Nigeria: Police Reform Suffers Setback As Appeal Court Voids Act

15 October 2020

The Court of Appeal has declared that the Police Act 2020, enacted in September this year as it affects the constitutional mandate of the Police Service Commission (PSC) is unconstitutional and void.

Analysts believed the nullification of the act was a serious setback for President Muhammadu Buhari who assented to the bill and the National Assembly, which signed it into law.

President Buhari had promised reform of the Nigeria Police Force amidst continued #EndSARS violent protests across the country despite the scrapping of the anti-robbery outfit.

It was gathered that the details of the Appeal Court judgment, which nullified the Police Act, 2020, were contained in the Certified True Copy received by the PSC on Wednesday.

A statement signed by the PSC's Head of Press and Public Relations, Mr Ikechukwu Ani, said the Court of Appeal judgment ruled that the provision of the act was obviously in conflict with paragraph 30 Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, which empowers the commission to appoint persons into offices in the Nigeria Police Force except for the Office of the Inspector-General of Police.

He said Justice Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, one of the three Justices of the Court, in his concurrent judgment, ruled that Paragraph 30 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution has given the power to the commission to appoint persons into offices in the Nigeria Police "and did not exclude constables and cadets to Nigeria Police Academy from offices in the Nigeria Police into which the Appellant can appoint persons."

Ani stated that Agim declared that no act of the National Assembly or law could take away or curtail such power.

According to him, Agim noted that even if the Nigeria Police carried out the disputed enlistment pursuant to a directive or approval of the president of the federation, "the enlistment would remain contrary to the constitution and therefore unconstitutional and void.

"Such a directive cannot repair its unconstitutionality and illegality."

Ani mentioned that the commission would soon make public its programme of action in respect of recruitments into the Constable Cadre of the Nigeria Police Force and admission into the Police Academy.

Presidency, Senate decline comment

When contacted for comment, the spokesman of the president, Malam Garba Shehu, asked our reporter to contact the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.

However, Malami's spokesman, Dr Umar Gwandu, said they needed to see the details of the judgment before commenting on the matter.

"We haven't seen the report but we will make our opinion known as soon as we see it," he told the Daily Trust Wednesday night.

There was no comment from the Force Headquarters at the time of filing this report.

President Buhari had, in a memo dated September 16, 2020, communicated his assent to the Police Act 2020, to the National Assembly.

His Special Adviser on Media, Femi Adesina, in a statement issued on Thursday, September 17, 2020, said the Act repealed the Police Act Cap. P19 Laws of the Federation, 2004.

Adesina added that the Act provides for a more effective and well organised Police Force, driven by the principles of transparency and accountability in its operations and management of its resources.

When approached to comment on the matter, Senate Spokesperson, Ajibola Basiru, in a response to Daily Trust inquiry, said he would only react when he reads the judgment.

'We can't reform police by legislation'

Senior lawyers have called for holistic constitutional amendment that would incorporate reforms of the Nigerian Police Force, which they said cannot be done by acts of parliament.

Paul Ananaba (SAN) said Nigerians must learn to act in accordance with the constitution in reforming the Nigerian Police.

"It has to be by proper review of the constitution by amendment; we have done four alterations already and now the National Assembly is embarking on another alteration of the constitution.

"Many times, we try to do the same thing the wrong way. You recall that in 2005, the National Assembly enacted a Monetary Act for Local Government Funds, and you saw that the Attorneys General of Abia, Delta and Lagos went to the Supreme Court to challenge it.

"And the Supreme Court said 'yes, you cannot use an Act of Parliament to amend the constitution'," he said.

In his contribution, Yusuf Ali (SAN) said when it comes to appointment into the Nigerian Police, the constitution must prevail over the Police Act as pronounced by the Court of Appeal.

He called for an amendment to ensure that state governors, who are the chief security officers of their states, have the authority to give lawful orders to the police and other security agencies.

"One of the things we have to do is to copy what they do in England and other places where they have the police ombudsman outside the Police Service Commission, that will a body of independent Nigerians who have been tested.

"They have the powers to recommend dismissal," he said.

For his part, Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said the pronouncement of the Court of Appeal on the Police Act is final even on an Act of the National Assembly based on the doctrine of separation of powers.

"The function of the judiciary under Section 6 of the Constitution is to interpret laws made by the legislature under Section 4, which are enforced under Section 5 by the executive.

"Once the court has pronounced on any issue that is final in the sense of finality," he said.

"Once the Court of Appeal has ruled that that section is null and void and that it is only the Police Service Commission that can recruit and not the Inspector General of Police that is the end of the matter unless that judgment is overturned by a superior court.

"So, the Police Service Commission is right," he said.

