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Fact check: Did Buhari violate the law by appointing Usman Baba as IG?

The government of President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday announced the appointment of Usman Alkali Baba as the new Acting Inspector General of Police.

Baba replaces Mohammed Adamu who is retiring from the police and as the inspector-general.

The announcement of the new police chief was made by Maigari Dingyadi, the minister of police affairs, while briefing journalists at the State House, in Abuja on Tuesday.

This appointment has generated heated controversy on social media sites with many contending that the way his predecessor was removed while on national assignment was untidy, that the appointment was not only nepotistic – a recurring accusation against this president – but that it violated the laws of the land, namely the Police Act 2020.

The Nigeria Police Force (Establishment) Act, 2020 which came into force on the 17th of September 2020, repealed the Police Act of 2004.

While Buhari’s appointments which have skewed heavily in favour of northern Muslims in a multicultural and pluralistic society has drawn the ire of many Nigerians, a gross violation of the law invites more ignominy.

Read Also: Buhari’s preference for foreign hospitals overlooks world-class local options

What is the controversy?

Some contend that Usman Baba, by virtue of his age and the rules governing the Nigerian Police Force, is not qualified.

This is purportedly based on the Police Act 2020 which prescribes a four-year term of office and retirement age of 60 or 35 years in service whichever is earlier.

Usman Baba is 58 years old and following the rules should retire in two years time while he is stepping into an office with a four-year tenure.

It is also unclear if the advice of the Police council was sought.

What does the law say?

Senior police officer

Section 7 of the Police Act, paragraph two says that the person to be appointed as Inspector General of Police shall be a senior police officer not below the rank of an Assistant Inspector-General of Police

He had served as the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in Edo State and the FCT; Commissioner of Police FCT and Delta Commands amongst others; Ag. DIG in charge of Finance and Administration; Force Secretary. Until his appointment, Baba was the deputy inspector-general of police, force criminal investigation department, police headquarters.

On this score, he qualifies.

Academic qualification

The law further says that the person to be appointed to the position of the Inspector General must have the requisite academic qualifications of not less than a first degree or equivalent to professional and management experience.

Usman Alkali Baba obtained a BA (ED) Political Science from Bayero University, Kano in 1985. He has a Masters Degree in Public Administration (MPA) obtained from University of Maiduguri, Borno State in 1997. He holds a Teacher’s Grade II Certificate (TC II) from Teachers College, Potiskum, Yobe State in 1980.

On this score, he qualifies.

Age

Section 18, paragraph 8, says that every police officer shall, on recruitment or appointment, serve in the Nigeria Police Force for a period of 35 years or until he attains the age of 60, whichever is earlier.

Alkali was born on 1st March 1963 in Gaidam, Yobe State. He enlisted in the Nigeria Police on 15th March 1988. This means that he is 58 years old.

This qualifies him to still be a police officer till 2023.

Tenure

However, Section 7 paragraph 6 of the Police Act had earlier said that the person to be appointed to the office of the Inspector-General of Police shall hold office for four years.

It can be argued that the intention of the law is that whoever will be appointed should be in office for the full length of the term, but it did not make this a precondition for the appointment.

This loophole may have been exploited to appoint this new Inspector General. Besides, someone who has a four-year term of office could die in the second year and not complete his tenure.

Therefore, making the case that he is not qualified or that the president violated the law on this basis, is to stretch out the argument.

However, the optics of all the three IGs of Police from one section of the country appointed by this president – Ibrahim Idris Kpotun, Muhammad Adamu, and now Usman Alkali Baba – is bad and in the very least violates the spirit of Federal Character.

The Police Act 2020 also says that the Inspector General of Police shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Police Council from among serving members of the Police Force.

It is unclear if this was done prior to the president’s departure as only the council members can confirm this, and this could very well end up at the courts to make the final determination if this appointment was lawful.

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