Following the recent ruling by Justice Fatun Riman of a Federal High Court in Awka, Anambra State, that only an officer within the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police and Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG, with four years of service, could be appointed as Inspector General of Police in accordance with the 2020 Police Act, there is uneasy calm within the Nigeria Police Force.
In its ruling on May 19, 2023, the court also criticized the current Inspector-General of Police, IGP Alkali Baba, for continuing to hold the position despite having fewer than four years left till his retirement from the Nigeria Police Force.
However, in accordance with the Police Act, the immediately preceding President, Muhammadu Buhari, decided to keep Baba in office until the planned retirement date of mid-February 2023.
As a new administration has taken office, news of the nomination of a new IGP and service heads in the military and police has sparked a combination of optimism, uncertainty, and dread of being forced into early retirement.
Rumors that President Tinubu, who is charged with selecting the next IGP from among the serving senior members of the Police Force, may choose an Assistant Inspector General of Police from the South East as the new IGP are said to be adding to the anxiety.
Reality on ground
However, according to information obtained by Vanguard, none of the six Deputy Inspector-General of Police, or DIGs, who represent the Nigerian Police’s six geographical zones have the required four years of service before retirement.
Vanguard also discovered that two of the AIGs’ over-20 employees had at least four years until they may retire, either at age 60 or after completing the required 35 years of service.
According to reports, one of the AIGs from the South East possesses all the necessary operational skills, intelligence, and 2020 Police Service Act qualifications to be nominated to the lofty position. The northern AIG is the second.
Additionally, there are rumors that the current administration may select one of the two police commissioners from the South West and North Central, respectively, to serve as the next IGP.
A candidate for IGP
This is due to the fact that the two officers who recently received promotions to the level of CP also fulfill the Police Act’s four-year threshold.
According to sources, one of these “preferred officers” would probably be elevated to Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG) status in order to meet the requirements of section 7 of the Police Act.
A senior police official with a rank of at least Assistant Inspector-General of Police is required to be appointed as Inspector General of Police, according to Section 7 of the Police Act, paragraph 2.
The Police Act’s Section 7, Paragraph 6 also specifies that the Inspector-General of Police’s term of office should be for a period of four years.
However, if the information concerning elevating any of the “preferred CPs” is accurate, it will force the early retirement of all senior AIGs and DIGs because they are superior to the hand-picked candidate for IGP and can no longer hold their positions.
Some senior police officers and security system participants claimed that if this alleged action were taken, it would result in a waste of personnel, especially given how much money the government has spent over the years on their training.
In addition to the damaging loss of institutional memory, a source told Vanguard that it might also result in the loss of an important asset that offers fundamental stability, particularly at a time when the nation is coping with an unprecedented wave of various but interrelated security challenges.
Some civil society organizations, such as the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, RULAAC, and Confluence of Rights, Nigeria, responded to the development yesterday by urging President Bola Tinubu to appoint an IGP while avoiding what they described as the mistakes made by the previous administration.
Others include the Abuja-based Initiative for Research, Innovation, and Advocacy in Development and the Foundation for Justice and Peace Building.
Their argument is that any likely waiver by the appointing authority to grant tenure extension would completely contravene the law, specifically section 18(8) of the Police Act, 2020 (Amended), which states:
Every police officer must serve the Nigerian Police Force for 35 years from being hired or appointed, or until they are 60, whichever comes first.
They also suggested that such an action may result in needless strain within the system, particularly within the hierarchy of command within the police, weaken morale, and disturb the regular movement of the top officers in accordance with their seniority and rank.
The newly sworn-in President, Bola Tinubu, must avoid the wrong, obviously illegal, and unconstitutional actions of the previous administration that caused controversies and judicial challenges to appointments, according to former IGP and current chairman of the Police Service Commission, Solomon Arase.
“He should only appoint applicants with a minimum of four years of service. The Police Act and the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution both require that appointments be made in conjunction with the Police Council.
“Appointments must take into account the requirements of the law and the constitution, merit, competence, qualifications, seniority, and the established line of succession.
Professional and administrative skill must come before party or personal political inclinations, nepotism, or any other insignificant factors.