A coalition of 82 civil society organisations have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to reconstitute the Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund announced on his behalf recently by his Senior Special Assistant, Garba Shehu.
President Buhari signed the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Bill into law on 24 June 2019, while the Board was finally announced on May 6, 2020 after a one year delay.
The Police Trust Fund Act 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.
The coalition in a statement issued yesterday, said that while the constitution of the Board is a welcome development, it is worried by the inherent constitutional breaches in the constitution of the board members, which it said may hinder the smooth operation of the Trust Fund.
It also noted that the delay in constituting the Board has eaten up part of the expected lifespan of the board and asked the President to take urgent action.
The coalition comprises, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC); Human and Environmental Development Agenda ( HEDA) Resource Centre;, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC); Social Intervention Advocacy Foundation- (SIAF); Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL); and Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) among others.
The coalition demanded the review the composition of the Trust Fund to ensure that it complies with the requirements of the law, particularly, the Federal Character Principle.
“The appointment of two northerners, retired Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba and Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto as Chairman and Executive Secretary respectively of the Board of Trustees, noting that it is in violation of the Federal Character Principle.
“They both come from the same geopolitical zone. 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 coalition said.
It also condemned what it called “the Penchant of successive presidents to appoint retired Inspectors General of Police to head institutions or mechanisms simply because they have to do with the police”, noting that such “has proved to be a misguided and costly mistake.”
It noted that the experience with the Police Service Commission (PSC), which has consistently been headed by a retired IGP has proved that a retired police officer is not the best choice for the job.
“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.”
The coalition blasted the government for its failure to consult with critical stakeholders and interests before selecting the board members.
It said, “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.”
It said the appointment of members of a Trust Fund for an institution as strategic as the police “should be preceded by wide consultations”, even as “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.”
It said, “The government must 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.
“The government Explain the inconsistency in references to board membership in the Act and consider an amendment to the Act to address the concerns raised”, the coalition said