The Federal High Court in Abuja ruled Friday that Nigeria’s president can extend the tenure of a retiring Inspector General of Police (IGP) pending the completion of the process for the appointment of a substantive successor.
A federal judge, Ahmed Mohammed, gave the decision on a suit, filed in February by a lawyer, Maxwell Opara, challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s extension of the tenure of the immediate-past IGP, Mohammed Adamu, by three months.
The President had on February 3 granted three-month extension to Mr Adamu who had attained the maximum 35 years in service two days earlier on February 1.
Mr Opara, an Abuja-based lawyer, had in his suit, argued 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.
But delivering judgment in the suit, the judge said, “the Police Act and the Nigerian constitution are clear on the appointment of IGP, but are silent on the extension of the tenure of the IGP.”
He however held that since the Nigerian president who is clothed with the constitutional powers to appoint the IGP, in consultation with the police council, equally has the power to extend the tenure pending when a substantive IGP would be appointed to avoid a vacuum.
“Since the President has the power to appoint Inspector General of Police, in consultation with the police council, he has the power to extend the tenure as a stopgap measure, pending the appointment of a substantive.
“The constitution and the Police Act did not forbid it,” Mr Mohammed held.
He added that the plaintiff abysmally failed to prove that President Buhari had no power to extend the tenure of the former IGP, Adamu for three months.
“The suit of the plaintiff failed and it is accordingly dismissed,” the court held.
Earlier, the judge dismissed the preliminary objection challenging the eligibility of Mr Okpara to have filed the case as well as the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.
Plaintiff to appeal against judgment
Mr Opara through his lawyer, Ugochukwu Ezekiel, said the judgment of the trial court would be tested at the Court of Appeal.
While the plaintiff urged the court to declare the continued stay of Mr Adamu as IGP, as illegal and unconstitutional, the defendants prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lacking in merit.
Mr Opara had sued the President, Mr Adamu, the Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Nigeria Police Council as the defendants in the suit challenging the ex-IGP’s tenure.
He urged the court to determine if, by virtue of section 215 of the Nigerian Constitution and section 7 of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, Mr Adamu could “validly continue to function as the Inspector General of Police not being a serving member of the Nigeria Police Force as from midnight of February 1, 2021.”
Citing the same constitutional and statutory provisions, Mr Okpara also asked the court to determine if “the failure” of President Buhari and the NPC to appoint the new IGP since February 1 “does not constitute abdication of their duties.”
In his prayers, he asked the court to declare that Mr Adamu “cannot lawfully continue to function as the Inspector-General of Police” and that “all actions” taken by him thereafter “are illegal, null, void and constitute a breach of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Nigeria Police Act”.
The plaintiff also asked the court to declare Mr Buhari and the NPC guilty of “abdication of their duties” by their failure to appoint a new IGP since February 1.
He also asked for an order restraining Mr Adamu “from further parading himself as the Inspector-General of Police of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or exercising any form of command over the Nigeria Police Force not being a serving police officer.”
Although the President removed Mr Adamu before the expiration of the three-month extension, he and the AGF argued, through their lawyers, in opposition to the suit, that the IGP could remain in office till either 2023 or 2024.
In a five-paragraph counter-affidavit he jointly filed with the AGF, President Buhari, described the case of plaintiff as “frivolous, unmeritorious and undeserving of the court’s attention” and urged the court to dismiss it “with heavy cost”.
Similarly, Adamu’s lawyer, Alex Iziyon, had while urging the court to dismiss the suit, argued that going by section 136 of the Nigerian Police Act, his client could remain in office as the IGP till 2024.
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