Month: September 2020

NEW PETROLEUM PRICE: SWEEPING THE LAST CARCASS OF THE DEAD

These are no times for orgiastic giddiness and opulent celebrations among many Nigerians, neither is it times to say that joy like a river flows in their hearts and their lips filled with words of praises. No, it is not. In however keeping with the biblical injunction that we should be thankful to God in whatever situation we find ourselves, our people have as usual tabled their frustrations before God, the Creator from whom cometh their help. Their hearts are beclouded in multi-layered despondency, anger and disappointment. They are beginning to question their very essence of Nigerianness. The question on their lips is “Is my nationality an albatross”? The feeling is the same across the country. From Kaura Namoda to Aba, Asaba, Kwara, Vandekiya, Kabba, Ebeyi Nvosi and indeed anywhere and everywhere you can think of across the length and breadth of this geographical expression called Nigeria.

We have been cajoled to accept and believe the cliché that the worst form of democratic governance is better than the best of military dictatorship and I ask what is it that the men in khaki do that men in agbada have not done? Is it the flagrant rape on the Rule of Law and relegation to abyss the court processes? Is it the Machiavellian abuse of human rights and rulership by whims and caprices? Is it the hypocritical reminder that citizens should be thankful to God that once merchants of jackboot, horsewhip and barrel of gun are now apostles of democracy and converts of the ‘new order’? Is it the mindless looting of our common patrimony and stashing of the nation’s treasury in the white man’s land?

One would have sufficiently assumed that 21 years after the return of democracy, we should be having a healthy collection of blessings in our basket. Alas, that is not totally the case. We are still mired in luxurious backwardness. The economy shaky. Infrastructure rapidly depleting. Industries closing down. Education nosediving. Democratic ethos grasping for breath under the suffocation of tyranny. Unemployment hitting the rooftop. Naira value on a free fall. There are a thousand and one reasons to believe that all is not well with our dear nation and her people.

Tired and fed up with 16 years of PDP’s unproductivity and obscene mismanagement of resources, majority of Nigerians thought it was time to look elsewhere. Alas, a history was made when an incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan lost his re-election bid in 2015, ushering in a fierce opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari to power amidst high hopes. Like the proverbial spectator in a football game who gloats in his imaginary ability to release the floodgate of goals when given opportunity, President Muhammadu Buhari took over the saddle of authority in May 29, 2015, gazing at the problems he had pontificated of having the magic wand to solve.

Five years down the line, are our people really happier than they were in the era predating President Buhari’s regime? While this intervention is not targeted at chronicling the myriads of fiasco and routine failure this administration has distinguished itself for since it came on board, suffice to say that the recent petroleum pump price increase to N62/litre is another low in its mission of misery against our dear patriots whose only sin is their nationality

The announcement coated under the veneer of subsidy removal couldn’t have come at a wrong time than this. Our people were left in shock, if not total confusion. Hardly could they believe their ear. Like the Trade Union Congress (TUC) noted in its reaction, the government’s action amounts to killing the dead.

At a period when the fatally depraved Nigerians are reeling under the devastating effects of COVID-19 outbreak, when their means of livelihood are struggling to regain its stamina, when massive layoff and disengagement of workers is the order of the day, when those who are lucky to receive salaries are paid in fractions, when the already saturated labour market has reached its crescendo, when citizens have taken up arms against fellow citizens in desperate effort to eke a living. Interestingly, while ours is on a hot pursuit for policies that will further inflict pain on the already frustrated citizens and drive them inner on the edge of life, elsewhere the government is putting in place mechanisms to help individuals and livelihoods return to normalcy. That in reality is the very essence of government. In US for instance, $310bn funds was voted to the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans to small businesses so they can keep employees on the payroll. Aside this, poor families are placed on what we have dubbed conditional cash transfer for one year as an immediate relief to the COVID-19 economic crunch. Among other things, a pause in mortgage payments was introduced to support homeowners pending when the economy stabilises. 

Here, the government struggles to explain how the so called removal of fuel subsidy (it never admitted exists) will be the one-stop solution the country needs to take her out of the current variegated odysseys. Sadly, the burden of our country’s lean pocket is usually passed on the doorstep of the common man but when there is so much to fritter, they are shoved aside while the big men enjoy their fleece. This is a government that pumps billions of Naira in turnaround maintenance on moribund, dead refineries that refine nothing but total waste. This is a government whose anti corruption profile has become a subterfuge of ruse.

Irrespective of how well-intentioned the deregulation of petroleum industry to allow for private sector participation may appear, the burden of trust in the implementation process will continue to rattle the people’s minds. The government has deeply entrenched a perennial sense of distrust and suspicion in the people’s psyche. Many a similar projects in the past decorated to have an outlook of face of the masses ended up as a drain pipe to benefit those already guzzling the nation’s wealth with utmost impunity.

