INTERNAL WAR RAGES IN POLICE OVER SUCCESSION AS IGP RETIRES FEBRUARY 1, 2021

MURPHY GANAGANA

An internal war is brewing within the top brass of the Nigeria Police Force. It’s a battle for the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) as the incumbent, Mohammed Adamu, statutorily retires on February 1, 2021. Since the dawn of time for his exit, an uneasy calm has pervaded Louis Edet House, the police headquarters in the central business district of Abuja.

Until a few weeks ago, expectations were high that the usually fierce succession battle for the position of IGP in the past will be doused with the emergence of a new Police Act 2020 which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, September 17. The Act specified that a person to be appointed IGP shall be a senior police officer not below the rank of an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), with the requisite academic qualification of not less than a first degree or its equivalent in addition to professional and managerial experience.

Part 111 Section 7 (6) of the Act, which repealed the Police Act Cap. P19, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, prescribed a four year single tenure for a person appointed to the office of the IGP subject to the provisions of clause 18 (, which stipulates that every police officer shall, on recruitment or appointment, serve in the Nigeria Police Force for a period of 35 years or until he attains the age of 60 years, whichever is earlier.

But a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal seems to have thrown a spanner in the wheel of implementation of the Police Act 2020. The Court of Appeal declared the new Police unconstitutional and void on the grounds that it affected the constitutional mandate of the Police Service Commission (PSC). The Appeal Court ruled that the provisions of the Act was in conflict with Paragraph 30 Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution which empowered the Commission to appoint persons into offices in the Nigeria Police Force except the Office of the Inspector-General of Police.

The judgment also nullified the recruitment of 10,000 constables carried out by the police authorities last year. Meanwhile, IGP Mohammed Adamu, has appealed the ruling which nullified the earlier order of the Federal High Court, Abuja. It was however not clear whether the nullification affected the entire Police Act 2020 or a part of it that related to the mandate of the PSC.

Checks by Saturday Sun indicated that as of the time filling this report, there were five contenders for the plum job, including Adamu, the incumbent IGP. The others, all Assistant Inspectors General of Police, are the Force Secretary, AIG Usman Alkali Baba; the AIG in charge of Zone 13, Awka, AIG Dan-Mallam Mohammed; Commandant, Police Academy (POLAC), Kano, AIG Zanna Mohammed Ibrahim, and the AIG in charge of Zone 12, Bauchi, Sanusi Nma Lemu.

Legal experts and critical stakeholders in security circles who spoke with Saturday Sun are unanimous in their opinion that the provision of the Police Act 2020 as it relates to the appointment, retirement of police officers and tenure of the IGP, had closed any window of opportunity for the incumbent to enjoy an extension of service, as Nasarawa-State born Mohammed Adamu enlisted in the police on February 1, 1986 and will attain both the mandatory retirement age of 60 and 35-year period of service by February 1, 2021. He was born November 9, 1961.

In the same vein, among the six Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs) currently in service, three are due for retirement along with the IGP on February 1, 2021. They are the DIG Department of Logistics, Aminchi Baraya; DIG Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), Michael Anthony Ogbizi, and the DIG Department of Research and Planning, Adeleye Oyebade. The rest, DIG Celestine Okoye (Department of Info-Tech); DIG Lawal Shehu (Department of Training) and DIG Abdul Danwawu, are scheduled to retire between October 26 and December 24, 2020.

Saturday Sun investigation indicated that the gale of retirement will also sweep away 15 among the 24 Assistant Inspectors General of police who are general duty officers currently in service between January 8 and November 21, 2021, while the balloons of hope for eight others to attain the rank of IGP have also been deflated by provisions of the new Police Act.

They are due for retirement between January 2022 and March 2023. Only one AIG –Moses Jitoboh, a general duty officer, still has nine years in service. Born on June 1, 1970, Jitoboh, presently the AIG in charge of Border Patrol, enlisted into the police force on June 10, 1994. He is due for retirement on June 10, 2029. Ironically, all the four AIGs reportedly eyeing the position of IGP are due for retirement between November 26, 2022 and December 18, 2023, and hail from the northern flank of the country.

