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Obasanjo faults Arase’s appointment as PSC chairman

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has faulted President Muhammadu Buhari for appointing a former Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, as chairman of the Police Service Commission.

Obasanjo made the revelation on Thursday while delivering his remarks at the public presentation of the book, ‘Policing The Nigeria Police,’ written by the first chairperson of the PSC, Simon Okeke, in Abuja.

The former president, who was the chairperson of the occasion, said only someone with full civilian background should be appointed to head the PSC and not a retired IG, adding that it would amount to asking “a thief to catch a thief”.

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Obasanjo said, “The police must be policed by a strong civilian peoples’ community, not police being policed by the police. If that is addressed, I believe we will get better police than we have today.

“This is because there are jealousies and biases within the police, and therefore when you make a retired policeman the head of the commission it is like asking a thief to catch a thief. Those jealousies and biases will come to the fore.”

He added that the mandate of the PSC is well spelt out in the Police Act of 2001 and the same Act described the functions of the IG.

Speaking on the book, he noted that it did not only chronicle the experiences of Okeke while heading the commission but highlighted the challenges as well as the root causes of the rift between the authorities of the Nigerian Police and the PSC.

According to him, the current issues of the PSC which have resulted in the recurring reluctance of past and present Inspectors general of police not to accept the oversight role of the commission are rooted in the appointment of former police personnel to head the commission.

He said, “From the book, and of course as president, I cannot say I do not know some of these Acts. The IGs tend to want to take more than their mandate allows them to take. The headship of the commission, I believe must be a civilian, not a retired police officer. A retired Police officer should be a member of the commission, not the head,” he noted.

The former president, however, noted that the PSC is saddled with enormous powers and oversight over the Nigeria Police, and there was a need to address issues affecting it.

Speaking on Nigeria’s federal structure, Obasanjo said, “I believe Nigeria by our structure of federalism should not have one and unitary police establishment. It is contrary to the idea of federalism.”

He also rejected the description of the Police as a Force, saying, “I believe the police should be a Police Service and not a Police Force.”

Obasanjo further recommended the training and retraining of police professionals while condemning the use of officers to protect independent individuals in the country, both authorised and none authorised.

“This has led to out of 380,000 officers, 180,000 are on private duties carrying out duties corruptively,” he said.

He further recommended the licensing of private security organisations to take up the duties and responsibilities for the protection of authorised and unauthorised Nigerians.

Meanwhile, he called on the president to implement state police to adequately safeguard the lives and properties of Nigerians at the state level.

He said, “People have said that state police will be abused by governors, I won’t say yes or no, but are they not being abused by the central government?

“But I believe we can have guides for state police, particularly for the communities to reduce to the bare minimum that abuse of police by the state government.”

The power tussle between the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, and the Police Service Commission has continued to deepen over issues relating to recruitment, appointment, transfer, and promotion of officers over the years.

The police boss had been having a running battle with the PSC over the recruitment of constables.

Currently, this has also affected, amongst other things, the transfer/promotion of 11 Commissioners of Police.

The commission had directed Baba to ask the officers who were due for promotion to their next rank to appear for an interview at its plenary last Friday where the transfer of Frank MBA and Idowu Owohunwa to Ogun and Lagos state commands would also be decided.

But the IG in a letter to Ogunbiyi dated January 30, 2023, had objected to the planned deployment of CPs to states and asked the commission to suspend its plenary until Arase assumes office.

Last week, he wrote to the commission to suspend the promotion interview for CPs and DCPs pending the resumption of the new PSC Chairman, Solomon Arase.

Arase, a retired IG, was appointed as the commission’s substantive chairman by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), last month.

The appointment of the former police boss has since been approved by the Senate and he is expected to be sworn in soon.

Arase will take over the leadership of the commission from the acting chairman, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court.

Ogunbiyi replaced the former chairman, Musiliu Smith, who resigned in September 2022, on the grounds of ill health.



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