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…To order government agencies to work within legal boundaries

Juliana Francis

The Executive Director of the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Mr Okechukwu Nwanguma, has expressed his opinion over the show of shame playing out between the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police Force, calling on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to step into the matter.

This was even as he praised the PSC Police recruitment process under the chairmanship of Dr Solomon Arase, stressing that the steps taken by Arase to carry many sectors along during the recruitment process, showed “transparency of the process of the recent recruitment and puts it ahead of others it. The process put in place by the PSC under Arase, including setting up a multistakeholder recruitment board that had representatives of the police and other government agencies, was designed to close the gap that allowed irregularities and corruption.”

In a press statement, the RULAAC boss said that it has become important for Tinubu to step into the ongoing media war between PSC and NPF, and ensure all government agencies work within the legal permit of their job description.

His words: “The president should step in decisively and ensure that agencies of government restrict themselves and operate within their statutory and legal boundaries and mandate.”

Nwanguma decided to react to the ongoing feud following a statement from the NPF, which claimed that the recent Police recruitment process by PSC under the chairmanship Dr Solomon Arase was marred with irregularities and alleged corruption.

Nwanguma recalled that former President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had on January 24, 2023, appointed Solomon Arase as the new chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC) following the resignation of its former chairman, Musiliu Smith, who is also a former Inspector-General of Police (IGP).

He also remembered that when Arase assumed duty as Chairman of PSC,  he immediately commenced rounds of consultations with various stakeholders, including the media, civil society, and NPF management.

He said: “One of his oft-repeated commitments was to take measures to end the recurrent rift between the PSC and the NPF over police recruitment. He also solicited the support of the media to foster unity between the PSC and the NPF.

“At every forum, he reiterated his commitment and determination to ensure cordiality in the oversight relationship between the commission and the Nigeria Police Force.  Addressing journalists at a media parley in his office in the week he assumed office, Arase requested stronger cooperation between the media and the police force to change the public’s negative narratives about the police in the country.

 

“Arase had said, ‘I did mention yesterday that there is going to be some paradigm shift in our relationship and oversight function with the Nigeria Police Force. Most of the things we have had in recent times are disquiet about the relationship when it comes to who has the responsibility to do one thing or the other.

“It was in keeping with that commitment that he held several engagements with the IGP to reach understanding and ensure cooperation.  In carrying out the recent recruitment exercise, the PSC Chairman set up a recruitment board comprised of representatives of the PSC,  NPF,  Ministry of Police Affairs (MOPA), and Federal Character Commission among others. This was to ensure inclusiveness and transparency of the process.

“To ensure the integrity and accountability of the process, the PSC engaged the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to handle the computer-based test (CBD) for the candidates who had been shortlisted following the conclusion of the application stages.

“Those of us in the civil society working on police reform issues and engaging with both the NPF and the PSC daily know that the transparency of the process of the recent recruitment puts it ahead of others. Previous recruitment exercises, as earlier said, were characterized by scandalous irregularities and corruption. The process was compromised, and the recruitment guidelines were circumvented, allowing misfits and criminals to gain entry into the Nigeria Police.”

According to the activist, there was no complaint or objection by any of the institutions represented in the recruitment board until the result was released by the PSC when suddenly the NPF/IGP came up with surprising allegations of ‘irregularities’ and ‘alleged corruption’.

Nwanguma asked: “Why, is it only the police of all agencies on the board complaining? It is, however, reassuring to see that the PSC has accepted the NPF’s call for a review and even went ahead to call for a forensic audit of the now disputed process.”

He stated that it was also interesting to see that the NPF is complaining about corruption, adding: “We are aware that previous recruitments conducted by the NPF revealed massive irregularities including smuggling in of names of candidates who never applied or didn’t qualify, manipulation and imbalance in geopolitical representation (in line with federal character) which gave some states, regions undue advantage owing to inflated quota while short-changing other states, regions which got less quota of recruits than they were entitled to.

“We are also aware that following the discredited recruitment exercises of 2019, 2020 and 2021, the PSC had, in the discharge of its oversight powers, issued queries to the NPF regarding specific cases of police officers allegedly involved in recruitment fraud and corruption The same NPF has not, to date, responded to those queries.”

Nwanguma noted that it must be pointed out that although recruitment was the statutory and constitutional mandate of the PSC, the Commission has been open and magnanimous enough to carry the police and other stakeholders along in the process.

“This is in its bid to ensure an inclusive, participatory, transparent, efficient, and merit-driven process devoid of manipulation and rancour. Yet, the police hierarchy continues with its scheme to maintain undue control of the process to achieve some only-god-knows-what motives.  Yet, the outcomes in the past have been discreditable. Nigerians and the Nigeria Police deserve transparent, merit-driven, and credible recruitment processes as opposed to the compromised process that allows misfits and criminals to gain entry into the Nigeria Police,” said Nwanguma

 

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