The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, disregarded the invitation of the Nigerian senate-for the second time in six days. This seems to be an affront on the legislative house, but he would not be the first to walk that path.
In January, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele; Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali; and the Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ekwe Ibas, all shunned the invitation extended to them by the Nigerian Senate.
The house had summoned the four executive appointees to an investigation hearing of N5 trillion in subsidy paid to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), between 2006 and 2016.
Apart from the Chief of Naval staff that neither appeared nor sent a representative, the other three sent representatives, which the senate still considered inappropriate.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Senator Kabir Marafa, whose committee the executive officials ought to appear before, expressed great concern for the flagrant disregard for the hallowed chambers. He was particularly livid with Minister of Finance.
“If somebody feels she cannot come and cannot send her Permanent Secretary, if she is bigger than this institution, let us know and let us flex our muscles together and see who is bigger.
“This is quite unfortunate, I don’t know why people would behave in this way, this is the second time that she is doing this kind of thing and I hope she will not repeat it again,” Senator Marafa said before dispersing the representatives of the officials.
Three months later, the same incident repeated and twice in the space of six days. On Wednesday, April 25, the Nigerian Senate invited the Inspector General over the ordeal of one of their own, Senator Dino Melaye, who has been in a running battle with the Nigerian Police over allegations of gunrunning and giving of false testimony to a Federal officer with the intention to mislead.
Also crucial to the reason for Mr. Idris’ summon was the spate of killings across the country, particularly in Benue state.
These led to the adoption of Senator Sam Anyawu’s motion to summon the IGP to brief the red house on the happenings.
But, in an action regarded as a “threat to democracy”, the Police boss disregarded the Senate’s invitation, instead sent a Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG, Habila Joshak while he escorted President Muhammadu Buhari to Bauchi state.
The obviously angry Senate, dismissed DIG Joshak and issued another summon for Mr. Idris to appear in person on Wednesday. “By Wednesday, the IGP must appear before the Senate”, the senators had agreed.
Interestingly, Wednesday came but the IGP never showed up at the red chamber, defying the senators. This time, the Police boss headed to Birnin Gwari in Kaduna. He again sent a DIG who was again not allowed to address the Senate.
Is sending a representative unlawful?
Although the constitution is silent on whether summoned official can send representative in place of appearing personally, the senate, while rejecting the directors sent by Adeosun and Emefiele, said only Permanent Secretary or Deputy Governor can represent the officials at the hearing.
Also, the House of Representative committee investigating the dismissal of five directors of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) summoned the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, to give account of the directors’ dismissal being the head of NEMA governing council.
However, Mr. Johnson Agbonayinama, lawmaker representing Egor/Ikpoba Okha federal constituency in Edo state, speaking on behalf of the house said the Vice Present can send “anyone” to represent him if he is busy.
Why then can the Police not send a DIG statutorily recognized as the next in command to the IGP and empowered to act for the inspector general in his absence?
Can the IGP be punished by the lawmakers?
The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended gave the National Assembly the power to summon anybody including the number one citizen of the country. This provision in section 89 (1) (d), the senate is also empowered to fine any person who ignored the senate’s summon without excuse.
Section 89 (1) (d) reads; “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, and 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”. Did Mr. Idris give satisfactory reasons for his absence on the both occasions?
What Does This Portend for our Democracy?
The rising spate of officials declining to appear before the senate is becoming worrying. Is it as a result of arrogance or irrelevance? Should the senate not devise other means of engaging these officials who may have to jettison other issues that might be more pressing? Should they not ‘make-do’ with representatives?
Perhaps, the Judiciary would give a clearer interpretation and help settle this squabble.