Following the resignation of former Inspector-General of Police Musiliu Smith as the chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), real reasons that led to his exit have begun to surface, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.
Although the management, through the spokesman of the commission, Ikechukwu Ani, told reporters that Smith resigned on “health ground,” findings by Daily Trust on Sunday, however, revealed that accumulation of a wide range of issues led to his ouster.
Ideally, Smith, who was inaugurated on July 25, 2018, alongside other commissioners, was supposed to lead the commission till July 24, 2023 to complete his five-year tenure in line with the laws that established the organisation.
Other commissioners appointed in 2018 alongside Smith and Ogunbiyi include Lawal Bawa, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police (full-time commissioner, North West); Mohammed Najatu (member, North West); Braimoh Austin (member, South South); Rommy Mom, a lawyer (member, North Central) and Dr Nkemka Jombo-Ofo (member, South East).
It was reported how Smith was forced to resign during a board meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, after which he was directed to hand over to commissioner 1 and the next in hierarchy, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi (retd).
Ogunbiyi, who retired from the Supreme Court, had since assumed office in acting capacity. She is expected to hold sway pending when President Muhammadu Buhari makes a substantive appointment for the commission.
One of the multiple sources who confided in Daily Trust on Sunday said the board meeting discussed the possibility of amending the PSC Act to remove a section which states that a retired Inspector-General of Police be appointed to chair the commission.
“Immediately the meeting started, one of the commissioners said the defining characteristic and mission of the commission was that it is a civilian oversight body, external to the police. This requires the PSC to be independent and impartial. It cannot be either of these if it is headed by a retired Inspector-General of Police.
“This mission is destroyed by appointing a recent or former IGP as chairman of the PSC. After thorough deliberations on these issues, a commissioner advised Smith to step aside, after which another commissioner moved a motion, and he accepted,” the source had said.
With the new development in the commission, where ‘a new lease of life’ is expected to be witnessed, Daily Trust on Sunday spotlights seven controversies that brought an abrupt end to the erstwhile chairman’s five-year tenure.
The controversies are of two main headings, which are: effective application of the commission’s constitutional mandate and issues of the internal running of the commission.
At the peak of several attacks, crimes and other security challenges in 2018, stakeholders, as well as Nigerians, called on President Buhari to inject more manpower into the force.
Shortly after Buhari’s approval during the Federal Executive Council meeting to recruit 10,000 constables every year for four years, the recruitment exercise ran into troubled waters when the police insisted that it had the mandate to recruit.
But the PSC also stood its ground, insisting that it was constitutionally empowered to conduct recruitment for the police.
The insistence by the police, according to members of staff of the PSC, amounted to a usurpation of the commission’s mandate and “blatant and shameful disrespect of the constitution.”
The exercise soon became a subject of litigation, with the police under a former Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu winning the first round at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The ruling of the High Court was later set aside by the Court of Appeal, which declared that the Police Service Commission was constitutionally empowered to conduct the recruitment of police constables.
Despite the existence of policies for the processes leading to the promotion of men and officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), checks showed that the commission continued to abdicate its responsibilities to the police under the Smith-led administration.
The development, according to some commissioners who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday anonymously, resulted to complaints of sharp practices and lopsidedness of opportunities in the NPF.
Checks by our correspondent showed that of all the government employees in Nigeria (including the armed forces and other paramilitary organisations), it is only the personnel of the NPF that do not sit for promotion examinations because there is no law to that effect.
On June 30, this newspaper reported how “undue” promotions given to Ayoola Oladunni and Usman Shugaba, the aides-de-camp to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the First Lady, Aisha Buhari respectively, caused disquiet within the Force.
Both Messrs Oladunni and Shugaba were allegedly promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) from their previous rank of Chief Superintendents of Police (CSP) with the recommendation from the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, without much input from the PSC.
