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Published On: Fri, Dec 18th, 2020

The sin of overzealousness

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Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, Dec. 4, ordered that a suit instituted by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), seeking to STOP judicial commissions of inquiry investigating alleged brutality by the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) be withdrawn. He denied authorizing the court action and ordered an “immediate investigation” into the origin of the suit and the suspension of the head of the legal unit of the police.
Thereafter, Police spokesman Frank Mba issued a clarification, saying, “The IGP’s order, today, 4th December, 2020, is sequel to the outcome of investigations into the role played by the Force Legal Section in the institution of the said suit. Recall that the IGP had yesterday, 3rd December, 2020, ordered a probe into the alleged involvement of the Force Legal Section in the attempt to halt the ongoing States’ Judicial Panels of inquiry into the activities of the defunct SARS.
Meanwhile, the IGP reassures citizens that the Force remains committed to the cause of justice at all times and will not allow anybody to constitute a ‘brick-wall’ to the ongoing reform process in the Force.”
The NPF filed the suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja, demanding an order to stop the judicial panels of inquiry set up by state governors to probe allegations of police brutality and human rights abuses by SARS and other police tactical units. The NPF, through its lawyer, Mr. O. M. Atoyebi, argued that the governments lacked the power to investigate the police force or its officers.
The suit urged the court to restrain the attorneys-general of the 36 states and their various panels of inquiry from going ahead with the probe focusing on police impunity. According to the police, the state governments’ decision to set up such panels violated the provisions of section 241(1)(2)(a) and Item 45, Part 1, First Schedule to the
Constitution and Section 21 of the Tribunals of Inquiry Act. It argued that the Constitution and the Act give the federal government the exclusive power to “organise, control and administer the Nigeria Police Force”.
Therefore, it wanted the court to declare that “the establishment of a panel of inquiry by a governor of a state of the federation of Nigeria, to inquire into the activities of the Nigeria Police Force in
relation to the discharge of her statutory duties is a gross violation of the law.”
The case was first listed for December 3 but was then rescheduled for December 18 because the court was unable to sit. The defendants included the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which set up the Independent
Investigative Panel sitting in Abuja, the Attorneys-General of the 36 states, and chairmen of the various state panels.
The suit was a case of misdirected enthusiasm by a police officer, clearly not in sync with his immediate boss and out of touch with the new reality. The officers attempt to stop the probes going on in the states contradicted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tacit approval for the state governors to institute the panels of inquiry. This is
disobedience to authority of the highest order. In the light of this, IGP Adamu was right to stop the insidious suit. But he must go further to sanction the officer who initiated it and make sure that his officers invited to appear before the panels of inquiry do so promptly. This is the way to go.

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