President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been advised and called upon to regard strict adherence to the provision of the law as the primary consideration in the appointment of the next Inspector General of Police.
A civil society organisation, the Nigerian Civil Society Contact Group, CSCG, an amalgam of many Non-Governmental and Civil Society Organisations, with a primary focus on good governance and human rights, made the submission at a media briefing on Thursday.
Tinubu is expected to announce a replacement for the current IGP, Usman Alkali Baba, who should have exited office in March after reaching the compulsory retirement age of 60 years, but was retained by immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari.
In the statement titled, The Next Inspector-General of Police Must Be Appointed According to Law and in The Best Interest of Nigeria’s Security, Engineer Taiwo Akindolu, Director-General of CSCG, noted that while former President Buhari blatantly disregarded the provision of the law in the appointments of the three IGPs that served in his eight years governing the country, especially the current occupier of the office, President Tinubu must not emulate those unconstitutional steps that could re-ignite controversies and a judicial logjam that surfaced in the past administration.
Akindolu said the Police Act 2020 signed into law by former President Buhari clearly stipulates the requirements for the appointment of an Inspector General of Police, warning that any action outside of the provision of the law could breed controversy which the new government can ill afford.
He reckoned that Section 7 Paragraph 6 of the Police Act 2020 says that the person to be appointed to the office of the Inspector-General of Police shall hold office for four years while Paragraph 2 of the same section of the law also states that such appointee shall be a senior police officer not below the rank of an Assistant Inspector-General of Police with the requisite academic qualifications of not less than a first degree or its equivalent in addition to professional and management experience.
Akindolu submitted: “We strongly advise President Tinubu to uphold the rule of law in the appointment of a new IGP. The former President was ignobly reputed for disobeying the law which he blatantly demonstrated in the appointment of Usman Baba barely one year after he signed the new Police Act into law. As of the date of his appointment, Usman Baba was 58 years old and stepped into an office with a four-year tenure when he had just two years left in the service. His appointment has since been nullified by a High Court in Anambra State, and we could have avoided the national embarrassment if Buhari had done the right thing by obeying the law.
Stressing further, he noted, “It behoves on Mr President not only to ensure a prudent adherence to the laws guiding the appointment of an IGP but must also take other fundamental variables into consideration, particularly with regard to Section 7(6) of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 which states that the person appointed to the office of the Inspector-General of the Police shall hold office for four years.
“In the wisdom of the drafters of this section of the Act, it follows that while making the choice of who to be Nigeria’s Police IG, the president and the Police Council must pay special attention to ensure that whoever is being chosen has at least four more years or above to serve in the Nigerian Police before retirement.
“We take this position because if policemen and officers, by law, are to retire at age 60 or after serving 35 years in the Police, for any officer to remain in service beyond the statutory age of retirement is tantamount to illegality and a direct violation of the Nigeria Police Act 2020.
“Appointing a Police officer who has just a few months or two years or less to retire as Police IG defeats the purpose or the intendment of Section 7(6) of the Police Act, he noted.”
According to the group, an officer nearing retirement cannot have the same zeal, focus, and energy that the demanding office of the IGP requires and cannot aggregate the capacity to run the office productively.
The group further observed that the law, with the provision of a four-year tenure, it satisfied the need to appoint an IGP that will have the time frame to develop his plans and vision and execute the same in the interest of the Force and Nigeria.
“We urge President Tinubu to appoint only candidates who have up to four years and above in service and the process should be conducted in consultation with the Police Council as stipulated by both the Police Act and the Nigerian Constitution.
“Apart from acting in consonance with the Police Act, we hope the President will consider geopolitical balancing, managerial competence, merit, qualifications, capacity, and unblemished records.”
The group cautioned Tinubu against repeating the action of previous governments that promoted Commissioners of Police to the rank of AIG with the sole intention of making them IGP which inevitably led to the premature retirement of their seniors who are usually AIGs and DIGs.
Akindolu said in the statement that, “Such action has not only proved counter-productive but has robbed the country of fully taking advantage of the resources invested in these officers that were prematurely retired. We strongly advise the new government to run away from the unwholly practices of previous governments, which elevated parochialism and nepotism, and then lowered the standard of professionalism in the police.
“Therefore, we passionately appeal to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to judiciously look into this concern and make sure that the next IGP has more than four years to remain in service. Not only that. The next IGP must be one with the intellectual capacity and the physical attributes to withstand the rigors of his office.”
“The democratic credentials of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu include fighting for the adherence to the rule of law, institutional, and constitutional due processes. Therefore, we believe that he will bring this to bear in considering all the factors that will inform the choice of the next IGP,” he said.
The group also urged the former Speaker, House of Representatives, and presently Chief of Staff to the President, Right Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila not to relent in calling the attention of the President to this salient point of law, considering the significant roles he played during legislation on this crucial matter by ensuring that the 4-year tenure Bill was passed into law.
According to the CSCG, it would be counterproductive if Gbajabiamila fails to play his role in ensuring that the rule of law is followed by the president.