Police Trust Fund: Coalition Slams Buhari over Federal Character Breach

Police Trust Fund: Coalition Slams Buhari over Federal Character Breach

…Frowns at Appointment of Ex-IGP as Chairman, Board of Trustees …Deplores Non Consultation of Critical Stakeholders, Interests A coalition of civil society groups has raised eyebrow over the breach of Federal Character Principle in the appointment of members of the Police Trust Fund Board of Trustees by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it offends Section 14(3)

…Frowns at Appointment of Ex-IGP as Chairman, Board of Trustees

…Deplores Non Consultation of Critical Stakeholders, Interests

A coalition of civil society groups has raised eyebrow over the breach of Federal Character Principle in the appointment of members of the Police Trust Fund Board of Trustees by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it offends Section 14(3) of the Constitution.

They are particularly piqued that both the chairman, Mr Suleiman Abba, a former inspector general of Police and executive secretary, Mr Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto come from same geo-political zone.

While welcoming the eventual composition of the Board of Trustees by the President, ‘pursuant to the Nigeria Police Trust Fund Establishment Act 2019’ after a year delay, the group is also irked by the idea of picking a former IGP to head the body, arguing that it’s “a misguided and costly mistake”. They are also miffed that critical stakeholders were not consulted before the appointments were made.

The Police Trust Fund Act signed into law on June 24, 2019, aims to provide a legal framework for the management and control of the Police Trust Fund. The Trust Fund covers all personnel of the Nigeria Police Force including its auxiliary staff in Nigeria and abroad and the Trust Fund is to operate for a period of six years from the commencement of the Act, after which it would cease to exist unless extended for any further period by an Act of the National Assembly.

According to a statement endorsed by 82 organisations, the coalition say, “The appointment of retired Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, as Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, and the appointment of Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto as the Executive Secretary of the Board breach the Federal Character Principle and Law. They both come from the same geopolitical zone. 

The groups maintain that Section 14(3) of the Constitution provides that “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”.

“The penchant by successive Presidents to appoint retired Inspectors General of Police to head institutions or mechanisms simply because they have to do with the Police has proved to be a misguided and costly mistake. Is being a former IGP the only criteria or qualification for appointment as Chairman of the Trust Fund? How well has the Police Service Commission fared under successive retired IGPs as Chairman?

“A Trust Fund needs to be chaired by an experienced private sector administrator with integrity and expertise in financial management. It also needs to be insulated from politics and bureaucracy. The Lagos State Security Trust Fund owes its success to this fact and the inbuilt system of transparency and Accountability in the management and control of donated funds. Moreover, the Act does not specifically indicate in the composition of the Board of Trustees in Section 7, who shall be chairman,” they contend.

The Trust Fund is envisaged to address the urgent need for alternative funding sources for the Nigeria Police to address the funding and equipment deficits and enhance the operational capability, training, welfare and morale of its work force. By the undue delay in constituting the board, nearly one year of the Trust Fund’s six years tenure is already lost.

Section 5 of the Act outlines the purposes of the Trust Fund which includes training, overall improvement of personnel of the Nigeria Police Force in the discharge of their duties, purchase of equipment, machineries and books and the construction of police stations and living facilities for the Nigeria Police Force.

Apart from the delay in constituting the Board of Trustees and providing the initial take off grant by the federal government to enable the fund take off, we are concerned by a number of other issues arising from the constitution of the Board and the composition of its members

Deploring the non consultation with key stakeholders and critical interests in the appointments, the groups say, “There is no evidence of consultation by the President before appointing people purported to represent various interest groups and key stakeholders. An example is the appointment of one Dr. Michael Bamidele Adebiyi to represent Civil Society.

“This appointee, his organisation, work and experience are unknown in the civil society community in Nigeria, especially among groups working on Police and Criminal Justice Reform issues. We therefore wonder who in civil society was consulted before he was appointed.

“Civil society played a prominent role in the process leading to the passage of the Police Trust Fund Bill into law. Thus, the law’s provision for the inclusion of a civil society representative, among other key stakeholders, in the Board of Trustees.

“A representative of any interest group or key stakeholder such as civil society must have the endorsement and support of that interest group. Such a person should and can only be accountable to the group s\he represents if s/he has their mandate. This cannot be the case with the President’s appointee who was not nominated and therefore cannot be said to represent civil society in the Board.

“The appointment of members of a Trust Fund should be preceded by wide consultations. In fact, we believe that the Police Council ought to have been involved in the process considering that State Governors who are critical stakeholders bear the greater burden of funding the Police far more than the Federal Government whose responsibility it is.

Explaining the need for Professional Management of the Police Trust Fund, the groups are of the view that, “The appointment and composition of the Trustees of the Police Trust Fund should be beyond primordial considerations. It must inspire trust in the Police, potential donors and the general public. If it does not, then the Trust Fund is dead on arrival.

“The Trust Fund is essentially established to serve the interest of every police officer, enhance Police operations and by extension promote the safety and security needs of the Nigerian populace who feel the impact of a failed system. Therefore, the Police Trust Fund will be best overseen by credible members of the private sector who are well known for their professionalism and efficiency. This is the only way our officers will trust the Board and have faith in the ability of its members to deliver on the mandate of the board.

“In relation to this is an observed inconsistency in the Act which may render it inoperable if legally challenged.  Section 7 of the Act lists eight members to constitute the Board, whereas, Paragraph 2 of the Schedule to the Act provides that the quorum for the Board shall be the Chairman and ten other members, three of whom shall be from the private sector. It is unclear who the three private sector members being referred to are and why the required quorum is more than the total membership of the board,” the coalition noted.

 It therefore demands that the President takes the following immediate steps:

* Review the composition of the Trust Fund to ensure that it complies with the requirements of the law, particularly, the Federal Character Principle.

* Ensure adequate and wide consultations with critical stakeholders and interest groups to ensure that those who are appointed to represent them in the Board enjoy legitimacy, credibility and trust.

* Ensure that the person to chair the Board is selected based on clear criteria which should include, among others, that the person comes from the private sector, has relevant experience, is suitable and competent in public management and has integrity and capable of inspiring trust and

* Explain the inconsistency in references to board membership in the Act and consider an amendment to the Act to address the concerns raised.

 Amongst the groups that signed the statement include: Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC), Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation- (SIAF), Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL), Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), International Peace and Civic Responsibility Center (IPCRC), International Human Rights and Equity Defense Foundation (I-REF), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Centre Against Injustice and Domestic Violence (CAIDOV).

Others are Media Rights Agenda (MRA), International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Independent Advocacy Project (IAP), Foundation for Justice and Rehabilitation of Prisoners.(FJRP), Democracy and Human Rights Network, COMPPART Foundation for Justice and Peace Building, Akwa Ibom State, Centre for Peace Advancement in Nigeria (CEPAN), Jos, Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), Kano and South East Civil Society Alliance for Public Accountability (SECSAPA),.Women, Law and Development Initiative (WOLDI). Women’s Right to Education Programme, Prison Inmate Development Initiative (PIDI), Yiaga Africa and Women in Humanitarian Response in Nigeria Initiative.

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