- Executive vacillation has made judicial pronouncement imperative
The ding-dong between the Police Service Commission (PSC) on one hand, and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), on the other, over who has the constitutional power to recruit constables has moved from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. The IGP and the NPF, in their notice of appeal, claimed that the Court of Appeal “erred in law when it 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.”
As statutory agencies under the canopy of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the chief executive of the country, we expected that the president should have harmonised their discordant tunes in sync with his vision for the country’s security. But this has not been so, and such discord between the two executive bodies dates back to the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo. With the presidents unable to stamp their feet, the ball is now in the court of the judiciary to interpret the law.
Ordinarily, it is the responsibility of the executive arm of government to chart a vision of the security architecture and institutionalise the process to achieve it. If for any reason, there are provisions of the law which distort such vision, the executive is expected to seek necessary amendments to achieve the clear objective of government. So, we are amazed that the wrangling between the PSC and the IGP has been left to linger by the successive governments.
Under the present regime, we learnt that the opinion offered by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) was rejected by the PSC, which felt that its constitutionally guaranteed powers were being eroded by the IGP and the NPF. Of interest, the PSC is headed by a retired IGP, and so we wonder why the two agencies cannot agree. Perhaps, on the face of the law, because of the superiority of the constitution over subsidiary legislation, the PSC appears favoured to recruit all police personnel.
But it is also true it is the IGP and NPF that will work with the recruits, and should know the personnel the job requires. So, should the law provide for the PSC to recruit officers, while the IGP and NPF recruit the constables? What is the vision of the government with respect to recruitment that will guarantee a better secured Nigeria? Is there need for a shared vision, between the offices of the PSC and the IGP, to guarantee quality and spread in the recruitment process?
These are some of the issues that should drive the government’s vision with respect to a better secured country. For us, thinking through the process and providing answers is what the president is employed and empowered by the constitution to do. It is also pertinent to ask, the place of the current struggle between the PSC and IGP with respect to the clamour for a decentralised police, state police, and community policing; which many argue would ensure better security architecture for Nigeria.
With respect to the lingering dispute, there is also the importunities of bad faith, making it impossible for officials under the same administration to agree on a process to achieve the larger objective of government. While going to court is a democratic licence to resolve disputes democratically, there are costs attached, which could have been avoided.
However, with the matter now before the Supreme Court, a final pronouncement that will put it to rest once and for all is expected. This may be fortuitous, but it is nonetheless the way out in the circumstance. Police duties are essential to internal security. The country will be better for it if their recruitment is devoid of the kind of wrangling we have been witnessing over the years.