Over 20 Civil Society organisations under the aegis of NPF -PTF Support and Oversight Group, on Wednesday, urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to end the practice of appointing retired Inspectors General of Police as chairmen of the Police Service Commission (PSC).
The call is coming against the background of the resignation on the 15th September 2022, of former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Musiliu Smith as the Chairman of the PSC and the voting by the PSC Commissioners of one of them Commissioner 1, Clara Ogunbiyi JSC (retired) as the acting chairman pending the appointment by the president of a substantive chairman for the Commission.
The NPF -PTF Support and Oversight Group, is a CSO Observatory Group set up to monitor the implementation of the Police Act 2020 and the Police Trust Fund Act 2019 facilitated by RULAAC in collaboration with the Police Reform Consortium with support from McArthur Foundation.
The group in a statement on Wednesday, said it has also noted reports in the media about some retired IGPs already lobbying to be appointed the chairman of the PSC to replace retired IGP Smith.
“Civil society and other informed and concerned stakeholders including the Bureau of Public Service Reform have consistently advised against the practice by successive administrations, of appointing retired IGPs or other retired senior police officers as chairman of the PSC.
“This is a bad practice that destroys the mission and effectiveness of the PSC as civilians promote external oversight and accountability mechanism for the NPF.
“In 2021, the House of Representatives commenced the review of the PSC Establishment Act and one of the newly proposed provisions is the prohibition of the appointment of a serving or retired police officer or serving or retired officers of any military or paramilitary organization as chairman of the PSC,” the statement said.
The group observed that the resignation of Mr Musliu Smith presents an ample opportunity for the Federal Government to heed the perennial call by Civil Society and other critical stakeholders to correct the anomaly of appointing a retired IGP as the chairman of the PSC.
It warned that the practice is not in tandem with the demands of impartiality, effectiveness and of transparency and accountability by a civilian oversight body and is not justifiable either in law or practice.
It said instead, it undermines the spirit and intent of the law and the statutory purpose for the establishment of the commission.
“The PSC is a civilian oversight body whose job description includes the investigation and punishment of police misconduct.
“This requires the PSC to be independent and impartial. The appointment of a retired IGP as the Chairman of the PSC has constituted a major obstacle for the effective performance of the PSC because it subverts the independence and impartiality of the PSC.
“A report entitled ‘Criminal Force: Torture, Abuse, and Extrajudicial Killings by the Nigeria Police Force’ published jointly by NOPRIN and Open Society Justice Initiative in 2010 stated as follows:
“The Police Service Commission, established in 2001 as the oversight body for the police, has nominally strong statutory powers but remains institutionally enfeebled. The UN Special Rapporteur (on summary executions) summed up the record of the commission in the report of his mission to Nigeria as follows: ‘The Police Service Commission is charged with police discipline but has opted to refer all complaints of extrajudicial police killings back to the police for investigation. The Commission’s mandate is potentially empowering. But despite efforts by one or two excellent commissioners, its performance has been dismal and self-restraining. Its quarterly reports to the President are not published and present a dismal chronicle of rubber-stamping decisions taken by the police, coupled with inaction in relation to pressing concerns. A radical overhaul of its procedures and composition is warranted.’”
The group further said appointing a retired IGP of police as the chairman of the PSC has often led to the police force holding the PSC in contempt especially when its chairman is a retired IGP who had a bad relationship with his subordinates while in service.
It called on the national assembly to support the strengthening of police oversight and accountability by, among other measures, concluding the process of amendment of the PSC Act.
“The process of amendment must be transparent and inclusive of all critical stakeholders.
“The NASS is also called upon to reject the nomination of any retired IGP or other retired senior police or other security agencies officer for appointment as chairman of the PSC.
“Over the years, the PSC has functioned more independently and effectively under non-police personnel rather than under a retired police officer.”
The group urged President Muhhamadu Buhari to appoint a qualified civilian as the chairman of the PSC.
It said; “Pursuant to the above, we, recommend that the PSC Chairman should be: either a retired Justice of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal; or a Nigeria of exceptional integrity who has expertise in police oversight and accountability and with at least 20 years productive experience in any relevant discipline; or a highly reputable Nigerian with outstanding record of service in either the public or private sector who shall not be less than 50 years or older than 60 years of age.”