Federal High Court declares appointment of Inspector-General of police unlawful, unconstitutional

Federal High Court declares appointment of Inspector-General of police unlawful, unconstitutional

Justice Fatun Riman of the Federal High Court sitting in Awka has declared the appointment and continued stay in office of the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, as “unlawful and unconstitutional.”

The court made this pronouncement in its judgment in a suit filed by Okechukwu Nwafor, a taxpayer, marked FHC/AKW/CS/58/2023.

Justice Riman stated that only an officer within the listed rank, with a minimum of four (4) years of service, can be appointed as Inspector-General of Police, and that Alkali Baba does not meet this requirement. Consequently, the court ordered Alkali Baba to cease parading himself as the Inspector-General of Police.

Additionally, the court directed the President to convene a meeting of the Nigeria Police Council to appoint a new Inspector-General of Police, who will serve for a four-year term.
The defendants in the suit include the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Usman Alkali Baba, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the Nigeria Police Council.

The judgment, delivered on May 19, emphasizes the court’s interpretation of relevant constitutional provisions, particularly Sections 215 (a) and 216 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Sections 7 (2) & (6) and 18 (c) of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020.
According to the court, Alkali’s appointment violates these provisions, thereby rendering it unlawful and invalid.

Furthermore, the court declared that Alkali Baba is not qualified to hold the office of the Inspector-General of Police due to the absurdity that would result from such an appointment, which would amount to a complete breach of Section 7 (6) of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020.

Justice Riman also ruled that the President has no authority to extend the retirement age of a police officer, as outlined in Section 18 (c) of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020.

Addressing the arguments put forward by the defendant’s counsel, the court noted that previous judgments on the interpretation of relevant provisions were not presented for examination in the counter affidavit or filed in court. Thus, the court concluded that those judgments could not guide its decision in this case.

The court highlighted that according to Section 215 (1) (6) of the Constitution, the President must appoint the Inspector-General of Police from serving members of the Nigeria Police Force on the advice of the Nigeria Police Council, which includes the President, Governors, Chairman of the Police Commission, and the Inspector-General of Police. It further noted that the tenure of the Inspector-General of Police would end in February 2020, four years from February 2021, and that Alkali Baba had reached the age of 60 on March 1, 2023, exceeding the mandatory retirement age as stipulated in the Federal Public Rules.

Justice Riman affirmed that the retirement age provision for public service officers, as stated in the Federal Public Rules, applies to the Inspector-General of Police, as the Nigeria Police Force is an authority established by the Federation.

The court emphasized that this retirement age requirement is also mirrored in Section 18 (c) of the Police Act, making it mandatory.
The court further highlighted that the President’s prerogative power is limited to the provisions of the Constitution and that the retirement of the Inspector-General of Police is a statutory and constitutional issue, which cannot be altered by any other law.

Regarding the plaintiff’s locus standi (the right to bring a case), the court noted that while it is a central concept in the administration of justice, it is not necessary for constitutional cases as it could impede the administration of justice.

The court recognized the liberalization of the concept of locus standi in constitutional matters and concluded that the plaintiff’s status as a Nigerian and taxpayer was not challenged and therefore satisfied the requirements.

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