President Goodluck Jonathan deliberately humiliated Police Inspector General, Suleiman Abba, out of office Tuesday, delivering his decision by Twitter without an advanced communication, and leaving Mr. Abba, one of Nigeria’s most criticised police chiefs, at work several hours after his dismissal, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.
By 11.23p.m. Tuesday, more than 10 hours after his removal was announced via the internet, Mr. Abba was yet to receive any brief or correspondence from the president or his representatives informing him of his removal, this paper can confirm.
A statement following the Twitter message, signed by presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, named Solomon Arase, a former Deputy Inspector General, as Mr. Abba’s replacement.
Mr. Arase, ironically, was Mr. Abba’s superior by years of service, having joined the force in 1981 while the ousted IG enlisted three years later.
But details of Mr. Abba’s sack, pieced together Tuesday, left no doubt the former police boss who courted controversies for most of his nine-month tenure, was deliberately disgraced out of office.
Associates of Mr. Abba told PREMIUM TIMES of a man embittered by the rude treatment, who wondered what his sins were after serving the government and the nation.
A presidency release, on Twitter and as emailed statement to newsrooms, offered little information about the dismissal beyond details of the replacement and the immediacy of the succession.
The statement, signed by Mr. Abati, said Police IG Abba was standing down “with immediate effect”.
Yet, several hours after the announcement, Mr. Abba received no communication or brief from either the president or any senior administration official, and remained at his desk. He told associates who called to inquire that he was unaware of his sack, several sources told PREMIUM TIMES.
The first tweet announcing the sack was sent by Mr. Abati at 1.24p.m, followed by another at 1.47p.m. on Tuesday. Mr. Abati issued a statement at 1.46p.m, where he named Mr. Arase as the new IG. The statement gave no reason for Mr. Abba’s removal.
When contacted by a friend at about 3p.m., Mr. Abba said he had not been informed of any sack and that he was at work.
As of 11. 23 p.m., shortly before midnight, he repeated the claim.
Mr. Abba became the first casualty of an administration winding down in about five weeks after an election defeat.
Officials at the presidency and the police told PREMIUM TIMES it was clear the former police chief was punished for his role in the just concluded elections.
While the police faced several allegations of bias from the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress during the polls, our sources said the PDP was more disenchanted with Mr. Abba’s failure, or refusal, to provide sufficient police support to its candidates, including President Jonathan, to win the elections.
“I can confirm that the relationship between the President and the IGP went cold after the election,” an administration official, asking that his identity be protected, said. “The government felt the IG failed to do enough to help the president to victory.”
The officials pointed at police deployments ahead of the polls, particularly in troubled spots like Rivers State.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported exclusively how an angry President Jonathan reversed Mr. Abba’s deployment of Assistant Inspector General of Police Tunde Ogunsakin to Rivers State ahead of the April 11 governorship election.
The presidency, infuriated that the move was designed to curtail the PDP’s capacity to win the election, ordered Mr. Ogunsakin out of the state immediately.
Beyond its public outbursts against the police, PREMIUM TIMES understands the PDP, at private meetings, accused Mr. Abba of not doing enough to help the party despite receiving huge funding. The PDP said Mr. Abba’s policies deliberately favoured the APC, instead.
The concern about funding followed a secret arrangement by the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, in which all of the nation’s security units were directed to submit budgets and proposals of how they could help Mr. Jonathan and the PDP win the polls.
All security services including the police filed their proposals and received adequate funding. But the PDP, our sources said, believed the police contributions and deployments during the polls did not reflect the funding and guarantees given by Mr. Abba.
Yet, if Mr. Abba’s loyalty to the president seemed doubtful particularly after Mr. Jonathan lost the election, a meeting between the police chief and the American Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, on Monday, less than 24 hours before the sack, drove that concern to its zenith, our sources said.
At the force headquarters where the American envoy visited, an elated Mr. Abba sat with other senior police officers as Mr. Entwistle extolled the police for its conduct during the elections.
Ambassador Entwistle thanked Mr. Abba and the police for “a wonderful job” and for delivering superbly on a “staggering assignment” of stemming violence during the heated polls.
“I just came to thank everyone who was responsible for the incredibly historic, peaceful elections in Nigeria,” the envoy said, highlighting how the success reflected months of cooperation with Mr. Abba ahead of the polls.
While commending the civil society and the media for helping in keeping violence low, the ambassador said the police did a great job. “I just came over to say thank you,” he said.
He praised police coordination in matching polling units with its personnel, a process that undoubtedly stretched the force’s manpower.
For a force accustomed to criticisms for its many wrongdoings, and struggling with an image problem that escalated as the nation moved closer to elections, the messages appeared heart-warming.
Associates said Mr. Abba had hoped the remarks would burnish his credentials for a possible tenure extension by the incoming Buhari government, more so, given his own iniquities in the run-up to the polls. Notably, Mr. Abba authorised a police assault on the National Assembly November 2014, and unilaterally declared (without a court pronouncement) the sack of speaker Aminu Tambuwal of the House of Representatives, for defecting from the PDP.
Thrilled by the ambassador’s remarks, the police took to Twitter, YouTube and its website tweeting several messages and describing the comments as “an impressive commendation from the Government of the United States of America”.
Mr. Abba later told the ambassador commendations for the polls should not only go to the leadership of the police, but to personnel on the field and at the polling units.
He said the police’s election strategy started 2013, and that its implementation commenced shortly after he took over as IGP in July 2014.
Overall, Mr. Abba said the success was anchored on a clear directive to police officers to be “civil, nonpartisan and not-biased” while on election duties.
Those three words, officials said, catalysed the presidency’s action hours later.
Mr. Abba himself confirmed to close associates Tuesday that he had been told by several persons close to President Jonathan, how the presidency interpreted those words, his associates told PREMIUM TIMES.
For the president and the PDP, the comments smacked of arrogance, and confirmed suspicion that he did not work for the party even after being funded.
“It is unbelievable that the IG could dare to publicly announce how personnel were instructed not to be partisan or biased despite the promise he made to the presidency and the resources he was given,” an administration official said.
Throughout Tuesday and early Wednesday, the Nigeria Police’s Twitter account stayed quiet, ignoring rather strangely, the removal of its chief, Inspector General Suleiman Abba.
The usually lively handle tweeted no information about the sack, in sharp contrast with Monday when it flaunted the ambassador’s praise.
Associates of the ousted IGP say he was most concerned that his removal has put paid to his second project for the police, after elections.
Mr. Abba, they said, planned to launch a sweeping campaign for attitudinal change of an average police officer, a project that was due to start in weeks.
The sacked police chief’s associates are now advising him to, in the interest of his safety, travel out of the country to rest “until the present madness ends”.