The reported refusal of the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to appear before the Senate has been clarified as more of a disagree over if he has to appear in person or if he can send a representative when unavailable. Yet there seems to be precedence for the former.
The Senate had invited the Police Boss in April, following the controversies surrounding the arrest of Dino Melaye, Senator representing Kogi West, and to also brief the lawmakers on several indiscriminative killings in the Country.
The IGP did not appear before the Senate but sent a Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) as a representative, who was later denied audience. The Senate insisted on the appearance of the IG himself.
Explained his unavailability, the IGP said it was due to an official assignment with President Muhammadu Buhari to Bauchi State.
In response, the Senate wrote to him, requesting for his appearance the following week, but Idris failed to appear and, this time, he did not send a representative. But was reported to have travelled to Kaduna State.
He was however given another one week grace to honour the Senate invitation on May 9, to which he refused to show up and also failed to send a representative.
This angered the Senators who accused him of disrespecting not only the Senate institution but also the Nigerian Democracy.
The Chamber later went on a deliberation to determine the next line of action, to which they agreed that the Police boss was “not fit to hold any public office within and outside Nigeria.”
According to the Senate President Bukola Saraki,
“The Senate therefore views this persistent refusal is (sic) a great danger to our Democracy and hence the Senate resolved to declare IGP as an enemy of Democracy.
“The Senate noted that this has been a gross disrespect to our constituted authority and to also know that his earlier refusal to appear before investigative committee was overruled by competent court of jurisdiction just in April this year.”
In his defence, Idris said the Senate invitation was “a deliberate blackmail, witch-hunting, unfortunate and mischievous”, that was why he refused to honour the summon.
In a Statement signed by the Force Spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, the IGP said he was not an enemy of Democracy as being termed by the Senate, as he had served meritoriously for above 10 years in the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations in several countries unblemished.
“The Nigeria Police Force, therefore, owes no apology to any individual or groups in its effort to ensure preservation of law and order, supremacy of the law of the land, and make sure that all Nigerians are subject to the same law, no matter what their position is in the society.
“The Inspector General of Police and the Nigeria Police Force will not be deterred by blackmail from any individual or group no matter how highly placed from the enforcement of Law and Order and ensuring that the Rule of Law prevails.”
What the Law says
The Police Act, section 7 states that the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) shall act in the absence of the IGP, upon which he briefs the Inspector-General on his return.
The directive is reiterated in Section 312(1) of the Act while Section 313 (1-2) states the Assistance Inspector General can act in the absence of the IGP and DIG.
Following the Act, it can be deduced that Mr Idris acted in accordance with the law when he sent the DIG as a representative, as he was on an official assignment with the President.
But he failed to appear in the second and third summon and did not send a representative on his behalf.
Section 88 of the Nigeria Constitution states that the Senate can summon and invite Political or Government appointees.
“Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, each House of the National Assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal or in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation to direct or cause to be directed investigation into –
(a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws, and
(b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for –
(i) executing or administering laws enacted by National Assembly, and
(ii) disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.
Subsection 2 gives limitations
As it states that
The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to –
(a) make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and
(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.
While the Senate’s invitation can be said to fall under exposing inefficiency in the execution and administration of laws, it was on the strength of these limitations that Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, argued that the Senate has no power to summon the IGP under the present circumstance.
Falana explained that when Professor Itse Sagay, who heads the President’s Anti-Corruption committee, was summoned by the Senate, he wanted to go to Court but opted for a letter reminding the Senate of these limitations and the Senate respected the letter and left Sagay alone.
Summons, Answered in person
This is not the first time an Inspector General of Police has been in controversy over the summon of the Senate, though, none has been summoned the number of times Idris was summoned.
In 2006, the then Inspector General was invited by the Senate following the rise in Political affiliated killings prior to the Election year.
He did not appear, though the then President Olusegun Obasanjo said he was on an official assignment outside the Country.
He later appeared at another fixed date and was grilled for close to three hours.
In 2014, the then Police Boss, Suleiman Abba was summoned by the House of Representatives after Police lay siege to the National Assembly, firing teargas to prevent the then Speaker of the House of Representative, Aminu Tanbuwal from gaining entry.
Rather than honour the invitation, citing the same excuses as Idris, Abba sent a DIG, but the House sent the representative away, twice, demanding the presence of the IGP himself.
He later appeared before the House.
IGP Idris, and Summons
The House of Representative Committee on Police Affairs invited IGP Idris on Dec. 6, 2016 and Dec. 13, 2016, in his capacity as the Chief Executive and Accounting Officer of the Force to explain certain allegations of corruption but he failed to attend. It then threatened that if the IGP does not attend its new summon by Thursday, January 19. 2017, he would be arrested.
As of March 2018, the IGP was still expected by the Committee after three invitations. He claimed this is because the matter is in Court.
In August 2017, Isah Misau, Senator representing Bauchi central, petitioned the Senate accusing the IGP of collecting money from Police Commissioners to get favourable posting, among other claims. The Senate set up a special committee to investigate the matter, but IGP Idris informed the Senate through his lawyers that he will not attend the summon because the case is in court.
Chairman of the Committee then, Senator Francis Alimikhena, had to threaten that should the IGP not honour the invitation, section 89(d) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) would be invoked on him.
The provision states that
“the Senate or the house of representatives or a committee appointed in accordance with section 62 of this constitution shall have power to issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person who, after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the satisfaction of the house or the committee in question”.
On the new date for the summon, IGP Idris appeared before the Committee but his lawyer tried to speak on his behalf. An attempt that met resistance from the Senators. He finally spoke but insisted, through the reading of a written statement, that he will not give oral testimony as the matters are in Court.
Alimikhena, however, explained that the Committee’s work came before Idris went to Court and only one of three issues for determination are in Court.
The Committee finally agreed to Idris’ position and adjourned to allow them read through his submission. Senator AbdulAziz Nyako ended the session saying
“I am glad that you changed your mind and you came. Because this is an example to others. And I also believe that in the future if you are needed here you will come. They say you are the one who will end up arresting people, in this instances you will bring yourself and we look forward to seeing you”
In February 2018, the IGP again honoured Senate’s invitation over the killings in Benue and his effort in solving the problem.