Suleiman Abba: The Man Threatening Nigeria’s Democracy

Suleiman Abba

Inspector-General of Police Suleiman Abba

Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja

Inspector-General of Police Suleiman Abba
Inspector-General of Police Suleiman Abba

Recent activities of Suleiman Abba, Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, put the country’s democracy in danger

Just like his 16 predecessors, Suleiman Abba was effusive about his vision for the Nigeria Police Force when he formally took over as the 17th indigenous Inspector-General on 1 August, 2014. But while pledging his commitment to the fine ideals of policing, Abba had noted that the responsibility of the police in a democracy transcends the traditional roles of the law enforcement agency “to expectations in ensuring a stable democracy, conducive to good governance; creating an enabling environment for economic development; and providing acceptable basic service delivery for the people of our country”.

Barely three months into the job, Abba’s tenure as Nigeria police chief is gradually turning out to be a complete contradiction of his fine exposition on his assumption of office. If anything, rather than be a force for its stabilisation, many analysts say the police is fast turning into the biggest threat to the practice of democracy in Nigeria with the law enforcement agency’s obviously partisan stand on issues and penchant to assume powers clearly beyond its brief, with Abba as the culprit-in-chief.

Abba’s disdain for the niceties of democracy and rule of law was on display in the drama that played out when he appeared before the House of Representatives committee on Police Affairs last Tuesday. The police chief was summoned to the lower chamber to explain the reasons for the blockade of the National Assembly complex by his men the previous Thursday. But the hearing ended abruptly after Abba haughtily refused to admit that Tambuwal was still the Speaker of the House, preferring instead to add the prefix “Alhaji” to the name whenever he had cause to mention it during his speech, an action which angered members of the committee.

Indeed, members of the committee were already boiling with anger by the time the police chief finished making his opening speech during the hearing over what they regarded as his disrespect for the speaker. “Is Aminu Waziri-Tambuwal the speaker of the House of Representatives or not?” Usman Bello-Kurmo, chairman of the committee pointedly asked Abba after enduring the ordeal of hearing him repeatedly refer to the speaker as Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal. “Mr. Chairman, you know that matters before the courts are subjudice. Commenting on them is subjudice until they are disposed of,” replied the Inspector-General.

Two members of the committee – Hakeem Munir and Victor Nwokolo – also asked Abba to correct himself by addressing Tambuwal with his official title. But the police chief insisted that it would be “subjudice” for him to address Tambuwal as speaker or any matter relating to him so long as such a matter was in court. The obviously frustrated lawmakers angrily called off the meeting, accusing the IG of disrespect to Tambuwal. But before the abrupt end of the hearing, the IG had, in an elegant display of sophistry which many eyewitnesses to the event at the National Assembly Complex in the morning of Thursday 20 November will easily describe as damn lies, tried to justify the police invasion.

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The speaker had on that Thursday reconvened the House to consider a request by President Goodluck Jonathan to extend emergency rule in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states which was due to expire the same day.

The Senate had received the same letter asking for extension of the state of emergency from the presidency the Tuesday before then. The assent of both chambers of the National Assembly was needed to extend the state of emergency. There was the need to recall the House which had adjourned on 28 October immediately after Tambuwal announced his defection to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The House was scheduled to resume on 3 December and it was believed that the long adjournment was to avoid potential backlash over the defection by majority PDP members of the House. Outsmarted by the manner the speaker was able to jump ship without as much as a whisper from its legislators who are majority in the House, the leadership of PDP had asked Tambuwal to resign from office or be removed.

Members of the ruling party, led by President Jonathan and Adamu Mu’azu, the chairman, had met with the PDP caucus of the House after the defection on the possibility of removing Tambuwal from office as punishment for the defection. It was gathered that the leadership of PDP had at the meeting chastised Emeka Ihedioha, the deputy speaker; and Leo Ogor, the deputy majority leader, especially for allowing Tambuwal to defect, taking away the PDP mandate without challenging him. It was also gathered that the leaders of the party had mandated the two men to look for ways of reconvening the House for the purpose of sacking the speaker ahead of the scheduled resumption date.

But they were said to have argued that it would be difficult to get the support of the number of legislators needed to get the speaker impeached. The situation was further complicated with the demand of the legislators for automatic tickets to re-contest their seats in the 2015 elections from the party before they would move against Tambuwal.

Abba’s Threat To Nigeria Democracy Provokes Outrage

But acting like an enforcement arm of the ruling party, Abba had launched himself into the fray by withdrawing the security aides of the speaker two days after his defection. “In view of the recent defection by the Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), and having regard to the clear provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has redeployed its personnel attached to his office,” the IG said as his reason for withdrawal and redeployment of all security aides attached to Tambuwal in a statement signed by the Force spokesman, Emmanuel Ojukwu.

Culled from TheNews Magazine
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