As the legal battle for the control of the recruitment of 10,000 constables between the Nigeria Police Force and the Police Service Commission intensifies, investigations by Saturday PUNCH have revealed that the NPF obtained a presidential approval to spend N16.8bn on the exercise.
Documents obtained by this paper revealed that the NPF obtained the approval in October 2018.
Insights into how the NPF obtained the presidential approval for the recruitment of the 10,000 constables are contained in the documents.
The legal tussle between the NPF and the PSC got to its peak on November 4 when Justice Inyang Ekwo, who heard the case at the Federal High Court in Abuja, reaffirmed an order for the parties to the suit to maintain the status quo.
Saturday PUNCH learnt on Friday that as part of the steps taken by the NPF to obtain the presidential approval to conduct the exercise, the immediate-past Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, presented a budget proposal of N16.8bn to President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, for the recruitment of 15,000 constables.
Kyari gave approval for the recruitment but reduced the number of constables to be recruited to 10,000. The Chief of Staff’s correspondence conveying the approval to the then-IG was seen by one of our correspondents.
Kyari directed Idris to submit the budget to then-Minister of Budget and National Planning for a comprehensive review.
He also directed that after the minister’s review, the budget should be included in the 2019 Appropriation Bill.
The documents containing these and obtained by one of our correspondents on Friday were filed as exhibits in a suit instituted before the Federal High Court in Abuja in September over the ongoing supremacy battle between the PSC and the NPF.
The suit was instituted by the PSC to pray for a declaration that it was the body with exclusive power to conduct the recruitment.
The NPF, the incumbent IG, Mohammed Adamu, and the Minister of Police Affairs, who were originally joined as respondents to the suit, had opposed the suit, contending that while the PSC had the power to recruit constables, it lacked the power to recruit them.
Among the nine documents filed by the three respondents as exhibits on which they built their defence are the ex-IG’s proposal for the recruitment of the constables sent to the Presidency in September 2018 and the correspondence by Kyari in reply to Idris conveying presidential approval for the recruitment.
Banking on the approval which the ex-IG obtained from Kyari, the respondents stated in their counter-affidavit opposing the PSC’s suit, “It is also known as a fact that the plaintiff (PSC) has never submitted any budget for the purpose of the recruitment of 10,000 police officers of lower cadre to the Minister of Budget and National Planning for review and no such budget from the plaintiff is contained in the 2019 budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
One of the documents, marked Exhibit NPF3, was a September 21, 2018 letter by Idris, proposing to President Buhari, through the Chief of Staff, “for the recruitment of 15,000 police officers of the lower cadre.”
Contained in the letter marked CE:2100/IGP.SEC/ABJ/VOL.17/203 is the “summary of cost implication” which listed 17 items with their proposed costs for the recruitment.
The items in the proposal for which funding was required were They also included maintenance of facilities at police training institutions (N288.29975m); feeding of trainees (N8.2125bn); allowances and salaries of trainees (N1.623495bn); clothing & accoutrement (uniforms & kits) (N1.34425bn); teaching and technical aids (N424.4665m); indoor shooting range (modern intelligent automated hybrid range – PCI, PCK, PCM & PCO) (N1.03523bn) and teaching allowances for training/support staff (N283.4196m).
The rest are monitoring and evaluation of training, combat operations & citizenship/leadership course (N1.165696bn); gas cooker and tank (including refilling) for police training institutions (N154.175m); Federal Character Commission (DTA) (N108.1m); fumigation of 19 police training institutions (N258m) and clinic & medical expenses for trainees (N75m).
The total cost implication was put at N16,839,645,648.25.
A September 26, 2018 letter signed by Kyari exhibited as the respondents’ Exhibit NPF4 asked the-then IGP to provide additional information.
The letter with reference number SH/COS/26/5/A/2408 requested Idris to provide, “Manpower Projection Plan for the Nigeria Police Force, showing how the size of the force will evolve from 2019 to 2023 if no further recruitment is conducted.”
Kyari also asked Idris to provide details of the “cost implication of the recruitment including direct personnel and pension costs” but asked him not to bother including the “cost of recruitment which has already been provided.”
He gave the ex-IG a deadline of October 10, 2018 to provide the information “to enable the President’s consideration and further directives.”
Details of the response to Idris was not filed as an exhibit in the suit, but an October 15, 2018 letter by Kyari conveying the approval was filed as Exhibit NPF5.
In the letter with reference number SH/COS/26/5/2410, Kyari gave approval for “the recruitment of 10,000 police officers of lower cadre in 2019.”
