By Kingsley Nweze
The uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, who is due for retirement in March, was clarified last week by the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi, writes Kingsley Nweze.
The Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammed Dingyadi, last week stirred the hornet’s nest when he disclosed that the Inspector General of Police (IG) Usman Alkali Baba would not be retiring midway into the general election, disclosing that the police boss already has an appointment letter, extending his term in office.
Dingyadi, who briefed State House Correspondents after the first Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of 2023, explained the Police Act 2020 has changed the rules for an IG’s retirement.
There have been speculations lately that the police chief, who will clock 60 years on March 1, 2023, may not honour the rule that mandates public servants to go on retirement at 60 due to the general election that will be ongoing at that period.
Responding to a question from a journalist on whether or not the IG would be retiring as the law provides, Dingyadi said: “I don’t know where you got your record but let me say that by the provision of the Police Act 2020, the IG is now supposed to have a kind of four-year period and Mr. President has already given him a letter of appointment in that regard. So the issue of IG going out during this election period does not arise.”
Before Dingyadi’s clarification, there were intrigues within the police high command and the corridors of power in Abuja in the foggy race for the police top job.
Baba will turn 60 on March 1, 2023, four days after the presidential election and 10 days before the governorship elections scheduled for February 25 and March 11, respectively.
According to Baba’s profile, he was born in 1963 and commissioned into the police on March 15, 1988, as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police. He will, therefore, be due for retirement on March 1, since the mandatory age to leave for officials to leave public service is 60 years or after 35 years in service.
President Muhammadu Buhari appointed the then DIG Baba as the acting Inspector General of Police on April 6, 2021. The Police Council confirmed him as the substantive IG on June 2021.
Recall that there had been concerns over the expected retirement of the IG Baba, as well as three Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs), many Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs), 10 Commissioners of Police (CPs) five Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCPs), about 30 Assistant Commissioners of Police (ACPs), over 35 Chief Superintendents of Police (CSPs), 47 Superintendents of Police (SPs), 55 Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs) and 70 Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASPs) in the first quarter of 2023.
Findings by THISDAY showed that the retirement of such a number of police officers in one fell swoop at a period of elections, has become a serious cause for concern for the authorities, especially the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“There are fears over security during the general election as the full compliments of police personnel are needed nationwide in February when the presidential and National Assembly elections hold as well as March, when the governorship and state Houses of Assembly election will take place,” a source said.
It was gathered that before IG’s statutory retirement in March, three DIGs are expected to leave the force this month as they reach their retirement age.
Sources in the police revealed that among those expected to retire are Mobile Squadron Commander and Area Commanders, and Divisional Police Officers (DPOs). Usually, such police officers get strategic postings during elections owing to their critical positions, it was gathered.
When contacted on the expected mass retirement in the police, an official of INEC, who does not want his name in print, said the commission was focusing on how to organise credible elections while leaving such matters as security to be handled by those concerned.
On whether he was afraid that mass retirement in the police may affect election security, he said: “I should think that the federal government knows what to do.”
While it was not clear what the Police Service Commission (PSC) would recommend to President Buhari, regarding the mass retirement of the IG and others at this critical time, some retired police officers said the option of service extension till after the elections could be explored.
Just like in civil service, where the retirement age for public service officials is 60 years or after 35 years in service whichever comes first, the Police Act, signed by President Buhari recently, also pegs the retirement age of police officers at 60 years of age or 35 years of service.
Specifically, Section 18(8) of the new Act states: “Every police officer shall, on recruitment or appointment, serve in the Nigeria Police Force for 35 years or until the age of 60 years, whichever is earlier.”
By law, the police chief is appointed by the president on the “advice” of the Police Council. The council is chaired by the president and has the 36 state governors, Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the IG as members.
But even when the Police Act pegs the retirement age of police officers at 60 years of age or 35 years of service, another section also pegs the tenure of the IG as four years.
For instance, Section 7 subsection 2 of the Act provides that: “The person to be appointed as Inspector General of Police shall be a Senior Police Officer not below the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police with the requisite academic qualification of not less than a first degree or its equivalent in addition to professional or management experience.”
Many analysts have argued that the clause that pegs the tenure of the IG for four years after he has attained 60 years of age or 35 years of service contradicts the public officers’ rule and Section 18(8) of the Police Act.
A former IG said the officers could get an extension in the circumstance. According to him, the officers due for retirement should be given three months extension for effective monitoring of the elections.
The former IG who did not want to be mentioned, said: “It is not easy to immediately fill their vacuum. Already, INEC and some people are saying that due to insecurity the elections may not hold. In internal security, the police are the bedrock, the first to be called upon. And the elections involve internal security.”
Justifying his recommendation for extension, he said: “The Civil Service Rules say a civil servant is due for retirement after serving 35 years or after attaining 60 years of age, but the president has the prerogative to extend anybody’s tenure.”
A retired DIG from the North, who pleaded anonymity, said it would be the first time such a large number of police officers would go on retirement at the same period, which makes it imperative that “at such a critical period, as during national elections, the president could grant an extension. It is not about the people who are to retire, but for national security. We need all the policemen to be around during elections,” he said.
A retired AIG, on his part, said: “I fear that effective monitoring of the elections may be affected if such numbers are allowed to go at this crucial period of the elections. It is not possible to fill the vacuum immediately.”
A commissioner at the PSC, who declined to be named, said as a responsible body made up of experienced people, the PSC would not be against extension of the service period of IG and the officers concerned.
“If the IG feels that the large number of the officers due for retirement will affect effective monitoring of the elections, let him write to the President for their extension. For the IGP, it is the Presidency that will determine his fate. We (PSC) have no objection to whatever that would be done to maintain stability and security, “ he said.
A security expert said retirement is statutory in the police, military and civil service generally and should not cause any anxiety.
“The authorities know what to do, in the best interest of the country. Therefore, there should not be cause for alarm,” he said.
Recall that Baba’s predecessor, Mohammed Adamu, also faced a similar issue prior to his leaving office. But President Buhari extended Adamu’s tenure by three months after he reached the mandatory 35 years in service in February 2021.
The matter was subsequently taken before the Federal High Court in Abuja, and the court affirmed Buhari’s decision on the grounds that the constitution gives the president the power to appoint the IG.
According to the court, by implication of the powers of appointment, the president can extend the tenure of an IG who is due for retirement, pending consultation with the police council on the approval of a substantive replacement.
But a security expert, who spoke to THISDAY, argued that any tenure extension given to Baba would further confirm the allegations of favourtism and nepotism levelled against the President Buhari’s government since he took over the affairs of the country in 2015.
The analyst, who did not want his name mentioned in print for security reasons, said: “Why is it that it is only northerners that Buhari always extends their tenures? He did the same thing to the former IG, Mohammed Adamu. What he is doing is setting a very dangerous precedent. We hope that whenever a southerner mounts the position in future, successive governments will do the same thing to the person.”
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