Peter says shoot, Paul shouts hold — who will save the Nigerian Police?

Peter says shoot, Paul shouts hold — who will save the Nigerian Police?

In March 2020, I travelled to Awe, a small town in Nasarawa state to report events as they unfolded following the dethronement of Muhammad Sanusi II as the emir of Kano. In Awe, men of the Nigerian Police Force were on guard to protect the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), after all, the police must ensure the safety of all citizens.


Fast forward to 2024 when the Kano State Assembly repealed the law that led to the dethronement of Sanusi and the splitting of the Kano Emirate. So Sanusi is expected to be back on the saddle, and as the machinery of law and order mandates, the Nigerian Police Force again is expected to enforce the new law by the state assembly.

As the police are effecting the new order, there is another order by a court of competent jurisdiction asking them to do otherwise. Now, they are torn in two directions; enforce Sanusi’s emirship or maintain Aminu Ado Bayero’s kingship? As the police are figuring out what order to follow, another court gives a fresh order.



So far, there have been at least five different judgements on the emir tussle in Kano state. Guess what? There is only one police force to carry out these varying orders. If the police refuse to honour the court rulings, it runs the risk of abusing the laws it was set up to enforce.


For context, on June 20, 2024, the federal high court sitting in Kano, ruled to nullify the reinstatement of Muhammad Sausi II, but did not rule on the law repealed by the state assembly. Muhammad Liman, the presiding judge, at the end of his ruling transferred the case to another federal high court judge, Simon Amobeda, for continuation given his [Liman’s] elevation to the court of appeal.

Liman held that the state government was aware of an interim order previously granted by the court but ignored it and implemented the law repealing the split in the Kano emirate. Suppose I were the police commissioner in the state. In that case, I am aware that while there may be multiple orders, but there are only two or three interests: the state government’s interest (pro-Sanusi) versus the interest of the Aminu Ado Bayero (pro-Umar Ganduje). If there is a third interest, it will be the interest of the Bola Tinubu presidency, the federal might, which is likely aligned with one of the two earlier stated interests.

Shall we have the police obey or disobey court orders based on interests?



The case in Kano is not the exception, sadly, it is the norm. In Rivers state, the police also have an uphill task in mediating the crisis between Nyesom Wike, the beloved minister of President Bola Tinubu, and Siminalayi Fubara, the needed steward of Tinubu’s 2027 ambitions.

As the police inhale, it has to protect the interests of the state and its sitting governor, when exhaling, the same force has to serve the interests of the federal, where its orders come from. When Siminalayi says go, and Wike says come, the police are expected to obey the orders of the governor, who also doubles as the chief security officer of the state. But beyond the governor, there’s one with the greater order, and that is the inspector general of police (IGP).

So when Siminalayi says come, and the IGP, serving the forces in Abuja, says go — the police have to defy the governor and do as the IGP wishes.


I know not many Nigerians love the police but when I read orders and counter-orders in the news and learn of the ones that do not make it to the news, I not only empathise with the police, I also feel sorry for the Nigerian state as a whole.



One of the biggest takeaways of the EndSARS protest in 2020 was the fact that the Nigerian Police also needs saving. This saviour needs salvation. In 2020, part of the demands of the protesters was better welfare for the police. The reason for this was that we all understood at the time that no matter how much we hate the police, if they are not well paid, they will get their daily bread from somewhere else. This could be from harassing innocent citizens or serving corrupt politicians. We are no better for any of the choices.


In the very recent past, we have also looked at the possibility of state police, and while that has its merit and demerits, it does not solve the inherent Nigerian problem of conflicting orders and warring interests.

As Femi Falana, the legal luminary, puts it, while speaking of the crisis in Kano: “It is a mockery of the rule of law, if the high court judge decides to ignore or overrule the judgments of the supreme court.” So forgive me, when I say, it is mockery of the rule of law when the executive ignores the court ruling to serve political interests. It is mockery of the rule of law when three different courts give five different rulings on the same matter. It is mockery of the rule of law when the police are left guessing which order to obey.


When Peter says shoot, and Paul shouts hold your fire, what are the centurions of the great Nigerian state expected to do?


Mayowa Tijani

2 thoughts on “Peter says shoot, Paul shouts hold — who will save the Nigerian Police?

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