The 1979 constitutional provision for the establishment of the Police Service Commission (PSC) as further sustained in the 1999 constitution as amended, was reactivated by the senate under the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, assenting to the Act establishing the Police Service Commission on January 4, 2001. This Act, classified the role of the PSC, which basically hinges on overseeing the appointment and promotion of police officers, and to formulate and administer disciplinary processes in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). At inception, one could not fathom the euphoria that greeted the country for taking such step in that direction.
The structure of the PSC encapsulates administration, personnel management, investigation, finance, supply, planning, research, statistics and legal services. Ab initio, the PSC swung into action with a vision to actualize a highly motivated, professional, disciplined and accountable police service that upholds human rights. Regrettably now, almost 20 years down the line, what we see of the PSC is a charade adorned with paintings of administrative recklessness, strategy and policy summersaults which have left anticipated efficiency and value for human dignity at the mercy of ill-fated projects, despite huge chunks of money, running into billions of naira sunk in this course. As it is, three former Inspectors-General of Police have led the commission at various points since inception, with Alhaji Musiliu Smith currently serving as the chairman.
One would expect that by now, the government should be able to fix ailing segments of institutions in the country, and in return secure public trust and proficiency in strategy. Basically, theoretical inputs without implementations have remained the bane of the Nigerian nation, which is good at establishing agencies without institutional conscience. What explanation do we have as a nation that police Inspectors-General, who failed to liberate the police force from its shackles, were re-engaged to head a commission responsible for the welfare of their former subjects, and expect substantive police reforms? While pondering on the activeness or inactiveness of the PSC, an institution established constitutionally to be responsible for police activities in the country, there came the emergence of the Police Act 2020, enacted in September 20, which gives the Inspector General of Police, IGP some of the rights of the PSC, which include the recruitment of officers, including constables and cadets. And the IGP as it is, tried to exercise the powers granted to him by recruiting some 10, 000 constables in 2019.
The court said some parts of the new law contradict certain provisions of the 1999 constitution that empowers the Police Service Commission (PSC) to appoint persons into offices in the Nigeria Police Force except the office of the Inspector General of Police. This step taken by the IGP, sparked the PSC up to take the IGP and the NPF to the High Court in Abuja over the recruitment of these constables in December, 2019 as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
When the High Court dismissed the suit challenging the recruitment exercise, the PSC headed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal ruled the case in favour of the PSC, as it held that the IGP and the Police lack the power to recruit the constables, saying it is the job of the PSC to carry out the recruitment since it is the commission that had exclusive power to do so. According to reports, the Court of Appeal had declared the Police Act 2020, unconstitutional because it affects the constitutional mandate of the PSC. The provision of the Act, was said to be in conflict with paragraph 30 Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, which empowers the Commission to appoint persons into offices in the Nigeria Police Force, including constables and cadets.
According to that part of the constitution, the only office exempted for the PSC to appoint is that of the Inspector General of Police. The jurist declared that no act of the National Assembly or law can take away or curtail such power from the PSC. The appellate court also gave a declaration that any piece of legislation or instrument relied upon by the IGP to exercise the powers to appoint, promote, dismiss or discipline any officer in the Nigeria Police Force is invalid. This is because they are being inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution particularly section 153 subsection (1)(m), section 153 subsection (2) and section215(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Paragraph 30 part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution.
They also gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining the police from interfering with the commission’s discharge of its functions regarding appointment, promotion, dismissal, or exercise of disciplinary control over any police officer other than the Inspector General of Police. However, the Police IGP, Mohammed Adamu, approached the Supreme Court urging it to overturn the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which nullified the recruitment of the constables. They also wrote a letter through their lawyer, to the Chairman of the PSC contending that no step could be taken to enforce the judgment after an appeal and the motion for injunction they had filed against the contested verdict of the Court of Appeal.
The IGP and the Police contended that the court erred in law when they held that the provision of Section 71 of the Nigeria Police Regulations 1968 made pursuant to Section 46 of the Police Act is inconsistent with the provision of paragraph 30 Part I of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution. This battle between the PSC and the IGP and police, is sufficient proof that there are discordant tunes among those saddled with the responsibility of protecting and securing the lives and properties of the people.
Following the obvious disharmony between the authorities responsible for rebuilding the fractured architecture of the Police Force, it is expedient that the President Muhammadu Buhari government swing into action, and do the needful to harmonize things in these institutions, so as to regain the already depleting trust of the people for this administration. If indeed, this government has good intentions for Nigeria and Nigerians, they should eschew all forms of bureaucracy and stop replicating agencies. Rather, they should establish the culture of repairing and refurbishing existing institutions, and stop this multiplicity of institutions that end up creating commotion and confusion in the land.
Furthermore, the leadership of this country should wake up from its catnap and retrace its steps, and put a check on its array of constitutional disservices in the nation before it hits an armor-plated brick wall. This is indeed no period for political jobbers and bootlickers to extol or exonerate their cohorts because the issues cooked by those in power and their antics degenerated and sparked off the recent protests by young Nigerians all over the country who raised several concerns heightened by police harassment and brutality, inefficiency and imperiousness.
These pernicious acts by officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force, whose pay are sourced from public funds and tax payers’ money became intolerable, as citizens had groaned for long. Unfortunately, there is no police station you go to make an entry in this country that you would not be requested to pay a sum, either for fuel, paper, pen or other things, depending on the category of report being made.
Is the Police Service Commission, PSC, oblivious of this reality? How much more time do we need as a nation to face the realities that stare us in the face? Amnesty International has continuously lamented the camouflaged progress and widespread torture cum unlawful killings of Nigerians. In 2004, Amnesty International released a report tagged ‘welcome to hellfire’; complementary publications were also unveiled in 2016 and 2020; the three reports evidently indicted the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force.
The question that comes to mind is how has it become rocket science to fix the misdemeanour bedeviling a single agency of government with all the paraphernalia and ostensibly skilled personnel and experts at the Presidency, National Assembly, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Police Affairs, the Police Service Commission and the Police Council. Where did we get it wrong? All we see is the multiplicity of government ddpartments and agencies devised for selfish political gains.
The Nigeria Government should think it through, and take seriously the advice by the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to undertake broader police reforms, since we need advice from international bodies such as the UN before we can advance practical and realistic reforms in a core security agency, despite unaccounted sums of money flying around in the name of security votes.