Nigeria Police Force, NPC, Law Enforcement, Police Service Commission, PSC, Executive, Law, Constitutional Law.
Programme Officer, Network on Police Reform In Nigeria (NOPRIN) Foundation.
I have great respect for the past. If you don't know where you have come from, you don't know where you are going- Maya Angelou
The Police Service Commission (PSC) is one of the Federal Executive Bodies established under section 153(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,i and charged with among other things to appoint and promote persons to offices (other than the office of the Inspector- General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force as well as dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons (other than the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
The PSC is an offshoot of the 1957 Constitutional Conference/Willink Minorities Commission Report.ii The Willink's Report became necessary because the minority groups in each of the three (3) regions (where each region was dominated by a major ethnic group) have expressed fear of marginalization and suppression where we have a government dominated by one tribe and whose Police Force was largely made up of personnel from the same tribal group. Therefore, it was agreed amongst other things at the 1957 Constitutional Conference that:
"No Police Force in Nigeria should, so far as its use and operational control were concerned, at any time come under the control of political parties..."
The Willink Minorities Commission set up to address the fear of minorities concerning the provision of Police Service made certain recommendations which included the creation of a Police Service Commission.
To keep the spirit of the Willink's Commission, we see the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria giving legality to some of the recommendations. One such legality is the provision of section 215 (1) (b) which states:
There shall be-
A Commissioner of Police for each state of the Federation who shall be appointed by the Police Service Commission.
However, just before the 2023 general elections, we saw the Inspector General of Police acting beyond powers. There were deployments of Commissioners of Police in at least five (5) different states in Nigeria by the Inspector General of Police. For instance, in Kano State, five Commissioners of Police were deployed within a week.
Another instance is the reoccurring case of who should recruit officers into the NPF. In August, 2022, the PSC opened its portal for the recruitment of Constables into the NPF. A few days later, in a statement signed by the representative of the Nigeria Police Force, The NPF informed members of the public that it has not commenced the 2022 Police constables' recruitment into the Nigeria Police Force contrary to the publication by PSC calling for application.
In another instance, in 2019, The National Industrial Court denounced the recruitment list of constables released by the Nigeria Police, describing it as an act of illegality, but the then IGP ignored the court order.
Meanwhile, President Buhari approved the recruitment of 60,000 police constables (10,000 each year), but only 10,000 men were recruited in four years. This is against the 40,000 officers who are supposed to have been enlisted in the Force.iii This is not good for our democracy and unity as a country, particularly at this time when there is a heavy threat to the security architecture of the country and a shortage of manpower to mitigate the threat.
The reoccurring clashes between the PSC and the NPF coupled with the continuous usurpation of constitutional powers of the PSC by the IGP bring back some of the reasoning of the founding fathers at the 1957 Constitutional Conference and raises important questions which include:
Are we beginning to have an NPF that is under the control of Political Parties more so that the appointment of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) is largely political?
Is the IGP now more powerful than the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Concerning exercising disciplinary control over Police Officers, though the Constitution provides that this shall be the responsibility of the PSC, the PSC have by the Police Service Commission (Delegation of Powers) Notice, passed some of its disciplinary powers as it applies to “members of the Nigeria Police Force below the rank of Assistant Superintendent” to the NPF. Even with the delegation of some of its disciplinary powers, the PSC is unable to properly exercise its disciplinary powers for many reasons which include; poor funding, ethnic clashes, shortage of manpower, civil service bureaucracy and so on.
We cannot keep talking about Police reforms in Nigeria without dealing with the root causes of the continuous power tussle between the PSC and the NPF. The PSC as the oversight agency of the NPF needs to be empowered to live out her mandate. The NPF needs to be checked as to how much power it can constitutionally wield in directing police affairs in Nigeria. Nigeria needs these two giant agencies to work harmoniously. We need these giant agencies to work within the scope of their designated powers for better policing services in Nigeria.
Leadership engagement platform between the PSC, NPF and other relevant stakeholders to strengthen ties and areas of collaboration;
Mission scoping with the PSC and other relevant stakeholders to understand the local content of the challenges of these agencies and how they can be solved;
Litigation testing to clearly define the jurisdiction and authority of the PSC.
Section 153(1) , Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (promulgation)1999, No.24
Part VI, Conclusions and Recommendations, The Willink Commission Report 1958
Divisions of The Oyemaja Group.