By Eugene Enahoro
In the ongoing face-off between the Senate and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) perhaps the most apt adage for the long-suffering Nigerian public is that your enemy’s enemy isn’t necessarily your friend! As far as the general public is concerned they see neither members of the National Assembly nor those of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) as their friends. More importantly it’s painfully obvious to all except those involved, that the whole bruhaha is against the interest of the Senate, the NPF and the nation as a whole. Following his failure to appear before the Senate after a third time of asking, the IGP was declared persona non-grata in the Upper Chamber and “an enemy of democracy unfit to hold any office in Nigeria”.
The Senate President based his damning indictment on a decision made by the Courts which the IGP approached over a previous invitation. The Courts declared that lawmakers had the powers to summon any the IGP or any other public officer. Even then, it beggars belief that bearing in mind the nation’s current security challenges any responsible political office holder would publicly declare the IGP unfit to hold public office even if they believed it to be true. If the Senate President really wants to expose those who are enemies of democracy unfit to hold office he would be well advised to look inwards. Amongst Nigeria’s “Distinguished” Senators are so many failed ex-governors, Ministers and public office holders who are facing corruption charges.
The truth is that Nigerians lump legislators together with policemen as enemies of democracy. Indeed, just recently a sitting Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State declared that the NPF are abetting criminality in his State! As far as the IGP is concerned although the Courts declared that lawmakers had the powers to summon him or any other public officer, they didn’t make any declaration as to the nature of the summons which should be issued. If in summoning the police boss the Senate was restricting itself to wanting answers about the unabated spate of killings across the nation, and the reason why not a single person has been charged and found guilty of murder, they would have been on solid ground.
However, by adding that they also wanted to discuss the “inhuman treatment” of Senator Dino Melaye which isn’t a national issue, they revealed that their true motive was to ensure that their self-granted status and privileges aren’t tampered with. The Senate appears to have forgotten that they have an oversight committee which covers the police. This Committee should have been mandated to visit the IGP in his office and report back to the House. If Senators were concerned about the overall security situation and ongoing carnage in the nation, then the correct person to have summoned would be the Minister for Interior. If their queries solely concerned the effectiveness of the NPF then it only stands to reason that the Deputy Inspector General of Police Department of Operations would be in a better position to answer than the IGP himself who has “political” duties to attend to. In his reply to the Senate the IGP was both right and wrong. He was right when he said that he would not be deterred by blackmail from any individual or group no matter how highly placed. But he was wrong when he said that he owes no apology to any individual or groups in his efforts to ensure preservation of law and order, supremacy of the law and make sure that Nigerians are subjected to the same law no matter what positions they are. Nigerians are definitely owed an apology.
The social media is replete with videos of errant policemen slapping, assaulting, and brutalising innocent members of the public, demanding bribes from motorists, demanding vehicle particulars and receipts for electronics in the middle of nowhere, discharging their weapons after having lost control of unarmed crowds irritated by their excesses, and generally behaving as if they are not under anybody’s control. Even when reminded that the IGP has said they should be disciplined, policemen have been known to reply in Pidgin English; “leave that matter… no be IG them handcuff the other day? IG dey Abuja na we get here!” Who is supposed to apologise to Nigerians for the excesses and deficiencies of the NPF if not the IGP?
Senator Abaribe’s claim that democracy in Nigeria is dying bit by bit is true, but that has more to do with the antics within the National Assembly than the shortcomings of the IGP. As for alleging that he disrespects institutions and constituted authority, its unfortunate that Nigerian Senators who build mansions in complete disregard of planning permissions; refuse to queue at airports; continue to cover up their number plates despite the ban; and insist on keeping mobile police men as escorts despite the IGP’s stated wish to return them to active duty, and who show gross disrespect to constituted authority are now pointing fingers at others.
Senators mistakenly believe that they are supposed to be running the nation rather than legislating. They have completely misinterpreted the meaning of oversight functions. The Senate President has taken it upon himself to challenge both the IGP and the President in an attempt to assert a perceived, but non-existent authority over them. There is no gainsaying that the NPF is inefficient, undisciplined, poorly funded, operationally handicapped, and seen by the Nigerian public as their enemy rather than their friend, but all this is beside the point. If the past is anything to go by our policemen will continue to be killed regularly in the line of duty while at the same time remaining an object of scorn and ridicule from the general public. It’s regrettable that the current spat between the NASS and IGP has nothing to do with making the NPF more efficient or disciplined, it’s merely a clash of egos. Simply much ado about nothing!