The Police Service Commission has asked the Accountant-General of the Federation to halt the capture of 10,000 constables who recently graduated from police training colleges on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel System.
The commission stated that the police officers had not been issued their letters of appointment and should not be enrolled on the payment portal.
According to the Public Service Rules, public officers not captured on the IPPIS cannot be paid salaries and other emoluments.
The development followed the alleged refusal of the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to submit their names to the PSC for vetting on the grounds that he was empowered by the Police Act, 2020 to recruit constables into the force.
The commission has also written to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and the Head of Service, Folasade Yemi-Esan about the enrolment of 20,000 police officers on the salary portal without letters of appointment.
The personnel were recruited in 2020 and 2021.
The face-off between the police authorities and the commission is a spill-over of their supremacy fight over the right to recruit constables.
Though the Court of Appeal September 30, 2020 ruled that the commission had the constitutional mandate to recruit constables, the NPF had gone ahead with the recruitment process in defiance of the court order.
Last year, the police appealed against the judgment to the Supreme Court, two years after the order was handed down.
Before its appeal and in spite of the court order restraining the police from conducting constables’ recruitment, the authorities had recruited a total of 10,000 constables in the 2020 recruitment exercise.
In 2020 and 2021, two batches of 20,000 cops were recruited without the active involvement of the PSC under a former IG, Musiliu Smith, who resigned in September, 2022, on the grounds of ill-health.
The Commissioner 1 in the PSC, Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, replaced Smith in acting capacity pending the appointment of a new chairman by the President.
The 2022 exercise has been in limbo after the police and the commission clashed when the former disowned the newspaper advertisement on the recruitment placed by the PSC.
The PUNCH learnt that protests by the police service commission last year about the illegality of the IPPIS enrolment were waved aside by the unit which had also concluded the capturing of the 2021 exercise.
It was gathered that the police authorities had successfully captured the 2020 and 2021 recruits despite the refusal of the PSC to authorise their enrolment on the Federal Government payment portal due to the disagreement between the police and the commission.
Among other requirements, a staff letter or gazette of first appointment is required for enrolment on IPPIS.
Sources disclosed that the commission complained about the development to the President and the HoS last year, but nothing was done about it as the constables were paid their salaries.
A senior official said, “The officers were enrolled on the IPPIS platform despite the refusal of the PSC to issue appointment letters to them.
“So far, the Federal Government has enrolled 20,000 police constables who have no appointment letters on its salary payment portal in violation of its financial regulations and the Public Service Rules.
“Last year, we wrote to the Accountant-General and the IPPIS to stop the salaries of the constables, but this was not done. This is the second time we have complained to the government about this illegality. The police usually send their officials to the training colleges to enrol the constables on the IPPIS without the appointment letters.’’
When asked about the enrolment of constables on the IPPIS without the required documents, the Head of Communications, Head of Service, Mohammed Ahmed, said only the IPPIS department could respond to the issue.
“How can you enrol somebody on the platform that is not qualified?,’’ he said in a shocked voice. ‘’It is when you come to the office and meet the IPPIS people; I’m not with the IPPIS. Come and ask them any questions you have,’’ he added.
The PUNCH could not confirm if the Accountant-General’s office had implemented the PSC request on suspension of salaries to the police officers as a new accountant- general had yet to be appointed. Also, the office has no spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the IG has dismissed the PSC’s request for the constables’ lists.
He told the commission in a letter dated January 13, 2023 that he was empowered by the Police Act, 2020 to recruit constables, stressing that the enlisted officers did not need appointment letters but attestation.
But the commission in its response again asked the IG to submit the list of newly recruited constables for vetting after which they would be issued appointment letters.
It cautioned him to stop the capturing of persons unknown to the PSC into the salary platform.
PSC writes IG
The letter dated January 17, 2023, was titled, ‘Re: Request to stop the capturing of persons who are unknown to the Police Service Commission into IPPIS payment platform as Police Officers.’
It was signed by the Director, Recruitment, Ferdinand Ekpe, on behalf of the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the commission.
The agency reminded the IG of the subsisting decision of the Court of Appeal judgment in suit no. CA/A/84/2020 dated September 30, 2020 which it reproduced.
The letter stated in part, “Particularly worthy of note is the order of perpetual injunction restraining the police, jointly and severally, from interfering or further interfering in any manner howsoever with the discharge of the commission’s Constitutional and statutory functions in respect of the appointment, promotion, dismissal, or exercise of disciplinary control over persons holding or aspiring to hold offices in the Nigeria Police Force other than the Inspector General of Police.
“In addition to paragraph (4) above, based on precedence and the law, only an appointment letter issued by PSC can validate the appointment of any police officer into the Nigeria Police Force and subsequent capturing into the IPPIS payment platform to earn any form of emolument from the Federal Government of Nigeria. (Letters were issued to the 2016, 2018 and 2019 police constables) and used for enrolment into the IPPIS payment platform.
“Furthermore, you are invited to recall that preceding the enrolment of all police officers into the IPPIS payment platform from the year 2016, all those who had no appointment letters from the commission had to be revalidated by the commission as a prerequisite for capturing into the IPPIS payment platform and qualification to earn salaries legitimately.
“It is a standard practice that as oversight body on NPF, the PSC’s letters must be used to validate the candidates and confirm their enlistment into the Nigeria Police Force before they can be enrolled into the IPPIS payment platform, hence our several letters to you requesting for the lists of police constables who were recruited into the 2020 and 2021 exercises. The lists, which for unknown reasons, you have failed to produce.
“Finally, Transparency and Accountability which are the twin pillars of anti- corruption and the core values of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, demands that the above due processes must be respected and upheld by the NPF as the Chief Law Enforcement Agency in Nigeria.’’
Several PSC officials have expressed apprehension over the refusal of the police to release the constables’ lists, citing security concerns and likely non-compliance with the Federal Character law.
“It is obvious that the recruitment was not based on the requisite criteria and that is why they wouldn’t want to release the list to the PSC. It was supposed to be on the equality of local government areas at 10 persons per LG.
‘’Many LGs and states were short-changed and there were some disturbing reports and viral videos that suspected Boko Haram elements and other outlaws might have found their way into the police through the recruitment,’’ an official said.
Commission justifies letter
But the PSC spokesman, Ikechukwu Ani, justified the PSC’s letter to the IG. “The commission feels that the constables must have their letters of appointment before they can be captured on IPPIS. I believe the commission did the right thing by insisting on the letters.”
He, however, said he was not aware of the letter to the accountant-general.
But top source, in the commission said, ,”We wrote to the accountant-general and also to the head of service and I think the head of service asked the IPPIS to stop capturing the constables and without the IPPIS capture, you cannot be paid salaries.”
The force spokesman, Muyiwa Adejobi, could not be reached for comments on the alleged refusal of the police to provide the lists of constables for vetting.
He did not respond to calls to his phone and he had yet to reply to a text message sent to his phone as of the time of filing this report.
A lawyer, Dr Daniel Makolo, said he was not shocked by the police refusal to obey the court judgment, noting that the impunity in the country started seven years ago.
He stated, “Nigeria has been on autopilot for the past seven years. This government started with lawlessness, without regard for the constitution. So, I’m not surprised that the IG could disobey the order of the Court of Appeal.
“The impunity in the country has extended to all sectors. We are in a country where the CBN could give loans to the Federal Government in violation of the extant laws regulating such loans. We are in a country where the Federal Character law is not respected. So, for the IG to enrol 20,000 constables on the IPPIS without appointment letters; only God knows how many constables were recruited.’’