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The great battle between the Senate President and the police boss

Over the past few weeks, there has been a brawl between the Senate and the Police initially provoked by the alleged attempt to falsely implicate Dino Melaye in a murder trial. Distinguished Melaye with his high sense of drama has obfuscated the real issue by his actions, depending on whom you believe, jumping out of a police vehicle to save his life from tear gas attack or attempting to escape from lawful police custody. The real issue posed however is whether we are indeed watching the abuse of powers either by the Senate or the Nigerian Police Force. The substance of the story is allegations of politicians employing killer thugs and using a law-making organ to protect themselves. We now know that there must be at least one criminal in the story. If the politicians – the Senate President, the Kwara State Governor and Dino Melaye have thugs and murderers as personal staff, they are not fit for their offices and must be prosecuted and jailed. If the allegations are not true and are made up by the police, the IGP Ibrahim Idris is not fit for office and should be immediately dismissed and prosecuted. It’s no laughing matter.

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One of the latest twist of the story told on Wednesday was by Senate President Saraki who announced that his state governor and ally, Abdulfatai Ahmed had told him that a group of suspects who had been in police cells for several weeks for cultism and whose investigation had been concluded with prosecution about to commence under the State law based on the advice of the director of public prosecution (DPP) and the Ministry of Justice, were ordered to be transferred to Abuja on the directive of IGP) Idris Ibrahim. The plan, he said was that the suspects would be made to alter the statements they already made in Ilorin and they would then be made to implicate the Senate President and the Kwara State Governor. If the number three citizen of the country can be falsely incriminated in a crime then we are in real trouble. 

The view of the Bukola Saraki is that the alleged plot is part of the strategy by IGP Idris to settle scores over the declaration by the Senate that he is not qualified and competent to hold any public office, within and outside the country. The Senate also directly called the IGP “an enemy of Nigerian democracy based on his usual disrespectful conduct towards lawful authorities.” They have been furious at his refusal to personally come to the Senate to respond to questions about the security situation in the country. The Senate President has also charged the IG of “blackmail, intimidation, abuse of office and crude tactics aimed at turning our country into a Police State where top officials cannot be made to obey the law, follow due process and subject themselves to constituted authorities.” These are weighty allegations.

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In response, police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, said the transfer of the suspects to Abuja was not because of Saraki: “The Force therefore wishes to categorically state that, there is no iota of truth in the allegation and false assertion by the Senate President of plot against him by the IGP to implicate the Kwara State Government and the Senate President in any criminal matter.” He then made the call that the police should be allowed to handle their investigation, which is a serious one as the suspects have already admitted and confessed before the press and the public to have killed eleven innocent persons.

I sometimes have difficulties understanding the police. When they announced some weeks ago that they were looking for Senator Dino Melaye to arrest for alleged involvement with suspected murderers, he was going all over he place with his police security details. How can an institution guarding someone say they are looking for him? When their fight with the Senate heated up, they threatened to withdraw their personnel from security duties in the Senate. That is an irresponsible threat because they have a responsibility to provide security to institutions whether or not they have a quarrel with them.

For its part, the Senate has a penchant for calling and harassing officials they have a quarrel with and they would insist that the head of that institution must leave whatever they are doing and come before them in person. The head of the police, or ministers and other occupants of high offices are very busy and often engaged with vital matters they would not be able to abandon on short notice. Yes, the Senate has the powers to convene officials but if they continue to use their powers recklessly, then they run the risk of having their powers challenged.  This is what the IG did by insisting they were not convening him about the security situation in the country but to protect Senator Melaye who was under investigation.

As the situation is approaching a constitutional crisis in which institutions disobey lawful directives, and being convened to answer questions in Senate is a lawful directive, we need to address the situation. The President has to call the IG to order. For its part, the National Assembly or those convened need to test in court the assumption of the legislature that when they convene the head of the institution, the invitee must come personally and cannot send a deputy. We all know that in a bureaucracy, powers are not in persons but in the institution and some other officers in the bureaucracy could represent the institution.

Finally, the security situation in the country and the poor performance of the police should create an opportunity to address the urgent requirement of police reform, which successive presidents have been unable to address. The way forward for the police has been extensively mapped by Obasanjo’s Dan Madami (2006), Yar’Adua’s M. D, Yusuf (2009) and Jonathan’s Parry Osayande (2012) Police Reform Panels. The core problems with the police are not new, the solutions are in the reports of the panels so we just need an implementation committee to make it happen.

The IG Video

On Wednesday, a video of the IG attempting to read a speech went viral. I don’t understand it, the repetition – I mean transmission, transmission, transmission, transfusion; the confusion, the attempted help to teach him to read by a man in suit – was it a broken record. I suspect the video was doctored, in which case the IG should have issued a disclaimer immediately. If the video is genuine, then I worry about the leadership of the police.  

 


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