IGP Tenure Extension Illegal, Unconstitutional, Says Ozekhome

Constitutional lawyer & Human Rights Activist, Mike Ozekhome, SAN.

Constitutional lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, has expressed in no uncertain terms, strong disapproval of the action of President Muhammadu Buhari in extending the tenure of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu for an additional three months.

Adamu was enlisted into the Force in 1986, appointed the 20th IGP in January 2019, succeeding Ibrahim Kpotum, and was expected to retire from office on February 1 2021. The speculations and concerns that trailed his continuous stay in office days after his retirement date, were finally put to rest with his official extension of tenure, yesterday by the President.

Ozekhome, speaking on a Channels Television program, ‘Politics Today’ said ‘the president was wrong to have purportedly extended the tenure of office of Mr. Adamu’.

He debunked the reasoning that the action was taken by the President to afford him ample time to decide on, and appoint a new IGP, saying that Adamu’s retirement date was not a surprise. He made reference to US President Joe Biden, who started putting his cabinet together even before he was sworn in, in January.

Ozekhome, maintained that the president ran foul of sections of the 1999 constitution as amended, under which the Police Force was created, as well as sections of the Police Act 2020, therefore making his actions illegal and unconstitutional.

The Senior Advocate therefore threw his weight behind an Abuja based legal practitioner, Maxwell Okpara who, on Wednesday, filed a suit asking the federal high court to stop Mohammed Adamu from further parading himself as the holder of the office, listing President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Police Council as defendants.

“In the eyes of the law”, Ozekhome continued further, “Adamu is a retired police officer, he can no longer act, and any Nigerian has the locus standi to challenge any action that he takes, which may impact negatively on him… In the eye of the law, there is no Inspector General of Police. What we have is a retired IGP illegally occupying the office…”

He went on to say that, under section 215(1) of the 1999 constitution and paragraph 27 to the third schedule of the constitution, the president cannot singlehandedly appoint an IGP without full consultation at a meeting of the Police Council, members of which would incude Mr. President as Chairman, and the 36 state governors of Nigeria, Chairman of the Nigeria Police Service Commission (which deals with the appointment, promotion and posting of senior police officers), and the IGP as members. He thus refered to the president’s actions as ‘arbitrary, capricious and whimsical.’

Citing sections 215 and 216, that holds that an IGP can only be appointed from the cadre of Assistant Inspector General (AIG) and above, the Senior Advocate lamented the practice of elevating an officer from a lower cadre to the post of IGP, therefore sentencing AIGs to compulsory premature retirement. He said this was the phenomenon that follwed the appointment of Mr. Adamu and his predecessor, Kpotum, when they were appointed IGPs. They were only Commissioners of Police (CPs) and their appointments led to a number of AIGs and DIGs having to retire prematurely.

On the way out of this constitutional crisis, Ozekhome stated emphatically that the president should withdraw the appointment of the IGP, meet with the Police Council and appoint from one of the serving AIGs, after undergoing an examination to select the most appropriate candidate.

He also advocated an amendment to the constitution that will bring about a decentralized police force, and give way to state, local government and community policing.

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