President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, have declared support for the argument that the law permits the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to remain in office till 2023 or 2024.
They contended that the President is allowed by law to extend the IGP’s tenure as he wishes.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that Mr Adamu had canvassed the argument to counter a suit filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the extension of his tenure by three months as from February 1.
President Buhari and the AGF’s position on the suit, adopting in full Mr Adamu’s earlier argument on the crucial issue of how long an IGP can remain in office, is contained in their joint reply filed Monday.
PREMIUM TIMES obtained the joint reply of the President and the AGF shortly after the suit had another mention in court on Tuesday.
The plaintiff, Maxwell Opara, an Abuja-based lawyer, had sued the President, Mr Adamu, the AGF, and the Nigeria Police Council (NPC) as the 1st to the 4th defendants in the suit which was instituted on February 3.
It remains the NPC among the four defendants that has yet to reply the suit.
As of Tuesday, Mr Adamu, has spent half of the three months extended tenure which was announced on February 4.
‘Why Adamu can remain IGP till 2023 or 2024’
Mr Adamu had, through his lead counsel, Alex Izinyon, a senior lawyer, argued essentially in his response filed on March 8, that his tenure never lapsed on February 1 as argued by the plaintiff.
Arguing on the issue of whether Mr Adamu, who was appointed the IGP on January 15, 2019, is prevented from staying in office beyond February 1, 2021, Mr Izinyon contended that the tenure of the IGP is not governed by the general provisions applicable to the rest of the police force.
The senior lawyer said by virtue of the relevant laws, the office of the IGP is “quasi-political” and “is conferred with a special status” and “distinct from other officers of the Nigeria Police Force.”
He said the provision of “section 18(
of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 to the effect that ‘Every police officer shall, on recruitment or appointment, serve in the Nigeria Police Force for a period of 35 years or until he attains the age of 60 years, whichever is earlier,’ is with due respect, inapplicable to the office of the Inspector General of Police in the circumstance.”
He said the IGP upon appointment “is only accountable to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Nigeria Police Council and this fact we submit makes his office a quasi-political office with a tenure of four (4) years pursuant to Section 7(6) of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020.”
According to him, by the combined effect of Sections 215 and 216 of the Nigerian Constitution and Section 7 of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, Mr Adamu “can validly function as the Inspector General of Police atter midnight of February 1, 2021 in so far as he was a serving member of the Nigeria Police Force during the period of his appointment.”
He said the four years tenure of his client stipulated under section 7(6) of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, would end either in 2023 or 2024.
“Therefore, if the 2nd defendant’s tenure in office is calculated from January 15, 2019 when he was appointed into the office of the Inspector General of Police, his tenure lapse in 2023.
“However, if his tenure in office is calculated from 2020 when the Nigeria Police Act, 2020 came into force. his tenure in office ends in 2024,” Mr Izinyon stated.
Buhari, AGF adopt IGP’s argument
In their joint response to the suit, the President and Mr Malami said they totally adopted these points made by Mr Izinyon in his paragraphs 1.18 to 1.49 of his written address in opposition to Mr Opara’s suit.
Their joint response filed on their behalf by a lawyer in the AGF’s office, Maimuna Shiru, stated that they would be relying on the argument by the IGP’s lawyer in answering the question of “Whether the President is empowered to extend the tenure of the Inspector General of Police.”
“My Lord on the above issue, it is our position that we will be relying and aligning with the argument canvassed by the 2nd defendant’s (IGP’s) counsel as their Issue Two in paragraphs 1.18 to 1.49 of their written address and we shall be adopting same as ours and urge this honourable court to uphold our argument and dismiss the plaintiff’s case as same is frivolous,” their written address read in part.
In the affidavit filed in support of the suit, they stated that the Nigerian Constitution conferred the President with executive power to “appoint serving police officer as the Inspector-General of Police in consultation with Police Council.”
They said neither the Nigeria Police Council or the Police Service Commission, both bodies with measures of regulatory controls over disciplinary, recruitment and appointments in the police force, “have not disclosed any contrary fact that the 2nd defendant is not a serving police officer.”
‘Adamu’s remains serving police officer’
Arguing another issue in their written address, the President and the AGF argued also that the plaintiff “has failed to discharge the legal burden of proof that the 2nd defendant is not a serving police officer for the purposes of extension of his tenure in office.”
The affidavit added, “That question if the 2nd defendant is still a serving police officer is a question of fact.
“That it is a fact that the Nigeria Police Act 2020 is a subsidiary legislation passed by the National Assembly.
“That it is a fact that the appointment of an Inspector-General of Police is by the Constitution conferred on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
In their concluding comment in their written address, they urged the court “to dismiss this suit and uphold our argument in support of the view that the case of the plaintiff is frivolous, unmeritorious and undeserving of the time of this honourable court’s attention.”
They also urged the court to award “heavy cost” cost against the plaintiff.
The suit had another mention before the judge, Ahmed Mohammed, on Tuesday.
Although the plaintiff was physically present, his lawyer, Ezekiel Ugochukwu, presented his case on his behalf.
The President and the AGF were represented by Ekene Elodimuo, while Mr Adamu was represented by Mr Izinyon.
The NPC was not represented by any lawyer.
The judge said the matter could not proceed to hearing because NPC had not been properly served.
Mr Mohammed said the argument by the plaintiff’s lawyer that the service of the NPC through the President’s office as the head of the NPC could not be considered as a proper service.
This is coupled with the fact that the plaintiff sought to file a further response to the President and AGF’s joint reply to the suit.
The judge then adjourned the case till March 30 for hearing.
Mr Adamu had attained the maximum 35 years in service on February 1, but President Buhari, through the Minister of Police Affairs, Mohammad Dingyadi, announced the three-month extension of Mr Adamu’s tenure on February 4.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that Mr Opara, an Abuja-based lawyer, who had expected Mr Adamu to vacate office on February 1, filed his suit on February 3 to challenge the tenure extension.
Mr Opara contended in his suit that by virtue of section 215 of the Nigerian Constitution and section 7 of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, Mr Adamu could not validly continue to function as the IGP having retired as a police officer as from midnight of February 1, 2021.
He prayed for, among others, an order directing Mr Adamu to stop functioning as the IGP.
He asked the court to hold that the failure of Mr Buhari and the NPC to name a new IGP on February 1, when Mr Adamu was said to have completed his tenure, amounted to abdication of duty.
He also urged the court to compel President Buhari and the NPC to immediately appoint a new IGP.