Stop holding on to straw, Senate tells police chief
•Police: your declaration is laughable
The Senate and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris are locked in a battle of wits. The Red Chamber accuses the police chief of disrespect for snubbing its summon. But the police feel otherwise. To senior lawyers Itse Sagay and Femi Falana, the lawmakers are off their track, report Onyedi Ojiabor, JOSEPH JIBUEZE and Faith Yahaya
There is no letup in the war of words between the Senate and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris over the refusal of the police chief to honour the lawmakers’ summon.
The verbal darts continued yesterday with the Senate telling the police chief to let go the straw and the the Nigerian Police describing the lawmakers’ verdict as laughable.
The crossfire yesterday attracted reactions from senior lawyers, including the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) and activist-lawyer Femi Falana. Both are senior advocates.
In their views, the lawmakers erred in summoning Idris over the rising wave of insecurity and the travail of one of their colleagues.
Falana said the right persons the senators ought to have invited were the Interior Minister Gen. Abdulraman Bambazau (for killings) and Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami.
The parties on Wednesday took on each other with the Senate firing the first salvo. It passed a vote of no confidence in the IGP and classified him “enemy of democracy, who is not fit to hold public office within and outside Nigeria.”
The Red Chamber’s revolution was sequel to the IGP’s refusal to personally appear and brief on the rising spate of killings in the land and the alleged inhuman treatment meted to Senator Dino Melaye by police.
It was the third time the police chief would be spurning the invitation for security briefing.
But, the IGP said the resolution was mischievous and very unfortunate, describing it as blackmail.
According to him, he had explained why he could not appear before the Senate in a memo he sent earlier. He said he would neither succumb, nor be deterred by blackmail from any individual, or group no matter how highly placed.
Dissatisfied with the IGP explanation, the Senate told the IGP to stop holding on to the straw on his refusal to comply with its invitation to brief members on what effort the Police have put in place to curb the spate of killings.
In a statement by the Chairman of its Committee on Media & Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate said the crux of the matter that informed the invitation of the IGP was the ceaseless spate of killings across the country.
Abdullahi explained that the matter concerning the arrest of Senator Dino Melaye had been overtaken by events.
The statement reads: “We noted the response issued by one Jimoh Moshood on behalf of the IGP, Ibrahim Idris following yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) resolution of the legislative chamber on the continued refusal of the IGP to honour the invitation for him to come and explain what the police are doing to halt the spate of killings across the country.
“Let it be known that the IGP, by trying to reduce the reason for his invitation by the Senate to the arrest of Senator Dino Melaye is simply holding on to straw.
“The issue of Senator Melaye’s arrest has been overtaken by events. The courts are already handling the related cases. Our main concern is the security crisis across the country where people are being killed in scores on daily basis.
“The primary responsibility of the Police is maintenance of law and order as well as protection of lives and property.
“If there is a breach along the line of this responsibility, we do not see why the IGP should feel he cannot be invited to offer explanation to the arm of government which is constitutionally empowered to ask questions and investigate the breach.
“No responsible body of representatives of the people will ignore sad reports given by members on the floor of the Senate. For instance, on April 24, two Catholic priests and 17 members of their congregation were murdered as reported by Senator George Akume.
“Also, Senators Kabir Marafa and Tijani Kaura had earlier intimated the Senate of the killing of 35 people in Maradun Local Government Area, over 100 people killed in Anka and 36 people killed in Birani Village in Zurmi Local Government Area, all in Zamfara State.
“Even as at now, reports reaching us showed that recent killings have occurred in Kaduna, Taraba and Benue states.
“These were just few instances of daily occurrences of gruesome murder of our constituents as raised by Senators.
“The IGP definitely should not have any problem with an invitation for him to tell the Senate what he and his men are doing to stop the killings as well as their challenges and needs in doing this.
“Mr. Idris should not seek to confuse issues or play on the intelligence of members of the public with his diversionary statement or claims.
“The resolution of the Senate leading to his invitation is clear and we invite our people to check. It is for the purpose of having a transparent and open hearing that we fixed his appearance for Wednesday when our plenary sitting enjoys live coverage on national television.