To further compound our melancholy, the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) on the first day of September surprisingly announced an astronomical increase in electricity tariff earlier put on hold till the first quarter of next year. Again, the government goes about telling those interested in listening that it is committed to tackling hunger and rising food cost when virtually all we do revolves around the availability of petroleum and electricity. Will the farmer who spent his life saving buying petrol and paying for electricity roll out a food bonanza because the government wants prices of food items reduced? What incentives has the farmer received to aid food production? This government must begin to demonstrate that it is in business to alleviate the people’s sufferings and not to compound it the more. The mood of the nation at this time does not require policies that will portray the leadership as not really in touch with the people. Instead of these increment galore, action plans that will help families and businesses have a breath of fresh air is needed now than ever. These include but not limited to injection of funds and tax reliefs

BY ALEX ENEMANNA

UGRFP Member

 

UGRFP PRESS STATEMENT ON THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE NIGERIA POLICE FORCE AND THE POLICE SERVICE COMMISSION

UGRFP CALLS FOR URGENT URGENT REFORMS, RESOLUTION OF CONFLICT IN FUNCTIONS, FINANCIAL AUTONOMY FOR THE PSC & INCREASED CIVILIAN, CIVIL SOCIETY & PRIVATE SECTOR INVOLVEMENT IN THE REVIEW OF THE POLICING SYSTEM OF NIGERIA

PREAMBLE.

Members of the Public, Panellists and Distinguished Members of the Press, thank you for your time and audience.

INTRODUCTION.

The Nigeria Police Force being the primary law enforcement agency in Nigeria with offices in all 36 states of the federation and the federal capital territory is saddled with the statutory responsibility of maintaining law and order in the civil space, and the protection of lives and property. The agency’s role in the foregoing regard has been the subject of multiple public complaints and law-suiits as officers vested with this responsibility and entrusted with weapons of coercion have systematically and maliciously applied same to oppress, harass and intimidate members of the public for pecuniary or prejudicial purposes.

The rising public complaints against the ultra vires, extra-judicial and oppressive tendencies of officers of the NPF who have normalised extortion, false imprisonment & trumped-up charges, and the use of torture or the threat of same to bend the public will to its narrow intents and purposes necessitated the establishment of a review and regulatory body to directly and expeditiously deal with such complaints for the sake of order and sanity in our policing system.

The Police Service Commission (PSC), established as an executive body under section 153 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Police Service Commission (Establishment) Act of 2001, became, on paper, the answer to the people’s prayer for an oversight body independent of the bias of in-house regulation against the unlawful actions of officers of the Nigeria Police Force. The PSC was established with the power to appoint, promote, discipline and dismiss all officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) except the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), and set-up to enhance and groom the relationship between the public and the police to be one of trust and confidence rather than suspicion and indifference.

Regrettably, there have been a lack of synergy between the PSC and the NPF occasioned in part by a lack of political will and conflicting bureaucratic interpretations of the functions of both bodies all of which have defeated the overall objective of making the Nigeria Police Force responsible and responsive as evidenced by the continued complaints of the public against harassment by men of the Force without consequence.

The United Global Resolve for Peace (UGRFP), in line with our mandate to ensure the rule of law and diligence in public service as a panacea for peace and order have drawn the conclusion that the unhealthy rivalry between the PSC and the NPF,  especially as sharpened by the Police Force’s intent to usurp the functions of the PSC, is a significant glitch in the system that can ruin what little policing gains have been made over the years and condemn Nigerians to more years of oppression in the hands of corrupt officers of the Force.

The following missive is a rendition of our observations, contentions and recommendation for reforms in the system to overcome the immediate challenge of making the Nigeria Police principally by fully empowering the Police Service Commission to function without intervention.

  • DISTINCTION IN ROLES & FUNCTIONS

The legal maxim, “Nemo Judex In Causa Sua”, translated as “You Cannot Be A Judge In Your Own Case” underscores a key feature of the rule of law and of bureaucratic propriety in that it makes absolutely more sense for an independent body free from bias and the pressure of familiarity to review the actions of men of the Nigeria Police Force. It is this ideal, no doubt, which gave rise to the establishment of the Police Service Commission, a civilian oversight of the Nigeria Police Force statutorily enabled to promote diligent officers, dismiss erring ones and recruit or appoint fitting members of the public into the Force.

To wit: the PSC is the primary body specifically assigned this responsibility in the Constitution as contained in Paragraph 30, Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which states as follows:

  1. The Commission shall have power to –

(a) appoint persons to offices (other than office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force; and

(b) dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons holding any office referred to in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph.

