Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Thursday in Abuja frowned at the appointment of former Inspectors-General of Police as chairmen of the Police Service Commission (PSC).
President Muhammadu Buhari appointed former Inspector-General of Police, Mr Musiliu Smith as chairman of the PSC in 2018. He resigned in 2022 and retired Justice Clara Ogunbiyi took over as acting chairman.
In January 2023, President Buhari appointed another retired Inspector-General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase as substantive chairman of the PSC
Obasanjo expressed his misgivings when he spoke at the public presentation of a book: “Policing the Nigeria Police’’ authored by Chief Simon Okeke, a former chairman of the PSC.
He said: “when you make a retired police officer the head of the Police Service Commission, it is like asking a thief to catch a thief.’’
He said civilians should be appointed as chairmen and retired police officers appointed as members of the PSC to ensure effective and efficient service delivery.
The former president noted that the author believed that Nigeria, a federation should not have unitary police establishment as people had argued that state police would be abused by governors.
“I won’t say yes or no, but can they not be abused by the Federal Government?
“For a federation, it is contrary to the ideal of the country because unitary policing system is not close enough to the community where the police are supposed to be.
“The author argued whether the name should truly be the Nigeria Police Force or a Police Service. I believe the police should be a Police Service not a Police Force,” Obasanjo said.
He said the author brought up strong argument in support of state police as well as training and retraining of police officers, which he agreed with.
Obasanjo noted also that the author argued strongly against authorised and unauthorised deployment of police personnel to private guard duties leading to having many police officers in the security service of few individuals.
Out of 380,000 police personnel at a time, 180,000 were on private duties carrying out duties corruptively, the author wrote.
In his remarks, Mr Ray Ekpu, Publisher of the book recalled that the PSC was first created by the Independence Constitution of 1960.
He said it remained sane until the appointment of Inspectors-General of Police was transferred to the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
“Under the military PSC was chaired by the various Chiefs of Staffs until it was abolished by Decree 5 of Feb. 6, 1989 backdated to Aug. 27, 1985.
“For the period that there was no PSC, the Inspectors-General of Police worked under the supervision of either the Heads of State or Chiefs of staff, Supreme Headquarters.
“During that period, it was the Inspectors-General of Police that handled the recruitment, appointment and discipline of police officers,” he said.
Ekpu said the lacuna contributed to the present conflicts between the Inspectors-General of Police and the PSC as the former found it difficult to surrender the powers they formerly enjoyed to an oversight agency, the PSC.