“In one instance in the past, Mr. Idris had gone to court in order to evade honouring the invitation of the Senate and the court headed by Justice Abba Bello Mohammed of the FCT High Court on April 10, 2018, told him in clear terms that his suit lacked merit as Sections 88 and 89 of the constitution empower the lawmakers to carry out investigations on issues of public interest.
“Any public officer who plans to place himself above an arm of government obviously is not fit to remain in office.
“Mr. Idris is only afraid of his shadows by alleging witch-hunt when he is called to account on the performance of the duties of his organisation.”
Describing the Senate declaration on the IGP as laughable, the Police said the lawmakers lack power to invite the IGP, adding that they have taken the matter personal.
The Commissioner of Police in charge of Legal, David Igbodo responded to the Senate decision when he appeared on a morning programme on television.
He said: “I don’t think the Senate of Nigeria has the constitutional power to declare the IG unfit to hold the office. On what basis are they declaring him unfit to hold office? Did the IG go to them for confirmation of appointment or what is it?
“What you call a face-off between both parties is not a face-off. The IGP was invited on the 25th to appear on the 26th. Unfortunately, the IG was with the President in Bauchi and he delegated a DIG.
“The IG has the power under the constitution and under the Police Act to delegate his line officers to represent him on official function. This is an official matter and not personal. The DIG was rejected by the senate even though the brief they requested for was given to the DIG by the IGP to brief the National Assembly.
“They wrote another letter and he delegated another DIG because he was in Kaduna. He was to brief them on Senator Dino Melaye. We should all know that Senator Melaye does not enjoy immunity.
“The National Assembly insisted again that he must come in person. At this point, a constitutional issue had arisen. The IGP decided to go to court to know whether each time the National Assembly invites him; whether he must as a matter of law appear in person or he can exercise his power of delegation. So we are in court.
“We posed five questions and seven prayers for the court’s determination and until the court decides that, the National Assembly has no power to invite the IG on that issue.”
According to Igbodo, the IGP had appeared before the Senate over 10 time since his appointment in June 2016.
He said: “I want you to know that since the IGP’s appointment in June 2016, he has appeared at the National Assembly over 10 times. So where are they getting the issue that the IGP refused to appear?”
On why the IGP has refused to appear, he said: “Because they are making it personal. The DIG in charge of operations understands what has happened between Senator Melaye and the Police.
“I want you you to understand that when the allegation was made in Lokoja, the IG through the DIG operations wrote the Senate asking him to release Senator Melaye to report to the Police in Kogi state for statement taking but they refused to release him.
“They said the senate president or Melaye were outside the country then two days after, they said they should allow him report to Abuja since he said he was not safe in Lokoja.
“If he is not safe in his state, I wonder where he would be safe. We complied and wrote a letter that he should be released to Abuja SARS but he declined. Is he above the law?
“They are making it personal. The letter they wrote to the IG, they raised two issues, inhuman treatment to Senator Melaye. What do they mean by that? They invited him and he refused.”
Sagay, Falana to Senate on IGP: you got it wrong
•I can’t wait for ‘worst Senate’ to go, says PACAC chief •Falana sympathises with senators
TO two senior advocates Prof Itse Sagay and Femi Falana, the Senate was off target in passing a vote of no confidence on Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Idris over his refusal to appear before the National Assembly.
Sagay, who is the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) and Falana, an activist, said the senators went to the extreme by their painting the police chief as an enemy of democracy who is unsuitable for public office in Nigeria and abroad.
Faulting the senators’ insistence on the Idris’ personal appearance before them, Sagay wondered what the Red Chamber was out to achieve by chasing the shadow.
The SAN said he could not wait for the Eighth Senate, which he described as the worst since 1999, to go next year. It smacks of personal vendetta for the lawmakers to reject the IGP’s representatives.
Sagay said he was not a fan of the current Senate, which he accused of abdicating its responsibilities by not passing the 2018 budget almost halfway into the year.
