At last, Mbu Joseph Mbu, police commissioner, who has been at a loggerhead with Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, has been transferred to Abuja, but will his exit end the crisis in the state?
| By Vincent Nzemeke | Feb. 17, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE political crisis in Rivers State took a new twist on Thursday, February 6, with the redeployment of Joseph Mbu, commissioner of police in the state to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Mbu’s redeployment was announced in a statement signed Ferdinand Ekpe, assistant director, press affairs of the Police Service Commission. Tunde Ogunsakin, a former commissioner in charge of the special fraud unit, Lagos police command, has been deployed to replace him.
Before his eventual redeployment, Mbu had been in the thick of the political controversy rocking Rivers State. Although Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Nyesom Wike, supervising minister of education, are the two gladiators in the crisis rocking the state, Mbu had been variously accused of being partisan, which led to calls by some people for his transfer to another state.
While his reign lasted, Mbu and Ameachi lived like cat and dog. They took their fights to the television, radio and on the pages of newspapers and magazines. On many occasions, Amaechi openly accused him of taking sides with Wike and other “enemies of his administration.”
In a recent petition to the police service commission, Amaechi said Mbu was unfit to serve in a sensitive state like Rivers and accused the police commissioner of working against the interest and the well-being of the people of his state. The governor alleged that apart from taking side with those bent on causing trouble in the state, Mbu did not show appropriate respect to constituted authorities as demanded by his job as a police officer and should therefore be shown the way out of the state.
“The actions and comments of Mr. Mbu have shown that he is unwilling to support me to protect lives and properties of everyone in Rivers State. He has compromised our regular Security Council meetings leading to reluctance on the part of other members to speak up during the meetings and therefore rendering the meetings ineffective. Besides his disparaging comments and discussions of security matters with scant regard for decorum, he has destabilised the security apparatus in the State thereby supporting the return of some of the key actors in the cult wars that engulfed the State from 2004 up till 2007,” the governor said.
Mbu, who is also usually quick to defend himself described Amaechi as a victim of his own politics. He said their disagreement started the day he made it clear to the governor that he was not going to take orders from him. “Right from the day I was posted to Rivers State, Governor Rotimi Amaechi has never liked me. The first thing he had in mind was to say I was sent here to come and fight him. He wants to pocket every commissioner of police and he cannot pocket me. I have to do my job the way I should do it,” Mbu said.
Despite Mbu’s removal, there are people who believe that the political crisis in Rivers State will not abate any time soon. Such people are of the opinion that Mbu is simply a victim of circumstance who has nothing to do with the crisis. Kelvin Okocha, a member of the Grassroots Development Initiative, GDI, one of the political groups in the state loyal to Wike, said even though the police service commission had succumbed to pressure by transferring Mbu, the state would still remain in crises because of Amaechi’s desperation for power.
“This crisis is not about Mbu or any other police officer. It is about Ameachi and cohorts in the APC who want to take power by force. Now that they have succeeded in transferring the man to another state, let us now see if Rivers State will be peaceful,” Okocha said.
The conflict between Amaechi and Mbu has once again revived the calls for police reforms in the country. With a well-sustained campaign, both Amaechi and Mbu have succeeded in putting on the front burner the debate on who should control the police. Prominent lawyers and some other stakeholders joined the debate by saying the National Assembly should amend the Police Act in order to compel the president to send the name of the future Inspector-General of Police, IGP, to the Senate for confirmation instead of just handpicking one as it is currently practised.
Some of the lawyers argued that if the IGP was subjected to the screening of the National Assembly, his loyalty would be to the Nigerian people instead of to the president who is the sole appointing authority. They also pointed out that if the names of the recently appointed service chiefs could be sent to the Senate for confirmation, then there should no reason why the president could not do the same with the police boss whose organisation interacts with the public more directly every day.
Femi Falana, SAN, in an article published in a newspaper recently, noted that under the constitution, the appointment of the IGP was made by the president on the advice of the Nigeria Police Council and that the council was constituted by the president, the 36 governors and the IGP. But according to him, since 1999, no president has sought the advice of the Police Council with respect to the appointment of any IGP.
“If that council is functional, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police would have been called to order. However, in the interest of national security it is desirable that the appointment and removal of the IGP be approved by the National Assembly,” Falana said.
Bamide Aturu, another lawyer, said the Police Act should be amended to mandate the executive arm of government to send the name of the prospective IGP to the National Assembly for confirmation because the IGP or the entire Police Force interacts with the public every day and the police’s allegiance should be to the people. He also insisted that the person nominated for the post must be a person of integrity, of sound professionalism and somebody that cannot easily become a tool in the hand of politicians. “We need to amend the Police Act and all the relevant laws so that we can make it clear that the President cannot just appoint anybody without sending their name to the National Assembly,” Aturu said.
Festus Keyamo, a lawyer and human right activist, also added his voice to the debate. At an event organised by the Abuja chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, last week, Keyamo said he was supportive of the idea that the appointment of a new IGP be subjected to confirmation by the National Assembly so that his loyalty would not only be to the president but to the whole country. He said: “I totally support this call because we are running a democracy and not a dictatorship where one man can just sit down and singlehandedly take all the important decisions for the country. “I think that the Police Act should be amended to make it mandatory for all IGP to go to the National Assembly and take a bow, so that that they would know that their loyalty is not just to the President but to the whole nation. I think the present IGP should be made to do this, too
“What I am advocating for is that the provisions of sections 214, 215 and 216 would have to be looked at again. Section 214 created a unitary police in Nigeria. People have been advocating for state and local government police. This section should be looked at so as to decide whether the time is ripe to have state and local government police.”
There are also those who opine that issues such as the one in Rivers State will always occur except state governors are allowed to establish their own police force. Patrick Ijeh, an Abuja-based public affairs commentator, said the agitation for state police was right because the federal government exercises too much control on the existing police force. “The present arrangement is bad because once a president is not happy with you as governor he can order the IGP to deploy to a commissioner that will disturb your state. Unless we have state police who will also be at the beck and call of the governors, the federal government will continue to control the system,” Ijeh said.