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Let this IGP go, please!

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PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

For the umpteenth time, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Kpotun Idris is in the news for the wrong reason. The issue this time is the controversy of whether he should retire according to the extant public service rules or remain in his post at the pleasure of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Meanwhile, people are aware that Idris and his principal are actively involved in this sensitive election period and so as some citizens have noted, succession politics and bureaucracy, in this regard, could be a source of distraction for them and indeed the nation at this time.

There are therefore plausible reasons for the rising concern about a possible extension of Idris’ tenure. Buhari has done this for the service chiefs but he has been widely criticised for rewarding mediocrity and promoting stagnation for a generation of deserving officers.

Idris was born, according to record in the public domain, on January 15, 1959; he will be 60 years old on January 15, 2019. He enrolled in the Nigeria Police Force in 1984; he should be 35 years in public service by 2019. It is reported that his due date is actually January 3. According to Item No. 020810 (i) and (ii) of the Public Service Rules (2008), “the compulsory retirement age for all grades in the Service shall be 60 years or 35 years in pensionable service, whichever is earlier.” Further, “No officer shall be allowed to remain in service after attaining the retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of pensionable service, whichever is earlier.” So, if the rules were to be observed by persons on oath to uphold them, Idris should have voluntarily and honourably retired from service on January 3, this year “which is earlier “than January 15 when he will be 60. He has not done so and Buhari has chosen to do nothing in that direction.

But beyond the expediency of respecting service rules, even in normal times, Idris has been so burdened with controversy of many sorts to be tolerated a day longer than his retirement date.

In a sensitive election year, one should think that the last any government wants is the distraction – including a threatened public protest by interested parties – that retaining Idris may provoke. Indeed, he already does. A broad range of opinions are swelling against his retention. The main opposition party has shouted itself hoarse complaining against what it suspects as a government plan to extend Idris tenure to achieve sinister ends. Coalition of Opposition Political Parties (CUPP) comprising 57 of the 91 registered parties which are key stakeholders in the coming general elections have said that, “the continuous illegal parading of himself as the Inspector-General of Police is an act of impersonation and a threat to national security …”. CUPP has, therefore, filed a lawsuit to compel the president to appoint a replacement to Idris.

What is worse, the political group has threatened a nationwide public protest if Buhari does not replace him by January 15. Besides CUPP, a group of 46 civil society organisations called Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) has demanded, “now that the IGP’s tenure has lapsed, this January, President Buhari should immediately convene the Police Council to select a competent and qualified senior officer in his place.” Specifically, Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) even suspects that Idris “has been positioned to use his operatives to manipulate the conduct of the February elections in favour of the authorities.” This groundswell of opinion of stakeholders against this extension cannot be ignored, in this regard.

Government, the political parties and Nigerians can do without the absolutely needless and distracting wrangling that is whipping up suspicion, distrust and raising emotions in the polity. Besides, it diverts everyone’s focus from the really important and urgent matters at hand such as issue-based election campaigns, worsening insecurity and the economy.

Idris has for much of his tenure acted like a man possessed by the spirit of error. When he is not saying the wrong things, he is doing the wrong things, or he simply fails to do the right thing. He has acted in a way that has often left him open to accusation of insubordination to his Commander-in-Chief and by that a violation of Section 215 (3) of the Constitution.

Specifically, the President had ordered the IGP to relocate to Benue State when herdsmen crisis in the state hit the fan last year. It was curious that the IGP failed to relocate there as the authorities in Benue later confirmed. Most people had then felt that the police chief should have been cashiered.

This highest law enforcement officer has, in violation of Section 89 of the constitution, refused several times to obey the law of the land as well as constituted authority for failing to present himself to the Senate when invited. Lately under his watch, in what could be construed an untidy act of professionalism, scores of policemen who could be more gainfully deployed elsewhere to protect lives and property laid siege for eight days on the residence of a senator they wanted to arrest. Many citizens who live on that street were avoidably embarrassed and inconvenienced. This too was embarrassing. In response to a press question whether he would extend Idris’ tenure, the president said, in a somewhat desultory manner, “I don’t think I am afraid of him. I will take action.” Just what that is supposed to mean as a response to a clear and simple question, is anyone’s guess. The president has even accepted the blame for the glaring underperformance of his officers. This is a pity because, even as the buck may stop at his desk, it should not at all be the buck of underperformance by subordinates and officers of the law. We insist, Nigerians certainly deserve better than all these.

Regardless of the claim by some that the president retains the right to extend Idris’ tenure – as there are precedents to this – there can certainly not be a shortage of qualified officers in the Nigeria Police Force to replace Idris whose tenure has been so contentious like no other. To keep him beyond the January 3, was already a breach committed against the relevant rules. It also smacks of crude arrogance of power and contempt for the sensitivity of stakeholders in the ‘Nigerian project.’ All told, Buhari should let him go home tomorrow when he will be 60 years in service. Idris is indeed an IGP the nation does not need as we noted here the other day!


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