A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Friday ruled that the President Muhammadu Buhari has power to extend the tenure of a retiring Inspector General of Police (IGP) pending the completion of the process for the appointment of a substantive successor.
The Federal High Court in Abuja held that President Buhari did not act in violation of the law, when he extended the tenure of former Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Adamu by three months.
The court, in a judgment that was delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, held that no section of either the 1999 Constitution, as amended, or the Police Act, forbade the President from retaining a retiring IGP in office “as a stop gap measure”, pending the completion of the process for the appointment of a substantive successor.
Justice Mohammed noted that both Constitution and the Police Act were silent on the issue of whether or not the President could extend the tenure of a retired IGP.
He held that since the Constitution and the Police Act empowered the President to appoint an IGP, by implication, he could also extend the tenure of such an appointee, pending the conclusion of required consultation with the Police Council and other processes required for the appointment of a substantive replacement.
Consequently, the court dismissed a suit an Abuja based legal practitioner, Mr. Maxwell Opara filed to challenge the legality of the three-month tenure extension President Buhari handed to the former IGP, Adamu.
Though the court held that the Plaintiff, being a Nigerian citizen, had sufficient locus-standi to institute the action, it however held that he “abysmally failed” to establish the case.
The Plaintiff had in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/106/2021, which he filed through his lawyer, Mr. Ugochukwu Ezekiel, urged the court to declare that the extension of Adamu’s tenure as IGP, after he had retired from the Police Force, was illegal and unconstitutional.
The Plaintiff told the court that though the former IGP attained the maximum 35 years in service on February 1, he got a three-month extension of his tenure by President Buhari, on February 3.
He argued that by virtue of section 215 of the Nigerian Constitution and section 7 of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, Mr Adamu could not validly continue to function as the IGP having retired as a member of the Nigeria Police Force as from midnight of February 1, 2021.
The plaintiff, among other things, prayed the court to restrain Adamu from exercising any form of command or control over the Nigeria Police Force.
He equally sought an order of court mandating President Buhari and the Police Council to immediately appoint a new IGP, inline with the provisions of section 7 of the Nigeria Police Act.
More so, the Plaintiff, asked for, a declaration that by the combined effect of the provisions of section 215 and 216 of the 1999 constitution and section 7 of the Nigeria Police Act, 2020, the 2nd Defendant (Adamu), cannot lawfully continue to function as the Inspector-General of Police not being a serving member of the Nigeria Police Force as from midnight of February 1, 2021, and therefore all actions taking thereafter are illegal, null and void and constitute a breach of the constitution and the Police Act”.
As well as, “Declaration that the failure of the 1st (Buhari) and the 4th (Police Council) Defendants to appoint an Inspector-General of Police as at February 1, 2021, constitutes an abdication of their duties under section 215 of the 1999 constitution and section 7 of the Police Act”.
Cited as Defendants in the suit were President Buhari, IGP Adamu, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the Nigeria Police Council.
Meanwhile, all the Defendants, urged the court to dismiss the suit.
Mr. E. V. Elodimuo who represented President Buhari, the AGF and the Nigeria Police Council, argued that the decision to retain Adamu as the IGP was not in breach of either the 1999 Constitution, as amended, or the Police Act.
He urged the court to uphold the preliminary objection the 1st, 3rd and 4th Defendants raised against the suit.
Specifically, President Buhari, who is the 1st Defendant, told the court that he retained Adamu in office as the IGP, in exercise of the executive power that was conferred on him by the Constitution.
He said the Constitution empowered him to appoint a serving Police officer as the IGP, in consultation with Police Council, stressing that neither the Council nor the Police Service Commission disclosed that Adamu was no longer a serving police officer.
In a five-paragraphed counter-affidavit he jointly filed with the AGF, President Buhari, described the case of the Plaitiff as “frivolous, unmeritorious and undeserving of the court’s attention”.
He therefore urged the court to dismiss it “with heavy cost”.
Likewise, Adamu’s lawyer, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, while urging the court to dismiss the suit, argued that going by section 136 of the Nigerian Police Act, his client, could remain in office as the IGP till 2024.
Insisting that tenure of his client never elapsed, Adamu’s lawyer, argued that the new Nigeria Police Act gave him a four-year tenure which would only expire in either 2023 or 2024.
According to him, Adamu’s tenure would elapse in 2023 if counted from 2019 when he was appointed as the IGP, or 2024, if counted from 2020 when the new Nigeria Police Act came into force.
Meantime, shortly after judgement was reserved in the matter, President Buhari, on April 6, removed Adamu as the IGP, about 28 days to the end of his extended tenure.