NOPRIN Conde Minister of Police Affairs’ Reckless and Comptemtuos Utterance on Ribadu's Dismissal!

The Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN) condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the shocking statement credited to the newly appointed Minister of Police Affairs, Dr. Ibrahim Lame on Monday January 12, 2009 that ‘The Federal Government cannot afford to allow anybody, no matter how highly placed, to disrupt the disciplinary system in the force and to disturb the police hierarchy’. The Case will not be revisited.’ He argued that ‘Ribadu’s case is a disciplinary issue that has been properly tackled by the police authorities’; that ‘the Federal Government is in total support of the decision taken’ and ‘has closed Ribadu’s case.’

NOPRIN is concerned that the Minister has set the wrong tone as head of a Ministry established to oversee the operations and conduct of the NPF. The Minister has by his unguarded utterances, implicitly arrogated to himself the powers to deny Ribadu the right to seek judicial remedy for his dismissal by the Police Service Commission (PSC), and to preclude any other authority in Nigeria, including the judiciary, from inquiring into the legality of the process that led to his dismissal for which he has gone to court to seek remedy.
NOPRIN considers the Minister’s posture as antidemocratic and contemptuous of the rule of law. The Minister is simply saying that even if the law court gives a judgment ordering the reversal of Ribadu’s dismissal, the Police, and indeed, the Federal Government, will flagrantly and contemptuously disregard such an order.
NOPRIN calls on President Yar’Adua to call his Minister to order, and prevail on him to allow the judiciary to determine Ribadu’s case, already pending before it. The Federal Government or any of its agencies has no choice but to comply with or at worst, appeal the decision of the High Court regarding Ribadu suit, if it turns out to be unfavourable.
It is NOPRIN’s view that the Minister of Police Affairs is in no position to seal Ribadu’s fate on the issue of his dismissal by the PSC. The process leading to Ribadu’s dismissal should be inquired into: whether it followed due process and the principles of fair trial; whether the IGP as the accuser, ought to have been the one to also set up the ‘Police Disciplinary Committee’ that tried and found Ribadu guilty; whether the IGP acted within his powers in setting up the ‘Police Disciplinary Committee; whether the IGP has the powers under the Police Act or the 1999 Constitution to discipline an officer of Ribadu’s rank (DCP). The Court should determine whether the Police Service Commission was right in relying solely on the recommendations of the ‘Police Disciplinary Committee’ in arriving at its decision to dismiss Ribadu, in other words, whether the PSC was right to merely rubberstamp the decisions of the Police- an institution it is set up to oversee the conduct of its personnel. It should also be determined whether the PSC denied Ribadu his fundamental right to fair hearing by failing to offer him the opportunity to appear before it to defend the charges leveled against him by the Police. If the Courts find that Ribadu’s dismissal was illegal and unfair, and orders it reversal, the federal Government and any of its agencies, including the Police, Ministry of Police Affairs, and the PSC should have no option but to subject themselves to the rule of law.
It is significant that the IGP holds a contrary view to that of the Minister of Police Affairs. The IGP had stated in an earlier interview reported on January 3, 2009 that ‘Only court can reinstate Ribadu’. He said that the outcome of the legal action instituted by Ribadu against the Police Service Commission and the Nigeria Police over his demotion from the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police to Deputy Commissioner of Police would determine Ribadu’s future relations with the police. The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu said: “The Nigeria Police Force is a law-abiding institution and we are ready to comply with any court. We will not flout court orders. It is not in our character and that is what we are going to do in this matter. The power to sanction any erring police officer lies with the PSC, which also deals with promotion. So, if the court says he should come back, why not? The PSC will direct us accordingly.”
NOPRIN considers the IGP’s as a more sober, democratic and acceptable posture than the Minister of Police Affairs’ intemperate effusion. The Minister must purge himself of the arbitrariness and authoritarianism that characterized military rule.
 
Okechukwu Nwanguma
(Program Coordinator)

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