The police have strongly denied that President Muhammadu Buhari queried the Inspector-General Ibrahim Idris, following revelations that the police chief ignored a presidential directive to move to Benue State.
The police challenged “anyone” claiming Mr. Idris was queried by the president to produce an evidence.
A statement released by the presidency and later posted on Twitter using the @NGRPresident handle on Tuesday night said Mr. Buhari asked the police chief to explain why he flouted his order to relocate to Benue in the wakes of deadly attacks on villages that had left hundreds dead since January 1.
“Pres @MBuhari today summoned the Inspector-General of Police to explain his flouting of the presidential order to remain in Benue State. The President has also asked for a comprehensive report on Police Operations in the affected States,after which further decisions will be made,” the statement said.
It came a day after Mr. Buhari told Benue leaders he did not know that Mr. Idris did not relocate to Benue State as he directed in a January 9 correspondence, drawing widespread rebuke and calls for him to sack the police chief for insubordination.
Many Nigerians understood the summon and demand for explanation as a query by the president.
But as many were expecting the outcome of the query, reports emerged that the police IG did not receive any demand for explanation from Mr. Buhari, in a jarring contradiction of the presidency.
“The IGP was not queried,” police spokesperson Jimoh Moshood said over the weekend. “Anybody that said the IGP was queried by the president should bring the copy of the query, let us display it.”
The presidency did not immediately respond to requests for comments about the police’s contradiction Monday morning.
If the police’s assertion holds true, the controversy could strengthen the arguments of Mr. Buhari’s critics that he lacks the political and administrative competence to sack errant appointees.
It could also support some claims that the president was aware that Mr. Idris did not go to Benue, but feigned ignorance. This is especially because it was reported in early February, about six weeks before Mr. Buhari’s comments, that Mr. Idris only spent a few days in Benue against the president’s openly-stated desire.
Mr. Buhari also highlighted his directive to Mr. Idris as part of his swift responses to the Benue crisis when he wrote to the Nigerian Senate to update lawmakers on his administration’s efforts to curb the killings.
Political analyst, Ken Eluma-Asogwa, said the police’s statement marked the latest assault against the president from his subordinates, saying he had been presented with another opportunity to exert his presidential authority.
“This is an aberration,” Mr. Eluma-Asogwa, a lawyer in Abuja, said by telephone Monday morning. “It is an absolute confrontation against the president like we have seen in several cases in the past in this administration.”
“We have an IG that is telling the president that he did not query him even after the president had come out openly to say he issued him a query,” Mr. Eluma-Asogwa said. “What the IG is simply saying is that he was not queried and there’s nothing the president could do about it.”
“Clearly, this is the time for this police IG to be shown the way out,” the lawyer added.
But Ayo Akanji, a media strategist for the ruling All Progressives Congress, said the president only summoned the IG but did not query him.
“The IGP was never queried,” said Mr. Akanji, also a media consultant for the Buhari administration. “He was only asked to come and explain what he had been doing in Benue.”
Mr. Akanji said it is after Mr. Idris had submitted the updates about police operations in the herdsmen crisis that the president would determine whether to issue a query or not.