By Taiye Agbaje
The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, says Mohammed Adamu, Inspector-General (I-G) of Police, has the power to recruit 10, 000 police officers contrary to the Police Service Commission (PSC)’s stand.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who delivered the judgment, held that the PSC’s suit lacked merit.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the PSC had taken the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) to court over the ongoing recruitment exercise of 10,000 constables as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In the motion on notice filed on Sept. 24, with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1124/2019, the commission prayed the court for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from”appointing, recruiting or attempting to appoint or recruit by any means whatsoever any person into any office by the NPF pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
NAN reports that while the PSC is the plaintiff, the NPF, the I-G, the Nigerian Police Council, Minister of Police Affairs and the Attorney General of Police (AGF) are defendants in the case.
NAN reports that Justice Ekwo had earlier fixed Dec. 4 to deliver judgment in the suit after taking arguments of counsel representing the parties.
The judge , however, said he decided to abridge the time by scheduling it for Dec. 2 because of the number of political matters slated for the day.
Delivering judgment on Monday, Justice Ekwo upheld the power of the NPF and the Police Council under the control of I-G Adamu to recruit constables into the NPF.
The judge, therefore, struck out the suit filed by the PSC, challenging the power of the NPF and Adamu to carry out the ongoing exercise.
He held that by the provision of Section 71 of the Police Act, it was the Nigeria Police Council under the leadership of the I-G that was empowered with the enlistment of rank and file in the force.
The judge further held that the law guiding the enlistment of constables into the NPF was the Nigeria Police Regulations of 1968, issued by the Nigerian President in accordance with the provisions of Section 46 of the Police Act 1967 (No 41), providing for the organisation and administration of the police force.
According to the judge, there is nothing in the documentary evidence placed before the court by the PSC to support its claims that the I-G has usurped the powers of the commission in the enlistment of rank and file into the Nigerian police.
Justice Ekwo said that though counsel to the plaintiff had defined the word “recruitment” to mean “appointment,” he said the definition of recruitment in Chapter 1 (2) number 02, 03, 01 of the Public Service Rule 2008 edition is not in total in agreement with the legal framework of the first defendant.
He said the reason was that the NPF could not be portrayed as normal civil service where the public service rule could be applied.
“It is not in controversy that the first defendant is a paramilitary body and for that reason, shares several characteristics with the military service.
“Christens the first defendant as Nigeria Police Force by Section 214 of the 1999 Constitution, it ought to be cleared that it is not meant to be a civil service,” he held.
He noted that relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution and PSC Establishment Act 2001 referred to by the plaintiff were consistent in using the word “appointment” in respect to the power of the plaintiff.
According to him, the PSC Establishment Act 2001 that has not been considered by parties in this case is what I consider as the overriding powers given to the president in Section 9.
The judge said that based on the provision, the president has the power to give directive to the PSC and that the commission holds it a duty to comply.
According to him, this means that the plaintiff cannot question the president’s directive with regard to the performance of its functions.
He also said that the PSC ought to have shown evidence that President Buhari gave a directive to it for the enlisting of police constables.
He said such directive would have placed the recruitment exercise squarely within the purview of the PSC.
According Ekwo, “rank and file” is a military term which also applies to NPF.
He said “it is defined as the ordinary soldier as oppose to the officer.
“Therefore, recruitment here is that of the ordinary member of the NPF who holds no rank.”
The judge held that “enlisting is a termed used in the military to engage for service as in army or navy.”
He said the plaintiff had attempted to extend its statutory power by defining the word “appointment” to include the word “recruitment.”
He described the action as a great flaw, adding that he could not ascribe to “the plaintiff the power it does not have.”
The judge said that there can never be any appointment of the rank and file into the NPF without prior enlistment.
He said after studying all the evidence of the plaintiff, they had nothing to do with the case.
The judge, therefore, held that the power of enlistment of recruit constables into rank and file is that of Nigeria Police Council (thirrd defendant) under the control of the I-G (second defendant).
“Therefore, it is the IGP that controls the process of enlistment of recruit constables in the NPF,” Justice Ekwo held.
NAN recalls that in the last adjourned date, Counsel to PSC, Kanu Agabi, SAN, had disagreed with the AGF over his submission that there was distinction between recruitment and appointment.
Agabi also argued that there was no constitutional provision to back the claim that “recruitment of police personnel from time immemorial has been done by the I-G.”
He said it was the responsibility of the PSC to recruit police personnel and not that of the I-G and that allowing the I-G to conduct recruitment, would be usurping powers of the commission.
Terhemba Agbe, who was AGF’s lawyer, had insisted that there was a distinction between recruitment and appointment.
Agbe told the court that the AGF had advised both parties to work in harmony, that the I-G should conduct recruitment into the police and the names of those found worthy should be forwarded to the PSC for appointment.
On his part, the first to third defendants’ counsel, Alex Iziyon, SAN, described the suit as frivolous and scandalous.
He had urged the court to dismiss the suit, saying it was an abuse of court process.