Caught in a web of statutory obstacles raised with the Police Act 2020, impeccable police sources in Abuja hinted on Wednesday that some political hawks have returned to the drawing board to explore safety valves with a view to evading the hurdles. Speculations are rife on a plot to push for extension of service for the outgoing IGP, amidst fears that an attempt to circumvent the provisions of the new law could be disastrous for the Nigeria Police Force.

It could not be confirmed at press time if Adamu had officially applied for an extension of service, but sources close to Aso Rock Villa, the nation’s seat of power, confided in Saturday Sun that he has indicated interest to vie for the position of president, International Police Organisation (INTERPOL) which is presently vacant, and election for the number one position of the global policing body is expected to hold in December.

Observers posit that if the IGP gets a presidential nod and support for his aspiration, it would give vent to the push to extend his period of service possibly till after the general elections in 2023. The snag, it was however learnt, is that some powerful forces in the presidency are not favourably disposed to retaining Adamu as IGP, and are working to close the curtain on his tenure.

In the circumstances, sources said the pendulum seems to be swinging in the direction of AIG Moses Jitoboh, the only serving general duty officer on that rank not encumbered by any provision of the Police Act 2020 who still has a period of nine years in the service. He is a multiple degree holder and PhD candidate in Geographical Information System at the Graduate School of Abia State University and alumni of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) Kuru, Plateau State.

Jitoboh, who is from the southern geopolitical zone, was at a time, AIG in charge of Zone 8 police command as well as Commissioner of police, Adamawa State police command. He also holds a Certificate in Negotiation and Leadership, Harvard Law School Programme on Negotiation, Harvard University, Boston, USA, as well as Certificate in National and International Security Policy, Harvard Kennedy School for Governance, also at Harvard University. Between 2018 and 2019, he was Commissioner of Police General Investigations (GI) at the Force criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (FCIID) Annex, Alagbon, Lagos. He was Aide-de-Camp (ADC) and Chief Personal Security Officer (CPSO) to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan between 2010 and 2015.

Curiously, despite possessing the requisite qualifications, Jitoboh is not among the names bandied as a likely successor to Adamu, a situation that is said to have heightened suspense and anxiety among some police officers as well as the rank and file. Saturday Sun reliably gathered that disquiet in the police has become palpable and gullies of bad blood are forming.

“The Nigeria Police Force had been bedeviled by a lot of challenges and the succession battle for the position of IGP has always been there. With the enactment of the Police Act 2020 which clearly prescribed the standard of eligibility for appointment, tenure and retirement of the office, we had high hopes that merit, justice, fairness and transparency will prevail. But from the feelers we are getting on these being propped up to take over and the incumbent plotting an extension of his service, the light is still far from the end of the tunnel. We hope that this time around, President Buhari will stand firm on the path of the law and equity; he should do the right thing. How do you explain a situation where all the past three IGPs, Suleiman Abba, Ibrahim Idris, and the incumbent Mohammed Adamu, are all from the North?,” a top police officer who does not want his name mentioned, queried.

Tunde Ogunshakin, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police and principal partner of a law firm based in Abuja, concedes that the new Police Act is unambiguous of the appointment of IGP. But he says the President could still exercise his discretion to extend the period of service of the incumbent IGP based on facts available to him that warrants an extension. “As a lawyer, the provisions of the Police Act 2020 are very clear. But I do not know the facts available to Mr. President, and if in his wisdom he decides to grant an extension of service to the incumbent, I do not see anything wrong about it. More so, the IGP has spent barely a year and he is doing well”.

Will President Buhari bow to pressures to circumvent the new Police Act or take the path of justice and equity? The answer lies in the womb of time.

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