Senate v. IGP Idris Kpotum: Passing the Law through a Needle’s Eye By. Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq.

My many movement and engagement all over the country these past few days in pursuit of my political ambition did not afford me the opportunity of contributing timely to the historical Senate v. IGP Idris imbroglio but for my little engagement on Twitter. However, it is never too late to espouse the rationale of my position on the issue as it continues to earn reactions nationwide.

Perception without insight or hindsight is doomed to be skewered by personal interpretations. This is, perhaps, why the Inspector of General of Police, Idris Kpotum must surround himself with better advisers, or take the law books down from their dusty perch in his expansive office and pore through them. That very action could very well help him save what little image remains of the agency under his care.

Traditional and new media are on the one hand agog with the news of the repeated refusal of IGP Idris Kpotum to honour the summons made on his person and office by the National Assembly. On the other hand is a slew of opinions and criticisms swinging between both parties and expressed by a brew of political experts, lawyers and lay persons.

I decidedly weaned my attention from opinions expressed by political pundits served without garnishing of the law for obvious reasons. Knowing how easily important matters are placed on the scale of political correctness and partisanship. I concluded not much good, in terms of unravelling the conundrum between the legislators and the nations Chief Police Officer, could be gotten from the politicking of the process.

Granted, both the Office of the Inspector General of Police and the National Assembly membership are populated by persons who all have strong political leanings. However, the matter at hand springs from an interpretation and operation of a statute and not political fidelities. So recourse must be made to, and resolution reached through the law and its proper interpretation.

For the purpose of this discourse, prefaced on statutory positions, I find the need to reproduce the provisions of sections 88 & 89 of the constitution expedient. Please find quoted below in extenso and verbatim, section 88 through 89 of the constitution-

Section 88. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, each House of the National Assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal or in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation to direct or cause to be directed the investigation into;

(a) any matter or thing with respect to which it has the power to make laws, and

(b) the conduct of affairs of any person, authority, ministry or government department charged, or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for –

(i) executing or administering laws enacted by National Assembly, and (ii) disbursing or administering amounts of money appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.

(2) The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to –

(a) make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and

(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.

89. (1) For the purposes of any investigation under section 88 of this Constitutional and subject to the provisions thereof. The Senate or the House of Representatives or a committee appointed in accordance with section 62 of this Constitution shall have power to;

(a) procure all such evidence, written or oral, direct or circumstantial, as it may think necessary or desirable, and examine all persons as witnesses whose evidence may be material or relevant to the subject matter;

(b) require such evidence to be given on oath;

(c) summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence at any place or produce any document or other things in his possession or under his control. And examine him as a witness and require him to produce any document or other things in his possession or under his control, subject to all just exceptions; and

(d) issue a warrant to compel the attendance of any person who, after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so and does not excuse such failure, refusal or neglect to the satisfaction of the House or the committee in question. And order him to pay all costs which may have been occasioned in compelling his attendance or by reason of his failure, refusal or neglect to obey the summons. Also, to impose such fine as may be prescribed for any such failure, refused or neglect; and any fine so imposed shall be recoverable in the same manner as a fine imposed by a court of law.

(2) A summons or warrant issued under this section may be served or executed by any member of the Nigeria Police Force or by any person authorised in that behalf by the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, ……
(Abridged)

From the constitutional provisions above, two things are certain.

1. The National Assembly has the right to summon individuals to appear before it and compel such an appearance in the event of its disregard.

2. There are specific matters/issues to which this power of summons applies.

In view of the Senate’s summons of IGP Idris, therefore, we must determine the following;

1. Does the IGP Idris fall within the category of persons who can be summoned or compelled to appear before the National Assembly, in this particular case the Senate?

2. Does the Summon issue on the IGP by the Senate fulfil the specific scope permitted by the constitution?

Issue One.

I have cause not to dwell on Issue One for the simple fact that s.88(1)b & s.89(a)(c)(d) says ANY PERSON.

While not dwelling on Issue One, may I quickly point out that this should also be construed to mean that any other Act or practice which recognizes representative appearance will by the operation of s.1(3) of the constitution and the foregoing sections in Paragraph One above being a nullity? Meaning, where the National Assembly specifically asks for a particular person within a ministry or agency or parastatal, that such a person CANNOT appear in proxy through a representative.

A summon can thus be made to an individual or an institution, in which case substituted representation is void. See s. 88(1)b.

Issue Two.

Gleaned from the constitution, the National Assembly only have powers to invite persons to appear before it was;

a. It’s a matter that concerns the law; either its making or its execution by whoever is charged with executing it.

b. It’s for the purpose of exposing abuse or corruption in the exercise of powers conferred by it on persons or institutions in the administration of the law.

c. It is for the purpose of exercising an oversight function on public funds and its appropriation or use by persons or institutions.

d. Any other matter within its legislative competence.

