Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the senate “did not get it right” by tagging Ibrahim Idris, inspector-general of police (IGP), “an enemy of democracy”.
Following Idris’ failure to appear before the senate on three different occasions, the upper legislative chamber said he is unfit to hold any public office.
The IGP had been summoned over the growing insecurity in the country and also for the case of Dino Melaye, senator representing Kogi west, who is currently in police custody.
Idris sent a representative in his place on two of those occasions but the senate turned back the proxy.
Speaking on a Channels TV programme on Thursday, Falana said the senate made a mistake by bringing Melaye’s case into the picture.
He said even with the killings, IGP is not the right person to summon, rather, the minister of interior and the attorney-general of the federation.
He said: “By virtue of section 67 (2) of the constitution, either chamber can summon a minister when the affairs of his or her ministry are under consideration. The only other occasion a public officer can be summoned by the national assembly is when proceedings are ongoing to expose corruption and when a law is being debated either with a view to amending it or to have a new law entirely.
“But there is no such powers given to the national assembly by the constitution to summon everybody.”
Asked by the programme’s anchor if the senate has the power to summon the president, Falana replied: “No. Section 67 (1) has given the president the discretion to address the national assembly either jointly or separately, on any matter of national importance. The president or the governor of a state cannot be summoned; that is the constitution.
“The national assembly has my sympathy, but what can be done? The constitutional review is ongoing. You can deal with this lacuna, or the gaps you have identified.
“But don’t go outside the limit of your powers. When you do that, you ridicule the constitution. And that is what is going on.”
He added that even though he condemned the arraignment of Melaye while on a stretcher, he had told the lawmakers to not “individualise problems of police brutality”.
“When you do that, you lose public support. It is the height of hypocrisy to say because the police has brutalised our member, the IG must come. What of thousands of Nigerians that are brutalised daily?” he asked.
“Don’t single out the harassment of your member to summon the IG, that is where they lost it. They shouldn’t have mixed Melaye’s case with the killings.
“As far as the constitution is concerned, the person to summon is the minister of interior and the attorney-general, and they have the powers to do that. The minister can be summoned but there is no provision for summoning the IG or the customs boss to appear in one uniform or the other, it is not there.”