At least 82 civil society organizations (CSOs) have applauded the constitution of the Board of Trustees for the Nigeria Police Trust Fund by President Buhari, which was announced on May 6, 2020, by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.

According to the groups, they welcomed President Buhari’s eventual composition of the Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, ‘pursuant to the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Establishment Act 2019’.

The groups stated: “The President signed the Nigeria Police Trust Fund-Establishment-Bill into law on 24 June 2019, and the Board needed to have been constituted for the fund to take off with the federal government’s initial grant. The Police Trust Fund Act aims to provide a legal framework for the management and control of the Police Trust Fund. The Trust Fund covers all personnel of the Nigeria Police Force including its auxiliary staff in Nigeria and abroad and the Trust Fund is to operate for a period of six years from the commencement of the Act, after which it would cease to exist unless extended for any further period by an Act of the National Assembly.”

The groups noted that the constitution of the Board was unduly delayed after the trust fund was passed into law in 2019 – nearly a year ago – to address the urgent need for alternative funding sources for the Nigeria Police to address the funding and equipment deficits and enhance the operational capability, training, welfare and morale of its workforce.

“By the undue delay in constituting the board, nearly one year of the Trust Fund’s six years tenure is already lost. Section 5 of the Act outlines the purposes of the Trust Fund which includes training, overall improvement of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force in the discharge of their duties, purchase of equipment, types of machinery and books and the construction of police stations and living facilities for the Nigeria Police Force. Apart from the delay in constituting the Board of Trustees and providing the initial take-off grant by the federal government to enable the fund to take off, we are concerned by a number of other issues arising from the constitution of the Board and the composition of its members,” said the groups.

One of the issues mentioned was the Breach of the Federal Character Principle, which was explained thus: “The appointment of retired Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, as Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, and the appointment of Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto as the Executive Secretary of the Board breach the Federal Character Principle and Law. They both come from the same geopolitical zone.  Section 14(3) of the Constitution provides that, ‘the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”

Also, they also mentioned issues surrounding the Appointment of a former Inspector General of Police (IGP) to Chair the Board of Trustees.

Their words: “The Penchant by successive presidents to appoint retired Inspectors General of Police to head institutions or mechanisms simply because they have to do with the police has proved to be a misguided and costly mistake. Is being a former IGP the only criteria or qualification for appointment as Chairman of the Trust Fund? How well has the Police Service Commission fared under successive retired IGPs as Chairman? A Trust Fund needs to be chaired by an experienced private sector administrator with integrity and expertise in financial management. It also needs to be insulated from politics and bureaucracy. The Lagos State Security Trust Fund owes its success to this fact and the inbuilt system of transparency and Accountability in the management and control of donated funds. Moreover, the Act does not specifically indicate in the composition of the Board of Trustees in Section 7, who shall be chairman.”

There were also the issues of Non-consultation with key stakeholders and critical interests in the appointments, which stressed thus: “There is no evidence of consultation by the President before appointing people purported to represent various interest groups and key stakeholders. An example is the appointment of one Dr. Michael Bamidele Adebiyi to represent Civil Society. This appointee, his organisation, work and experience are unknown in the civil society community in Nigeria, especially among groups working on police and criminal justice reform issues. We, therefore, wonder who in civil society was consulted before he was appointed.”

The group members argued that CSOs played a prominent role in the process leading to the passage of the Police Trust Fund Bill into law, thus, the law’s provision for the inclusion of a civil society representative, among other key stakeholders, in the Board of Trustees. “A representative of any interest group or key stakeholder such as civil society must have the endorsement and support of that interest group. Such a person should and can only be accountable to the group s\he represents if s/he has their mandate. This cannot be the case with the President’s appointee who was not nominated and therefore cannot be said to represent civil society on the Board. The appointment of members of a Trust Fund should be preceded by wide consultations. In fact, we believe that the Police Council ought to have been involved in the process considering that State Governors who are critical stakeholders bear the greater burden of funding the Police far more than the Federal Government whose responsibility it is.”
Again, the Need for Professional Management of the Police Trust Fund was noted as part of the issues arising from the constitution of the Board and the composition of its members. They said: “The appointment and composition of the Trustees of the Police Trust Fund should be beyond primordial considerations. It must inspire trust in the police, potential donors and the general public. If it does not, then the Trust Fund is dead on arrival. The Trust Fund is essentially established to serve the interest of every police officer, enhance police operations and by extension promote the safety and security needs of the Nigerian populace who feel the impact of a failed system. Therefore, the Police Trust Fund will be best overseen by credible members of the private sector who are well-known for their professionalism and efficiency. This is the only way our officers will trust the Board and have faith in the ability of its members to deliver on the mandate of the board. In relation to this is an observed inconsistency in the Act which may render it inoperable if legally challenged.  Section 7 of the Act lists eight members to constitute the Board, whereas, Paragraph 2 of the Schedule to the Act provides that the quorum for the Board shall be the Chairman and ten other members, three of whom shall be from the private sector. It is unclear who the three private sector members being referred to are and why the required quorum is more than the total membership of the board.”

The groups, therefore, urged President Buhari to review the composition of the Trust Fund to ensure that it complies with the requirements of the law, mainly, the Federal Character Principle, ensure adequate and wide consultations with critical stakeholders and interest groups to ensure that those who are appointed to represent them in the Board enjoy legitimacy, credibility and trust, ensure that the person to chair the Board is selected based on clear criteria which should include, among others, that the person comes from the private sector, has relevant experience, is suitable and competent in public management and has integrity and capable of inspiring trust and explain the inconsistency in references to board membership in the Act and consider an amendment to the Act to address the concerns raised.”

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