Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has fired the country’s inspector general of police, Suleiman Abba, three weeks after Jonathan lost the national election in the country's recently concluded polls. The outgoing president terminated the official's job Tuesday and named Abba’s deputy, Solomon Arase, the acting head of Nigeria’s police force, Jonathan’s spokesman Reuben Abati said. The political move has raised eyebrows, as Jonathan has only six weeks left in office.
President Jonathan sacks IGP Suleiman Abba, appoints DIG Solomon Arase as Acting IGP with immediate effect. @PoliceNG
â€” Reuben Abati (@abati1990) April 21, 2015
Abati did not give a reason for Abba’s immediate dismissal. Some speculated Abba was fired because the police chief did not deliver results favorable to Jonathan and his ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) during the general elections.
“The timing of [Abba’s] sacking, especially a few weeks after a general election in which Jonathan lost, is food for thought,” Debo Adeniran of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders lobby group told Agence France-Presse. “It is even more intriguing because Abba still has some 10 years to go before retirement.”
Earlier this week, Jonathan denied spending 2 trillion Nigerian naira (more than $10 billion) to win votes for the PDP during elections. A Nigerian newspaper accused the outgoing president of handing out the cash to PDP members, government officials and close aides in an effort to influence outcomes at the polls. Some officials allegedly used the cash to buy expensive cars and other luxury items rather than use it to bribe voters and groups.
Abba has a less than flawless record as the head of police under Jonathan’s administration. He has been the center of several controversies since the outgoing president appointed him in November. Abba refused to recognize Aminu Tambuwal as the Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives following Tambuwal’s decision last year to defect from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) opposition party. Last month, Abba clashed with the head of Nigeria’s election body, Attahiru Jega, over the police chief demanding voters return to their homes after casting ballots on election days.
“In his short tenure at the head of the Nigerian police force, Abba has been a lightning rod for criticism that he politicized his office,” said Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. “I am not so much surprised by the acting inspector general of police being sacked as his being sacked by the outgoing President Jonathan. It was only a matter of time before [he] was removed.”
Supporters of president-elect Muhammadu Buhari have called for Nigeria’s newly elected ruler to fire Abba as soon as he takes office, which made Jonathan’s decision to sack the police chief a surprise move. “If President Jonathan has removed a divisive figure ahead of the transition and spared his successor of the onus of beginning his term with what might be viewed as punitive measures, the incumbent head of state should be applauded for statesmanlike behavior and helping make the handover process that much smoother,” Pham wrote in an email Tuesday.
Buhari of the APC will be sworn in May 29. The opposition party was largely successful in the recently concluded general elections, with its candidates winning the presidency, the senatorial majority and the majority of governorship seats in Nigeria’s 36 states. Buhari defeated incumbent Jonathan in the March 28 presidential election by a couple million votes.