The letter also “directed the submission of a budget for the recruitment to the Minister of Budget and National Planning for a comprehensive review.”
Lastly, the letter, a copy of which was sent to the minster, “directed the HMBNP to include the recruitment budget after concluding the review in the 2019 Appropriation Bill.”
There is no exhibit in the suit showing how much was eventually approved for the exercise in the 2019 budget passed and assented to by the President.
The respondents are also relying on a September 16, 2019 letter by the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), giving his legal opinion to President Buhari that it is the IG and the Police Council that had the power to “recruit” the constables, while the PSC only has the power to appoint them.
During the course of the trial, the NPF, the IG and the Minister of Police Affairs, had through their counsel, Alex Izinyon (SAN), sought and obtained the court order to have the AGF joined as the fourth respondent to the suit.
The plaintiff had subsequently filed an amended originating summons to reflect the full list of the four respondents to the suit.
In its suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1124/2019, the PSC asked the court to declare that “it is the sole statutory body exclusively empowered and responsible for the appointment, promotion, dismissal and exercise of disciplinary control over persons holding or aspiring to hold offices in the Nigeria Police Force except the Inspector-General of Police.”
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), relied on the combined provisions of sections 153(1)(m), 153(2) and 215(1)(b) of the Constitution; Paragraph 30, Part I of the Third Schedule to the Constitution as well as sections 6 and 24 of the PSC (Establishment) Act, in praying for among others, “an order of perpetual injunction” restraining the three defendants from further interfering with its powers to carry out the exercise.
The plaintiff stated in its supporting affidavit that “defendants in interfering with and usurping the functions and powers of the plaintiff have been generating needless tension in the nation resulting in calls form several well-meaning Nigerians for a resolution of the imbroglio.”
On November 4, 2019, Justice Ekwo, who heard the case at the Federal High Court in Abuja, reaffirmed an order for the parties to the suit to maintain the status quo.
But Izinyon protested, saying the recruitment had been concluded, contending that the status quo which the court ordered to be maintained was unclear.
That same day, Izinyon filed the five grounds notice of appeal before the Court of Appeal in Abuja to challenge the order.
Among other grounds of appeal, Adamu and the NPF contended that Justice Ekwo erred in law to have issued the order when the notice of preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court was pending before the court had not been heard and determined.
They contended that preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit on October 29, 2019 and the judge was duly informed about it on November 4, when the suit came up for hearing.
IG selects Justice Abang to preside over legal tussle
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu, has requested the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, to assign the suit challenging his takeover of the recruitment of 10,000 constables by the PSC to Justice Okon Abang.
The PSC had sued the IG following the decision of the police authorities to unilaterally conclude the recruitment process.
The commission filed an originating summons seeking a restraining order stopping the IG from taking any further action on the recruitment, a prayer which was granted by the court.
The commission is also asking the court for the interpretation of its mandate as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution.
But in a curious move, the IG in a letter to the CJ dated October 7, 2019 asked for the matter, which is being handled by Justice Ekwo of FHC 5, Abuja, to be transferred to Justice Abang for adjudication.
The letter with reference CB: 3960/X/LEG/FHQ/ABJ/VOL.235/290 was signed by Commissioner of Police, Legal/Prosecution Section, Force headquarters, Abuja, DCP Augustine Sanomi.
It read, “I am directed to present the request of the Inspector-General of Police to my lord, the Honourable Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
“My lord, this application is made sequel to the fact that His lordship, Justice Okon Abang, is handling a similar suit bordering on the facts and reliefs, hence it is my considered opinion that given the detailed knowledge the Hon Judge has on this suit, it will not be out of place for this suit to be transferred to his court for adjudication.
“It is in view of the above that I humbly make this application with hope that it will be given keen consideration and kind approval. I once again extend the esteemed regards and assurances of the Inspector-General of Police to my lord.”
However, Saturday PUNCH learnt from police sources that there was no other case involving the commission and the police before Abang.
Further findings revealed that Justice Tsoho had requested the commission to respond to the police’s request for Justice Abang to preside over the case, but the agency, it was learnt, did not accede to the IG’s wish.
The CJ in a letter to the commission dated October 18 signed by his Special Assistant, Ambrose Unaeze, directed the commission to react to the police’s request.
“The commission simply said it was not aware of a similar case being handled by Justice Abang as claimed by the IG; It insisted that Justice Ekwo should continue to preside over the matter,” a source said.
The Force spokesperson, DCP Frank Mba, could not be reached for comment on the decision of the police leadership to move the ongoing suit to Abang’s court, as he failed to respond to calls on Friday.