'No ex- SARS operative will be part of SWAT'

The Force Headquarters said Wednesday that no former operative of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) will be part of the new Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit.

The comment came following agitations that the SWAT would be made up of the disbanded SARS officials.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Frank Mba, who is the Public Relations Officer of the police, said; "the Mandate of the new tactical team is strictly restricted to; Response to robbery attacks, Response to scenes of weapon-related crimes, Rescue operations, [and] Special operations involving high profile criminals."

According to him, "No personnel of the defunct SARS will be selected to be part of the new tactical team.

"Operations of the new tactical team will be strictly intelligence-driven.

"Members of the new tactical team will by no means embark on routine patrols.

"Members of the new tactical team are barred from indiscriminate and unlawful search of phones, laptops and other smart devices.

"Operatives of the new tactical team must be free of any pending disciplinary matter especially those touching on misuse of firearms and abuse of human rights," he said.

PDP governors demand repeal of new Police Act

However, governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Wednesday described as 'unconstitutional' some sections of the newly signed Police Act, 2020, which was set aside by the Court of Appeal.

The PDP governors during a meeting that was held via Zoom, called for the immediate repeal of all controversial sections over alleged constitutional breaches.

A communiqué signed by the Chairman of PDP Governors Forum and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, at the end of the meeting, which was made available to newsmen noted that there were discrepancies in S.12(2) and S.12(4) of the Act.

They specifically implored the president and the National Assembly to repeal Section 4(1) of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Act, 2019, which "purportedly authorises the president to deduct 0.5% of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account for the benefit of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund."

According to them, the said deduction was patently unconstitutional.

"The Forum further observed the discrepancies in S.12(2) and S.12(4) of the Act on the appropriate authority with responsibility to deploy Police Commissioners to the respective States.

"Whereas S.12 (2) gives the responsibility to the Police Service Commission, S. 12(4) gives either the Police Service Commission or Inspector-General of Police the same responsibility.

"This is even more regrettable as the constitution gives this responsibility to the Police Service Commission (S. 215) (1)(b).

"We advise that the constitutional provision be upheld.

"Furthermore, the forum canvassed for appropriate consultations with the governors of various states on the deployment of police commissioners to the states since the police is a common institution that executes the laws of both the federal and state governments," the governors said.

Hoodlums attack #EndSARS protesters

Hoodlums Wednesday attacked the #EndSARS protesters who formed a blockade at the Berger intersection in Abuja.

The hoodlums brandishing cutlasses and cudgels invaded the Berger four-way-intersection where the protesters camped since last weekend.

Some of the protesters alleged that the hoodlums were sponsored considering that they drove in buses and nobody obstructed their movements up till the time they attacked their targets.

An eyewitness, Mr Anthony Ikyoive, said the thugs attacked and injured unspecified number of people and vandalised at least five cars parked in the area.

Daily Trust learnt the protesters regrouped and chased away the hoodlums. The protesters caused gridlock in the city.

One of our reporters who was caught in a similar protest along Airport Road in Abuja observed that hoodlums attacked the #EndSARS protesters with sticks and some dangerous weapons.

The FCT Police Commissioner, Bala Ciroma, confirmed the incidents saying five vehicles were vandalised during the clash, which he said ensued between supporters of SARS and the #EndSARS protesters.

He said the command was not aware of any casualty recorded during the clash, even as he said the command was still investigating the incident.

Rallies, protests in states

Hundreds of youths staged a peaceful rally in Kano calling for the reform of SARS instead of scrapping it.

The youths, under the umbrella of Coalition of Kano State Youths, matched from the state's Ministry for Information at the Audu Bako Secretariat to the Government House carrying big banners with inscriptions that called on President Buhari and the IGP to reconsider the scrapping of SARS.

The leader of the youths, Sunusi Kani said the rally was to send a message to the federal government that the police SARS only needed reformation rather than ending it.

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in his response thanked the youths for their foresight and promised to forward their demands to President Buhari for consideration.

In Anambra, protests continued on Wednesday in Awka with a call for a total reform of the Nigeria Police Force.

The protesters also demanded for the prosecution of a former SARS boss in the state, CSP James Nwafor, whom they accused of killing and maiming countless young people in the state.

Lagos CP cautions police operatives

The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, has warned officers and men of the disbanded SARS to desist from parading themselves as such in line with the directive of IGP Adamu.

Odumosu gave this warning while debriefing operatives of the disbanded SARS including the Anti- Kidnapping Squad, Anti -Cultism Squad and Raider at the Command Headquarters in Ikeja.

He said the debriefing was in compliance with the directive of the IG to disband and ground the activities of the teams in the state.

He advised the affected officers to hand over all pending cases to the State Criminal Investigation Department, Panti, Yaba, with immediate effect.

More From: Daily Trust

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 900 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.