Containing the Senate, IGP face-off

May 21st, 2018

The seeming intractable face-off between the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) is taking its toll on the socio-political space. And the populace are no longer finding it funny. The system too, is paying the price, though yet to become visible to the ordinary members of the public.

The powers of the Legislature are to be found in section 4, Chapter 5, and the legislative lists contained in the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution. Similarly, the legislature’s oversight powers are contained in Section 82-89, especially with regard to the National Assembly.

Specifically Section 88 (1) says that “subject to the provisions of the constitution, each Houses of the National Assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal, or in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation, to direct or cause to be directed, an investigation into: (a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make law; and (b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with duty of or responsibility”.

In addition to the above-stated general power, it can investigate the conduct of any person, authority, ministry, or government department, charged with the duty or responsibility for executing or administering laws enacted by the National Assembly. In simple terms, the legislature performs three basic Roles namely: lawmaking, representation and oversight.

What it therefore means is that any arm of the National Assembly has the general power to investigate or enquire into any of the 68 subjects in part 1 of the Second Schedule.

Thus, sub-section (2) of section 88 says that these powers are exercisable for the purpose of enabling the Legislature to make laws with regard to matters within its competence and expose corruption, inefficiency, waste, in the execution or administration of laws.

As Prof. Ben Nwabueze (SAN) stated recently, the Legislature is the distinctive mark of a country’s sovereignty and that the source of the powers exercised by the executive are derived from the legislature.

According to John Stuart Mill, it is the duty of the legislature to “to watch and control the government [executive]; to throw the light of publicity in its acts, to compel a full exposition and justification of all of them which anyone considers questionable”. It therefore follows that if effectively discharged, the legislature would produce an attitude of responsibility and restraint in the executive or its organs.

The Nigeria Police Force being an organ of the executive established in 1820 and designated by Section 194 of the 1979 constitution is charged with exclusive jurisdiction throughout the country or restoring law and order. According to Wikipedia, “the NPF is under the general operational and administrative control of an Inspector General (IGP), appointed by the president, subsequently confirmed by the Senate and upon being sworn-in, becomes responsible for the maintenance of internal security in all parts of the country. To effectively carry out this function, he is supported by six Deputy Inspectors-General (DIG), and in each state by police commissioners. Ibrahim Kpotun Idris is the current IGP.

When therefore, the public became inundated with the face-off between the Senate and the IGP, they were disturbed. Disturbed, because the Senate and the IGP’s portfolio are both creations of the constitution. And being so, the public expected there should be mutual respect by the leadership of the two organs.

However, it must be stated that the constitution played up the legislature and only recognized the office of the IGP as an organ through which the Executive attains the objective of maintaining law and order in the society.

Since the aforementioned constitutional provisions clearly empowers the legislature to perform oversight duty, it behooves on the IGP to play by the rules and attend to the Senate summons, irrespective of whether it annoys, or irritates him. The IGP being the chief law enforcer of the federation, should not at any time, be seen to be breaking the law. It does not matter whether the reasons why he is being summoned are infantile, unreasonable or out rightly stupid.

We at The AUTHORITY call for restraint under the circumstances. We implore the Senate not to insist on enforcing its duty to the letters. We equally urge the IGP to shake off whatever toga that is preventing him from respecting to the Senate. The IGP should understand that he holds a very top public office and that ordinary Nigerians and the international community are watching to see how he handles the issue. Even when the Senate could be said to be pushed by a hidden agenda, such notion should not take precedence over the constitutional oversight duty bestowed on the legislature. The Senate President should equally apply the brakes and not make it seem as if somebody’s ego is being broached. Now that two elephants are engaged in a war, it is members of the public that suffer, and consequently pay the price with increasing level of insecurity in parts of the country. Both sides must see reason and there is no time to do so than now.

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