President Buhari, Police Service Commission (PSC), others to the Federal High Court, Abuja, urging it to declare that “any person or an officer of the Nigeria Police Force, who has attained the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of service cannot be deemed to be a serving member of the Force, for the purposes of being appointed or re-appointed by President Buhari as IGP.
Other defendants in the suit, FHC/ABJ/CS/1570/2018, include the NPF and IGP Ibrahim Idris.
According to the court process, the plaintiff prayed the court to declare that upon the attainment of the mandatory retirement age of 60 years of service in the police by January 3, 2019, Mr. Idris cannot be deemed or taken to be a serving member of the NPF.
The other prayers sought by the plaintiff included: “A declaration that the 4th defendant, Mr. Idris, being due for statutory retirement by January 3, 2019, when he would have attained 60 years, is due to immediately proceed on one month pre-retirement leave.
“An Order of Court, directing and compelling the 4th defendant, Idris, to immediately proceed on one month pre-retirement leave forthwith; an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the 1st defendant, Buhari, from further re-appointing or in any other way, extending the tenure of the 4th defendant, Idris, in office as the IGP of the NPF.”
Extension in national interest
However, a former Commissioner of Police in Charge of the FCT, CP Lawrence Alobi (retd) has made case for the extension of the tenure of the Police boss. Alobi, who told Blueprint that the extension was in national interest, said that the elections were close and appointing a new IGP may affect plans already put in place by the incumbent.
According to him, “Already, all arrangements for the election are in place it is only let to be implemented and you have someone who already understands the workings of the process.
“If another person is appointed the person will need time to understudy and understand the process and this could take time. It is just for the IGP and his men to play by the rules, be neutral and ensure a credible process devoid of violence.
“So, it is in national interest to have someone who already understands the workings that is why continuity is acceptable because extension will give him opportunity to implement plans already put in place.”
It’s time for him to go-NOPRIN
Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), a coalition of civil society organisations, has also appealed to the President to prioritise national security and national interest by appointing a new IGP, in order to redeem the battered image and restore the lost pride of the Nigeria Police.
According to NOPRIN, IGP Idris only sees his job and role as that of protecting the interest of President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
It pointed out that the constant harassment, intimidation and victimisation of political opponents and critical voices attested to its claim.
“Now that the IGP’s tenure has lapsed this January, President Buhari should immediately convene the Police Council to select and nominate for Senate approval, as required by the constitution, a competent and qualified senior officer with requisite professional, leadership and managerial competence and integrity as the new IGP.
“It is bad enough that the President has ignored calls to sack the IGP on account of his incompetence and the serial scandalous allegations hanging on his neck. But it will be a tragedy if the President takes the joke too far by deciding to succumb to partisan pressure to extend the tenure of this same failed IGP after he has served out his lawful term on account of age and/or length of service,” National Coordinator of the Network, Okechukwu Nwaguma, stated.
Nigerians deserve explanation
Speaking on the development, an Abuja-based Legal Practitioner, Barr Obinna Obiajulu, maintained that besides the constitutionality or otherwise of the President’s decision to extend the tenure of the Police boss, that he owes Nigerians an explanation.
According to him, “It is not the first time the President is extending the tenure of heads security outfits, recall that President Buhari had for the second time, approved the extension of the tenure of the service chiefs last month, even when their tenure expired on July 13, 2017.
“What is amiss is his decision to give Nigerians the silent treatment because the tenure extension for the service chiefs was confirmed by the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, even as reason was given for the extension, rightly or wrongly. I expect the Presidency to do same in the case of the IGP. Anything short of that amounts to taking Nigerians for granted.
Only serving officer can benefit
On his part, former Police Spokesperson and Commission of Police in charge of Kogi state, CP Emmanuel Ojukwu (retd), who told Blueprint that it lies within the powers of the President to appoint an IGP, noted that: The constitution states that the President will appoint an IGP, who is a serving Police officer, based on the advice of the Police Council.”
According to him, “If the Police Council agrees to the President’s decision then it is in order. You know that the issue of extending tenure means that the person is still in service. However, it is something that lawyers may have to take to court and debate.”
On whether there is a moral burden on the person whose tenure is being extended, he said: “Well, if a person’s tenure is extended, it’s a pleasurable to the person. It’s a thing of joy that your country appreciates your contribution and seeks to extend your service. So, for such a person there may be no moral burden.
“However, for those waiting, because every Police officer would like to be IGP, the may just wait a little longer because if a person’s tenure is extended it means that it will still end at some point. So, those waiting on the line will have to exercise patience.”
Asked whether such extension will not cause discontent or low morale among officers, he said: “I don’t think so because Police officers are trained to go through thick and thin so they can withstand any situation.”
President IGP by proxy
For legal luminary and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, once the time of service elapses Idris would have seized to be the Police Chief.
According to him, by the combined provisions of Sections 214 and 215 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the President would automatically assume the position of IGP.
“There cannot be any lacuna. Under Sections 214 and 215 of the 1999 Constitution, the President of Nigeria is the overall Head of the Nigeria Police Force.
“Where the IG’s tenure has expired by effluxion of time, he automatically ceases to be IGP. You cannot wake up a dead horse. The President should immediately announce an IGP. Otherwise, he becomes the IGP by proxy.”
He is playing a script
Speaking to our correspondent, a senior Police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that it was obvious, right from appointment, that he was playing out a script.
The officer who didn’t want to named, for fear of being victimised, alleged that the appointment of the Police boss was not a “coincidence given the role he allegedly played in the 2015 presidential elections as CP Kano.”
The senior office further alleged that, “The tenure extension plot started long before the due date and may have been stalled by the alarm on alleged age falsification raised by Senator Isa Hamma Misua, who himself was also a Policemen.”
Senator Misua, representing Bauchi Central, while appearing before a Senate committee investigating allegations against the IGP, had accused the Police boss of manipulating his retirement age, a claim Idris had since debunked.
While the issue of retirement of the IGP may not have been foreclosed as he would turn 60, the compulsory age of retirement, on January 15, 2019, it is, however, unclear how things will play out as the Presidency maintains silence while the PSC appears helpless.