The Senate’s summon of IGP Idris is broadly based on the following two issues-

1. To question the Police Force’s handling of the arrest and detention of Senator Dino Melaye.

2. To inquire into the incessant killings in Benue state and what the Police Force plan to do in stopping the killings.

Upon first glance into the issues raised by the Senate in its summon. A lay person may be forgiven for failing to make a connection between them and the permissible scope of the Senate’s right of summons under the law. The connection is in fact just beneath the surface.

The Nigeria Police Force is a creation of the law under Chapter 6, Part 3, specifically section 214 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. All powers and functions exercised by the police which includes but is not restricted to preventing crime, protecting lives, effecting arrests and legal detentions, including the guidance and rules for the exercise of this powers are granted it through Acts enacted by the legislative arm of government, to wit, the National Assembly.

In fact, the Nigeria Police Code of Conduct in its preamble and article 5 demands that its officers conduct themselves within the permissions of the constitution and other enabling Acts. The exercise of their discretion and authority is also to be premised on what the law permits and not abused.

Note that the prevailing sections of the constitution on summons grants a query by the National Assembly of persons charged with the administration of any laws made by it or any issues within their legislative competence. To administer means to be in charge of the operation and execution of a thing. To be in charge, one must be enabled or vested with requisite authority and parameters for its exercise. All of which the National Assembly have dined and continue to go through the constitution and other Acts.

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By inviting the IGP on the Dino issue, the Senate was simply exercising its rights to question the police’s exercise of its right of arrest and detention granted it by the National Assembly through the Police Act and other enabling instruments, an exercise purely within the purview of s.88 & 89. Nothing extraneous can be, nor should be imputed to the contrary as that is an exercise in nullity.

In the same vein, being the agency saddled by law with preventing and controlling crimes. Also, the preservation of lives and properties. It is within the right of the Senate’s constitutional oversight duty to inquire into the progress made in that regard for the purpose of taking note of restrictive areas or powers needed to be expanded or amended to better facilitate an effective police force. Again, a simple issue that must not suffer pseudo-legal manipulations for political purpose.

(Each and every argument made on the contrary especially on decided cases must be distinguished from the facts of this present summon.)

The question for IGP Idris, therefore, is if or not he considers his office and the authority he exercises a creation of the law through the instrumentally of the legislative arm of government or not. It is conceded that such summons can only ultimately end with recommendations. As the Senate, not being a court of law can do no further than that.

A Secondary Perspective.

The view taken of the Senate’s summon of the IGP Idris has suffered the label of politics. Understandably, it is not a conclusion or label that is light in substance given the Nigerian political peculiarity. However, persons don’t make institutions, same as no one is above the law. The dispensation of serving members of the Senate will come and go. However, the Red Chamber will survive and exist long after them. IGP Idris will serve out his appointment but the office of the IGP will continue to exist. What we have before us, therefore, is an opportunity to set the right precedent for the future by protecting our institutions and our evolving democracy.

Let’s look at things even slightly differently. If the IGP is fully convinced that his actions as the nation’s Chief Law Officer have so far been within the permissible limits of the law, then he must fear no reproach or query. At the very least, he has before him an opportunity to turn the narrative on the Senate. Continuing down this path of gross disregard for a simple democratic process. Conversely, suggests that he acknowledges mistakes in his actions so far and dreads facing an interrogation of his methods.

I always say the future will call on everyone for roles played or abdicated in preserving our nascent democracy. IGP Idris must do well not to find himself further deep in the bad-book of our nation. The very many solid allegations against him and his ineptitude in handling the security issues plaguing the country round about would in saner climes be all the argument needed to tame his arrogance and posturing.

It is in this same year, not long ago, that same IGP blatantly disobeyed a direct order from Mr President in Benue state. No actions or sanctions have been meted to him which begs the question, who does the IGP answer to? Certainly not to Mr President nor the Senate. In the latter case, we must all put our foot down and say enough is enough.

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I most certainly do not hold a brief for the Senate as I personally feel there are certain areas needed to be improved on by members of the Red Chamber. However, I have chosen to view the Senate as a system and an arm that presents the people’s physical representation in government. An affront to it is an affront to our nascent democracy.

Where the IGP Idris feels an exception at law, he must make recourse to the courts for interpretation. He cannot be the executor and adjudicator in his own case. No man’s ego must be allowed to ridicule our constitution. We are too far gone in our democratic exercise to temper such an absurdity. A word should be enough.

 

WRITER’S BIO

Pelumi Olajengbesi Esq. is the Principal Partner of Pelumi Olajengbesi & Co. Law Corridor and the National Secretary of The Nigeria Coalition of Public Interests Lawyers.

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1 Comment

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