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MATTERS ARISING: Controversy over IGP tenure — what does the law say?

Usman Baba, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Baba, Inspector General of Police (IGP)

Controversy is currently brewing over the tenure of Usman Baba, the inspector-general of police (IGP).

Baba was appointed as IGP in April 2021. However, on March 1, 2023, he will clock 60 years old and according to his profile, he was commissioned into the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) on March 15, 1988, as a cadet assistant superintendent of police.

This means Baba is weeks away from reaching retirement — whether by age or years in service — going by the public service rule.

Analysts have raised concerns about the IGP retiring amid the general election.

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Reacting to the speculations, Mohammed Dingyadi, minister of police affairs, said the appointment of Baba is based on a four-year tenure in line with provisions of the Police Act of 2020.

“By the provision of Police Act 2020, the IGP is now supposed to have a tenure of four-year period and Mr. President has given him a letter of appointment in that regard,” Dingyadi said.

LEGAL PROVISIONS FOR IGP APPOINTMENT

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Section 7 of the Police Act of 2020 stipulates that:

“(1) The Inspector-General of Police is the head of the Nigeria Police Force and shall exercise full command and operational control over the Police and all its departments and units.

“(2) The person to be appointed as Inspector-General of Police shall be a senior police officer not below the rank of an Assistant Inspector-General of Police with the requisite academic qualifications of not less than a first degree or its equivalent in addition to professional and management experience.

“(3) The Inspector-General of Police shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Police Council from among serving members of the Police Force.

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“(4) The Inspector-General of Police shall not be removed from office except for gross misconduct, gross violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or demonstrated incapacity to effectively discharge the duties of the office.

“(5) The Inspector-General of Police shall only be removed from office by the President on the advice of the Police Council.

“(6) The person appointed to the office of the Inspector-General of Police shall hold office for four years.”

Members of the police council include the president, governors of the 36 states, and chairperson of the Police Service Commission (PSC).

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Based on the Police Act, Baba’s tenure is expected to end in 2025.

THE TWIST

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Section 18(8) of the Police Act 2020, which makes direct reference to the civil service rule on retirement, states: “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.”

This means that Baba will be due for retirement at least two years before his tenure as IGP will end.

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The development has fuelled speculations over if the current IGP will leave office before his tenure ends — and in the middle of an election period at that.

LEGAL PRECEDENT

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A similar situation happened during the tenure of Mohammed Adamu, the predecessor to Baba.

Adamu, who was appointed in 2019, clocked the mandatory 35 years in service in February 2021, but President Muhammadu Buhari extended his time in service for three months.

The extension elicited widespread criticism and Maxwell Opara, a legal practitioner, had taken the IGP to court, contending that by virtue of section 215 of the constitution and section 7 of the Police Act, Adamu cannot continue to function as the IGP, having retired as a serving member of the force.

However, the federal high court in Abuja affirmed Buhari’s decision on the grounds that the constitution gives the president the power to appoint the IGP.

Ahmed Mohammed, the presiding judge, held that since the constitution and the Police Act empower the president to appoint an IGP, by implication, the president can extend the tenure of a retiring IGP before concluding the required consultation with the police council and other processes required for the appointment of a substantive replacement.

The judge also observed that the constitution and the Police Act are silent on the issue of whether or not the president can extend the tenure of a retired IGP.

LEGAL OPINION 

Speaking with TheCable, Monday Ubani, a legal practitioner, said the IGP should retire in compliance with section 18(8) of the Police Act.

Ubani also said the president should have checked the profile of Baba before appointing him as IGP.

“The position of things is that there should not be any controversy with regards to sections (18)8 and section 7(6) of the Police Act,” he said.

“If not that our leaders derive pleasure in creating controversy, the issue should not be in existence. The Act says the tenure of any IGP shall be four years. In other words, that section deals with the security of tenure so that the IGP won’t be removed based on the whims and caprices of the political class.

“The president should have checked the complete profile of the prospective IGP, including the remaining years of service, before the appointment.

“If that particular prospective IGP does not have up to four years in service, it would be absolutely wrong to appoint that individual.”

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