According to him, the Senate lacks the moral justification to declare the IGP as unfit to hold public office.
His words: “You know I’ve never been impressed by this Senate. It’s probably the worst we’ve ever had since the return to civilian rule. They are more concerned about exercising vain authority and power than in actually doing anything substantive for the country.
“These are people – the whole Senate – who would adjourn sitting and go to the Code of Conduct Tribunal in solidarity with their President. For everyday they go, the work of legislation is suspended. And they owe a duty to this country to make the laws for the order, peace and good government of Nigeria.
“Each time they abandon their legislative duties, they’re in fact committing a breach of their obligation, apart from the fact that doing that sort of thing is infantile.
“As if that was not enough, the whole Senate packed themselves again to visit Dino Melaye in the hospital. How rational is that? Why can’t they send a delegation of two or three people who would report back?
“So, it’s like a showoff of power and intimidation. I don’t think it’s really worthy of them to behave like that.”
Asked if the IGP should not have responded to the Senate’s invitations, Sagay said: “What I can deduce from the Police response is that the IGP has been honouring the Senate’s invitations.
“You know the frequency and flippancy with which this Senate invites people. They can invite you today and next week they invite you again. And these (those invited) are very busy people.
“They (Senate) don’t care. They just want their vanity to be assuaged, for people to know they have power and are big and that someone is disobeying their authority.
“The IGP sent a very highly-placed representative. If the Senate really wanted information, why didn’t they get it from IGP’s deputy rather than insisting that the IGP himself must come? It suggests they’re turning the whole thing into some form of personal vendetta.
“As I said, I’m not impressed with this Senate because as we’re speaking now, we’re going to half of this year and they have refused to pass the budget.
“Is that a Senate that should be calling anybody unfit for anything? Are they doing their job? Budget passing is the most important job of the legislature. They’ve not done it six months into the year.
“They were angry with the executive for not sacking Ibrahim Magu. How did they respond? They refused to confirm any nominee, regardless of how urgent and important the assignment is for this nation. Honestly we’re just praying for 2019 to come so this Senate can go.”
Falana said the Senate lacks the power to summon the IGP, urging the upper legislative chamber to “accept his sympathy”.
The human rights lawyer said the senate “did not get3 it right” by tagging Ibrahim Idris, inspector-general of police (IGP), “an enemy of democracy”.
Speaking on a3 Channels TV programme on Thursday, Falana said the senate made a mistake by bringing Melaye’s case into the picture.
He said even with the killings, IGP is not the right person to summon, rather, the minister of interior and the attorney-general of the federation.
Falana said: “By virtue of Section 67 (2) of the constitution, either chamber can summon a minister when the affairs of his or her ministry are under consideration.
“The only other occasion a public officer can be summoned by the national assembly is when proceedings are ongoing to expose corruption and when a law is being debated either with a view to amending it or to have a new law entirely.
“But there is no such powers given to the national assembly by the constitution to summon everybody.”
Asked by the programme’s anchor if the senate has the power to summon the President, Falana replied: “No. Section 67 (1) has given the president the discretion to address the national assembly either jointly or separately, on any matter of national importance. The president or the governor of a state cannot be summoned; that is the constitution.
“The national assembly has my sympathy, but what can be done? The constitutional review is ongoing. You can deal with this lacuna, or the gaps you have identified.
“But don’t go outside the limit of your powers. When you do that, you ridicule the constitution. And that is what is going on.”
He added that though he condemned the arraignment of Melaye while on a stretcher, he had told the lawmakers to not “individualise problems of police brutality.
“When you do that, you lose public support. It is the height of hypocrisy to say because the police has brutalised our member, the IGP must come. What of thousands of Nigerians that are brutalised daily?
“Don’t single out the harassment of your member to summon the IGP. That is where they lost it. They shouldn’t have mixed Melaye’s case with the killings.
“As far as the constitution is concerned, the person to summon is the minister of interior and the attorney-general, and they have the powers to do that. The minister can be summoned but there is no provision for summoning the IG or the customs boss to appear in one uniform or the other, it is not there.”