The stubborn refusal of Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris to obey summons by the Senate over widespread insecurity in the country is yet another unacceptable onslaught on decency and the law by a top official of the Muhammadu Buhari executive. For this, we at New Independence Group (NIG) urge President Buhari to quickly call Idris to order while also taking steps to severely punish the lawless officer, and this is assuming that his indecent and arrogant conduct does not enjoy the tacit support of the Executive arm of government, the IGP's immediate constituency.
The conduct is deemed indecent because nearly 20 years after the return to civil rule, Nigeria is expected to by now have progressed beyond the level where respect for constitutionally-guaranteed arms of government cannot be taken as given. Disobeying the summon of Senate of the country is an unconscionable onslaught on the Constitution because as a Principal law officer of the country, Idris is expected to know that the power of the legislature to summon anyone, including him, to expose corruption and inefficiency in the executive is inviolable.
Hiding under the Police Act as empowering the Inspector General to delegate any of his subordinates on any assignment or seeking court protection against Senate summon, as Idris has done in this case, can only exposed the country’s democracy as perpetually immature.
More worrying, however, is the oxymoronic brazen and lawless disregard for the legislature as an institution by the IGP who by virtue of his office should know better about the implication of his action for the rule of law.
Reading motives into the Senate summon, on the ground that a member of the chamber, Dino Melaye, is being prosecuted by the Police for alleged gun running among other suspected crimes, the IGP in a statement authored by Police spokesman Jimoh Moshood obviously threw caution to the wind by embarking on such argument and thinking. He accused the Senate of blackmail and reiterated that the Police Act empowers the IGP not to attend the summons in person.
According to Moshood, the “attack” on the person of IGP by the Senate which declared the Police boss persona non grata who is not fit for public office, both in Nigeria and internationally, having failed to obey legislative summon thrice, is “deliberate blackmail.”
The Police spokesman said that the ‘witch-hunt’ was to arm-twist Idris into perverting “the end of justice in the felonious and serious offences” of Senator Melaye.
We hold, however, that it is the Police boss who appears to be on the path of preemptive blackmail, by engaging in diversionary tactics and attributing his summon solely to the Melaye matter.
Pray, what does it cost the IGP to attend the Senate summon and continually maintain during the expected question-and-answer session that the Melaye matter is in court, and therefore sub judice, and not requiring any comment from him if the legislators raise questions on the matter as he feared?
He could simply stick to the national concerns over widespread security breaches in the country, against which the Police under him appear helpless. Wanton killings and arson by suspected herdsmen in the North and the Middle Belt as well as kidnapping and robberies in the South of the county are a cause for concern and this should have been the priority of the IGP. Except the 'powerful IGP' is of the view that the killing of about 1,000 Nigerians between January and April of this year, at peace time, is not worrisome enough should he have reduced his summon by the country's parliament to a matter about one of their members.
To be clear, Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution empower the National Assembly to investigate any matter with respect to which it has power to make laws. Specifically, section 89(1)(c ) of the Constitution empowers the legislators to summon any person with respect to its investigation in that regard. Being the grundnorm from which all laws take effect, the Constitution supersedes all other laws and legislations. And to render the veil behind which the IGP is seeking protection as superfluous, Section 1 (1)(3) of the Constitution aptly states: “If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”
The search for shield by the IGP through the Police Act in this respect is therefore simply infantile and stands on very shaky grounds.
Also, section 88 (2) of the Constitution states:
“The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provision of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to:
(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement of administration of funds appropriated by it.”
Could the incapacitation of the Police in tackling insecurity not be attributed to corruption, or inefficiency, thus necessitating intervention and action by the National Assembly as part of its oversight on the administration of extant laws? It should therefore be obvious that summoning the IGP is within the constitutional competence of the National Assembly.
By refusing to obey the Senate summon, and electing to send a subordinate after his attempt to use the court to stop a previous summon failed, the IGP in this regard, is not only going against the Constitution from which the entire Government and the Police derive their powers, but has thus even called into question and largely diminished the office he currently occupies.
And this perception of the person of the IGP as not respecting constituted authorities is supported by the public admission of Mr Buhari that an earlier order by him for Idris to relocate to Benue State, one of the flashpoints of recent killings, was not obeyed by the IGP. And we recall that the same IGP, through the police spokesman, once insulted the Governor of Benue State, describing him 'a sinking man' when the elected Chief Executive of the beleaguered state protested the shoddy response of the Nigerian Police to the inhuman slaughtering of his people, which included children and pregnant women. And this was after the IGP had rudely challenged the authority of the State Assembly to enact laws for the good conduct of the people of Benue State, as constitutionally empowered. This is why all people of goodwill who set great store by law and order in the country should join the call on the President to ensure that a stop is put to this affront by the IGP on the Constitution and law and order by meting appropriate punishment to him this time round.
• Akinyemi Onigbinde,