Some have erroneously argued that the Nigeria Police Council, NPC, headed by the President has the same powers with the PSC. The constitution however states that:

  1. The functions of the Nigeria Police Council shall include –

(a) the organization and administration of the Nigeria Police Force and all other matters relating thereto (not being matters relating to the use and operational control of the Force or the appointment, disciplinary control and dismissal of members of the Force);

The Constitution was therefore careful to preserve the primary functions of the PSC in terms of especially appointment, promotion, and discipline of the Police as the exclusive preserve of the oversight body. The powers of the PSC, by Nigeria’s laws, is therefore not only supreme, but totally independent.

The recent aberration in the recruitment and appointment of new officers of the Nigeria Police Force overseen by the Inspector-General of Police is therefore anathema to the intent of our laws and undermines the authority of the Police Service Commission. The strategic political placement of the Inspector-General of Police, especially as singularly exempt from the Police Service Commission’s legal authority, has thus been observed to be deployed towards undermining the Commission, and this cannot be allowed to continue. Any or all actions such as the observed moves of the National Assembly to transfer the oversight powers of the PSC to the Office of the Inspector-General of Police is thus misguided and ill-advised, as a body cannot run oversight over itself with any significant measure of success.

  • INDEPENDENCE OF THE POLICE SERVICE COMMISSION

    We’ve made the regrettable observation that the PSC is yet to be afforded the space and enablement to carry out its statutory functions largely in part to its composition and how this defeats the aim of independence needed to make the Commission’s work possible and effective.It has become the tradition for retired Inspector-Generals of the Nigeria Police Force to take over the helm of affairs as Chairmen of the Commission and, while it may be argued that they bring with them a wealth of insight and influence, it cannot be ignored that their loyalty to the Commission and its objectives is undermined by their years as men of the Force who continue to enjoy the patronage and fealty of hierarchies of the Nigeria Police Force, making the enforcement of disciplinary actions against their former colleagues difficult if not impossible.”

Other significant roles can be found for such former IGP’s with intent to continue to serve in the public service sector but not such sensitive roles that manifestly places a question mark on their motives and competence on the basic of loyalty. The Police Service Commission is not a retirement home for such ex-officers, but is in fact a civilian-members driven forum inclusive of private citizens, civil society groups and career public service members unblemished by any link to the Nigeria Police  Force.

A CASE FOR REFORMS

The emerging norm all over the world is the centring of policing systems around the citizens through the protection of their rights, lives and properties. To birth the policing system of our dream, it is pertinent that we have a Police Force that answers for its ill-actions to a citizen-driven supervisory body such as the Police  Service Commission. It has been rightly said that a weak oversight machinery births a dislocated and anti-citizen police especially in a system where the citizenry do not enjoy the licence to carry arms to protect themselves from trigger-happy cops.

 

The following recommendations are therefore hoped to drive a holistic reform in our policy system:

  • The reservation of the chairmanship of the Police Service Commission of Nigeria for former Inspector-Generals of Police is a tradition that must be discontinued as it is defies any logic for independence of the Commission. A retired Inspector-Generals of Police who continues to retirement pay from the Force, who is a product of the system which the PSC is set up to regulate, and who continues to have, hold and enjoy fellowship with former colleagues in the Police Force who may become subjects for disciplinary actions would be hard-pressed and divided in his sworn duty. It is best for the system that such scenarios are avoided in its entirety, and other roles be found for such officers other than the chairmanship of the Commission.
  • In the alternative, a tenured Executive Director may be appointed to chair the Commission from amongst professionals such as retired Justices of any superior court in Nigeria, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, or seasoned professionals in the Human Rights sector within the private or public sector.
  • The National Assembly must as a matter of urgency grant financial concessions to the Police Service Commission to help it improve its accessibility to Nigerians in the most remotest regions. The funding of the Commission must be prioritised to help it meet its mandate
  • Also, the appropriation of the recruitment and appointment role of the Commission by the Nigeria Police Force which expressly goes against the spirit of the law must be discontinued and same given judicial and legislative emphasis. It is not, and should never be, the duty of the Nigeria Police Force to cherry pick its own officers and presume to exercise disciplinary oversight over same. Simply put, the police cannot police itself. This defies all logic for success.
  • The role of civil society groups, members of the public and human rights workers in the live of the Commission must be given emphasis and brought to the fore of its engagement with the public if any success can be hoped to be made with meeting the objectives of the Commission.

CONCLUSION

It is our belief that a proper separation of powers and functions between the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police Force is needed for synergy and the effectiveness of both institutions in playing their individual roles in the policing system of Nigeria. Both the PSC and the NPF must see the public and civil society groups as essential to ensuring an effective policing system. Between the two, we may yet hope for peace and order in our civil space if roles are neither reversed, conflicted nor usurped.

Thank you.

Shalom Olaseni

Executive Director,

United Global Resolve for Peace(UGRFP)

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