In lucid term, the duo were promoted two steps ahead of their colleagues who joined the Force as ASP. They have remained on the rank of DSP or SP since they joined the Force. This misdemeanour, according to officials of the PSC, is not unconnected with the lackadaisical attitude of the Smith-led administration.
Dismissal of police officers
Recently, Inspector-General of Police Usman Alkali Baba dismissed some officers of the Force over misdemeanours capable of bringing the force into disrepute.
The Nigerian Police Force had in July dismissed an officer, Richard Gele, who was justifying extortion in a video clip that had since gone viral on the social media.
The IGP also approved the dismissal of a police officer in the Cross River command, Liyomo Okoi, after he was recently filmed in a viral video beating a civilian with a cutlass on July 31, 2022.
The developments, according to some officials, are some of the main reasons other commissioners and members of staff raised the eyebrow against the erstwhile PSC chairman.
They alleged that the commission had totally abdicated its responsibility in that regard for the police, saying it is only the commission that is empowered to discipline erring officers of the force in line with the 1999 constitution as amend.
In the same vein, some commissioners who spoke to Daily Trust on Sunday explained that during the reign of the former IGP as the commission’s boss, their meeting was not up to five times.
The official said, “I don’t think our meeting was up to five times during the tenure of the immediate past chairman. Ordinarily, we are supposed to meet regularly in order to iron out some pertinent issues, but such never happened.
“This issue of recruitment is not supposed to get to this level where workers in the commission would paralyse our activities before attending to their grievances in that regard.
‘”There are many decisions management members were supposed to have made, which were affecting the commission before now, but we didn’t make it because of the former head’s body language. The good thing is that everything appears to have come to an end.”
Amendment of PSC Act
Stakeholders in the commission appeared uncomfortable with some parts of the PSC Act, especially the part which states that a retired Inspector-General of Police should head the agency.
Checks by Daily Trust on Sunday showed that in 2017, prominent among the recommendations of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms was the amendment of the PSC Establishment Act of 2001.
Pages 61 to 71 of the document as obtained recommend that the chairman of the PSC should not be a retired police officer.
Several reasons were given for this recommendation, chief of which is the obvious inability of a former police boss to dispassionately handle the affairs of the commission and the personnel of the police, whom he worked with prior to his retirement.
Alleged fraud and non-completed office complex
Speaking with reporters at a press briefing last week, the chairman of the Joint Union Congress, PSC chapter, Adoyi Adoyi, said workers suspected that funds meant for the completion of their office complex had been mismanaged by the Smith-led administration.
Although Daily Trust on Sunday could not independently verify Adoyi’s claim, he, however, referred our reporter to the permanent site of the commission, located in Jabi in Abuja Municipal Area Council.
He said one of the reasons they passed a vote of no confidence on Smith was because of non-completion of the building despite huge funds earmarked for the project.
“It is quite unfortunate that members of staff from some departments were directed to resume work at the commission’s headquarters in Jabi some weeks ago, but they were turned back by the site engineer, who claimed that the organisation had not fulfilled the essential financial commitments,” Smith said.
Virtually on a daily basis, workers in the commission lament neglect by the management under the leadership of the erstwhile chairman.
Speaking on the matter, Adoyi said, “As a responsible union, we make bold to state that all the conditions necessary for continuous working harmony have been breached by the management; hence our resort to continue with our agitation until our earlier agreements are fully implemented.
“Following from the above, therefore, the union and the entire staff do hereby serve a notice of indefinite strike to the management, beginning on August 29, 2022.”
PSC to shortlist police job applicants next month
Meanwhile, the management of the PSC says its portal for the application of police constables is still running till September 26, after which the new management will shortlist successful applicants.
Ikechukwu Ani, the spokesman of the commission, in an interview with our reporter on Friday, explained that the recruitment was being done in line with the laws of the Federal Character Commission (FCC).
“The portal is still running. The exercise is being done as scheduled. The shortlist will be done after September 26 when the portal must have been closed,’” Ani said.