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Needless PSC, police tantrum

By Afolabi Aribigbola

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The open disagreement between the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) reached a crescendo in 2019 when the PSC approached a Federal Court to adjudicate on who has the power to recruit constables into the NPF.

 Prior to this time, the former President Mohammed Buhari in his efforts to address the cankerworm on insecurity gave them permission to recruit 10, 000 constables for 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. Unfortunately, the bickering between the two organisations as to who has the power to accomplish the tasked stalled the exercise since presidential approval was given in 2018. To resolve the lingering crisis, the PSC approached the Federal High Court to determine between the PSC and NPF who should discharge the responsibility of recruiting constables into the police force. The PSC hinged their position on the fact that Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended,) states that PSC “Shall be responsible for the appointment and promotion of persons to offices (other than the office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force; dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons (other than the IG) and formulate policies and guidelines for the appointment, promotion, discipline and dismissal of officers of the Nigeria Police Force.”.

Whereas the Police contended that Section 18(1) of the Nigeria Police Act 2020, states that: “The responsibility for the recruitment of constables into the Nigeria Police Force and recruitment of cadets into the Nigeria Police Academy shall be the duty of the Inspector-General of Police.”. The apex court of the land, the Supreme Court in July 2023 laid the issue in contention to rest by ruling that it is the constitutional responsibility of the PSC to recruit constables into the NPF. Unfortunately, despite the ruling of the Supreme court that is the final on all issues in the country, there seems not to be love lost between the two organisations. Besides the fact that the directive to recruit 60,000 personnel has been unsuccessful since 2018, the NPF have come out openly to criticize and discredit the recent recruitment of 10,000 constables by the PSC. The bickering between PSC and the NPF that should be cordial and complimentary has become a source of concern and embarrassment to many Nigerians.

Why is it that the two organisations cannot manage their relationship like other establishments where there are commissions, boards or councils? What has been the consequences of their actions on service and discipline in the force? Why has it been difficult or impossible for the Controlling Ministry of Police Affairs to stem the unacceptable impasse between the two bodies before it become public knowledge as well as hampering their operations? In addition, what should be done to ensure this kind of degrading retrogressive and unhealthy actions do not persist between two organisations?

Indeed, the unnecessary bickering between PSC and NFC reared its ugly head again when the police accused PSC of recruiting untrainable constables for the force in the recent appointment of new constables for the force. Ordinarily, the relations between the two complimenting organisations should not be a strained one because PSC was created to offer supervisory and policy control over the NPF. PSC according to their enabling law and the constitution of Nigeria is the civilian oversight body established under the constitution for the Nigerian Police force, while the NPF is the institution created to maintain law and order in Nigeria. With the above background, the relationship between them should not be a frozen or a cat and mouse one. The cat and mouse relationship between them is a sign that some things are fundamentally wrong. The first has to do with the inconsistency of the Police Act with the constitution which the Supreme Court has addressed anyway.

The second from my opinion is that though the PSC can be vested with power of appointments, in the case of constables, it should be to ratify the recommendations of the NPF that is the situation with promotions and discipline of officers. The PSC on its own cannot single handedly promote or discipline any officer. The same procedure I think should apply to recruitment of constables. This was the practice in the past in Nigeria. In the past the Commissioner of Police in a state recruit and promote constables unto the level of sergeants.

This should be the practice and would not create any problems. In the last few months there have been some unhealthy rivalries between the IG and PSC commission on an assignment that should ordinarily be carried out at local police jurisdiction to fill the vacancies of the lowest cadre of police personnel of the rank of constable. This impasse has continued as if the two statutory organisations have no essential pressing assignment in the country. Indeed this shameful action that has been adjudicated upon by the apex court of the land is going on in the face of intractable and escalating insecurity in the country. The unwholesome development has a far-reaching implications. Beside the fact that it will demoralise the NPF personnel, it will also detract them from focusing on their core mandate of securing lives and property in the country.

Also, some have suggested that it will embolden criminals to operate more freely in the face of demoralized police personnel. It could also delay. The arguments in certain circles that PSC and NPF are fighting to take control of constables for sinister reasons or why for instance the supervisory body that should be more concerned with more important policy issues and actions to drive better policing to more effective proactive actions to rid the country of insecurity should descend so low to take on the assignment of recruiting constables, the lowest cadre in the Police? Therefore, some have insinuated that the main reason for the fight is for officials of the agency to be able to flood the force with their towns’ or states’ people at the expense of other people and quality.  The above and other issues surrounding the IG and PSC crisis have been giving some individuals serious concern over the past few months since the crisis came to public knowledge.

It is not our intention to comment on the roles of the two warring organization as to who is at fault and who is right. Our concern is that such a crisis should not arose in the first instance between them in 21st century Nigeria and after over sixty years of self-independence in which the police being one of the oldest institutions in the country should  have developed beyond these pedestal and mundane level of fighting over who and who should be responsible for mere recruitment of constables that ordinarily should not require a rigorous process of enlistment. That the kind of bickering occurring is a manifestation of the extent of degeneration of moral standards and approach to accomplishing public affairs that are often influenced by primordial sentiments, indiscipline, nepotism and corruption. It also shows the level of seriousness and commitment of our public institutions in the discharge of their responsibilities.

This is because the unwarranted squabbles between the complimentary organisations have made it impossible to recruitment more police men as directed by the former President of the country in 2018. The present scenarios and the accompanying squabbles some have contented is playing out because the Police are unable to handle or cope with the spate of insecurity in the country that they have introduced diversionary tactics to confuse Nigerians to divert the attention of the people from the mounting insecurity challenges in the country.

The current impasse between the Police and PSC have shown clearly that priviledged Nigerians are less concerned about faithfully and efficiently discharge of their mandates but more concerned in building and acquiring influences to benefit themselves and families. Since PSC have not been able to recruit personnel since 2018, and those recently appointed could not commence training, the Minister of Police Affairs must quickly step in to resolve the bickering to ensure NFC focus on securing the country and solve the escalating insecurity in the country.

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Needless PSC, police tantrum

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