By Eze Onyekpere & Gregory Okere
The extant Nigerian security and law and order situation can be best described as a crisis, where the government has been unable to effectively secure lives and property. There are daily reports of killings and destruction of property across the federation.
The principal civil security agency provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), (Constitution) is the Nigeria Police headed by an Inspector General (IGP). The IGP is charged with the supreme command of the Police and with the maintenance of public safety and order. The IGP is therefore the leader of the Nigeria Police and sets the tone for the success or failure of the Police in the discharge of their statutory duties. As a leader, he claims the credit for success as well as gets the blame for failure in the discharge of the duties of the Police.
By section 5 of the Constitution, the executive power of the Federation is vested in the office of the President. Also, by section 215 (1) of the Constitution which provides that the IGP; “shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Police Council from amongst serving members of the Nigeria Police Force”, the incumbent President of Nigeria has the prerogative power to appoint the IGP subject to the overriding national interest of the country.
However, the constitutional powers vested in the President cannot be exercised in a vacuum considering that we are stated to be a democratic society. Section 14 (1) of the Constitution provides that: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.” The above provision shows clearly that Nigeria runs a democratic government and should abide by the tenets of democracy. Also, section 14 (2) of the Constitution states as follows: “It is hereby, accordingly, declared that: (a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority; (b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Thus, by virtue of section 14 (2) (a) above, the sovereignty of the country is vested in Nigerian citizens and who through elections confer on the President or any other elected officer in Nigeria powers to protect the public interest as servant of the people.
Furthermore, section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” This implies that any democratically elected government is delegated by the people to oversee the security and welfare of the public and failure of such government or its agencies to protect the lives and property of its citizens or failure to meet up with the security and welfare needs of citizens is assumed to be a governmental failure.
Also, the presidential oath of office as prescribed by the 7th Schedule to the Constitution mandates the President to inter: “strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will abide by the Code of Conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”
Media reports indicate that the current IGP is about to reach the mandatory retirement age for public officers and this will likely be on the 15th of January 2019. From public service rules, retirement is designed to allow an individual who has put in so many years in service or has reached the biological cut-off date, to have some rest so that new and younger hands can be injected to lead the system. The intention of the makers of the Public Service Rules in providing for compulsory retirement is in recognition of the fact that any public servant who has attained the retirement age faces the natural rules of diminishing returns in his/her service to the public and the case of the incumbent IGP is not an exception to this rule considering the circumstances and security situation currently facing Nigeria. Thus, there is urgent need to give the younger police officers the opportunity to move the security architecture of the country forward in the area of internal security.
There are speculations about the possibility of the President prolonging the IGP’s tenure which has been heightened by recent media reports credited to President Muhammadu Buhari about the need for caution in changing service chiefs. Judging from the President’s inclination, the body language looks like he is set to retain the IGP. Retaining a public officer who has clocked the mandatory retirement age or has put in the stipulated length of service can only be a product of a wonderful and meritorious service. It is almost like saying that the person retained is the best in the field and a replacement is not easily available. And retention will guarantee that there is continuity so that the good work can be sustained.
But what has been the performance of the IGP? What is his track record? From the killing fields in Zamfara, Kaduna, now Katsina to Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Nasarawa or the various violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens under his watch, to the disobedience of the direct instructions of the President to relocate to Benue; which one is worthy of replication or to be sustained? Should the President seek to reward poor service to the nation, thereby reinforcing failure and setting a dangerous precedent in matters involving lives and property? Is there no other police officer with enough experience, credibility and track record to succeed the outgoing IGP?
Mr. President, these posers must be resolved in the national interest, not subject to any personal interest or the whims and caprices of any authority, no matter how highly placed. The exercise of presidential prerogatives and discretion must be guided by the oath of office, the security and welfare of the people and higher ideals. This is imperative to assuage the families and relatives of persons who lost their lives in the poor security situation, put a fitting memorial to the names of deceased persons and say never again to poor management of security in Nigeria. Nigeria needs a new IGP.