A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has issued a warning to Suleiman Abba, the Acting Police Inspector-General, over the series of “illegal policing” that have continued under his watch.
In a letter to the police boss, on Sunday, Mr. Falana said he would head to court to challenge Mr. Abba’s competence if the police failed to desist from their involvement in partisan politics.
Mr. Abba was appointed in an acting capacity last July following the retirement of the previous Inspector-General, Mohammed Abubakar.
In his letter, Mr. Falana cited three instances where the police had displayed “political bias” since Mr. Abba’s appointment.
“Firstly, the Osun State governorship election which took place on August 9, 2014 was almost marred by the Police and other security forces which arrested and detained over 700 leaders of the All Progressive Congress (APC),” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“Indeed, some electoral officers who were assumed to be members of the APC were also railroaded to police custody. But for the personal intervention of Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the said electoral officers would not have been released.
“Thus, the election would have been disrupted by the police and other security forces whose duty it was to maintain law and order during the democratic exercise.”
Mr. Falana noted that since their release after the election, the detained APC leaders had not been charged to court for breaching the provisions of the Electoral Act or any other law whatsoever.
“Secondly, Mr. Joseph Mbu, the controversial Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 7 of the Nigeria Poilice Force announced a ban (on) any rally demanding for #bringbackourgirls within the federal capital territory,” Mr. Falana said.
“The ban was designed to assuage the feelings of some officials of the Federal Government who are embarrassed by being reminded of their constitutional duty of rescuing the over 200 Chibok girls who were abducted 6 months ago by the nihilist boko haram sect.”
A Federal Capital Territory High Court, in Abuja, last week delivered a judgment declaring the ban by Mr. Mbu as illegal, null and void on the ground that it constituted an infringement of the fundamental rights of the campaigners to freedom of assembly and expression guaranteed by the Constitution.
Mr. Falana said that despite the judicial indictment, the police boss had not deemed it fit to call Mr. Mbu to order for his “reckless abuse of police powers.”
“Thirdly, you caused the security details of Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, the Speaker of the House of Representatives to be withdrawn last week on the ground that he had decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC.
“As if that was enough, you decided to usurp the judicial powers of the federation which are exclusively vested in the courts by section 6 of the Constitution when you claimed that the Speaker had lost his office and seat as a federal legislator having contravened section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution.
“By your illegal pronouncement you disregarded section section 50 (2) (c) thereof which stipulates that the Speaker of the House of Representatives can only be removed by a resolution passed by votes on not less that two thirds majority of the members of the House.”
Mr. Falana said that the Inspector-General’s actions and utterances exposed the Police to “unwarranted ridicule” from Nigerians, considering that when legislators in Ondo State elected on the platform of the Labour Party (LP) decamped to the PDP last month, the police did not declare their seats vacant.
“In particular, you did not withdraw the security details of Honourable Jumoke Akindele, the Speaker who led her colleagues to dump the LP for the PDP,” said Mr. Falana.
“In the same vein, Honourable Ahmadu Fintiri, the Speaker of the Adamawa State House of Assembly and his colleagues who decamped from the PDP to the APC and have since returned to PDP. You did not have cause to declare their seats vacant. Neither have you withdrawn the security details of the Honourable Fintiri.”
Mr. Falana said that by subjecting Mr. Tambuwal to selective persecution on the grounds that he decamped from the ruling party, the police violated his fundamental right to freedom from discrimination.
“As you are no doubt aware, it is a breach of section 42 (1) of the Constitution and Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to subject any citizen of Nigeria of a political opinion to disabilities, deprivation and restrictions to which other citizens who hold alternative views or opinions are not made subject.
“Since the security details of other Speakers who decamped from the APC and LP to the PDP have not been withdrawn those of Honourable Tambuwal were illegally withdrawn. They ought to be restored without any further delay.”
Mr. Falana further stated that the harassment meted out to Mr. Tambuwal by the police were on the orders of the Presidency
“But having regard to section 215 (3) of the Constitution which enjoins you to carry out the ‘lawful directions’ of the President of the Republic with respect to the maintenance and securing of public safety and public order the actions taken on the Speaker are illegal and unconstitutional in every material particular.
“Therefore, you should withdraw your pronouncement on the office and seat of Honourable Aminu Tambuwal and advise the ruling party to seek redress in the Federal High Court on the constitutional implications of the defection.
“Furthermore, unless he is removed by his colleagues in the House of Representatives or by a competent court in the land Honourable Tambuwal remains the Speaker of the House. Neither the Police nor any other agency of the Federal Government can be allowed to resort to self help on the matter.”
Mr. Falana also urged the police boss to resign if he is not prepared to discharge his constitutional responsibilities without fear or favour.