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Abba Kyari, in the eye of the storm

By Chijioke Iremeke, Sunday Aikulola and Precious Ogwa
18 February 2022   |   4:20 am
His built-in instinct to spot danger brought him fame. He had his ear to the ground and he could hear the sound of danger from afar. Like the human breath, you could feel his pulse when he was tracking criminals.
Abba Kyari

[FILES] Nigeria police officer Abba Kyari PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/ABBA KYARI

His built-in instinct to spot danger brought him fame. He had his ear to the ground and he could hear the sound of danger from afar. Like the human breath, you could feel his pulse when he was tracking criminals. His infectious zeal and courage in serving fatherland was very inspiring and rich with posterity references.

That’s the story of ACP Abba Kyari, a Kanuri.

The head of Inspector General of Police special unit, which recorded great success in countering high profile crimes and criminality, Kyari was a quintessential crime buster, a cop who puts the fear of God in criminals; an officer of the law who restored public confidence in police’s ability to crack criminal cases.

It was Kyari, who led the team that arrested ‘the billionaire kidnapper’, Chikwudubem Onwuamadike, otherwise known as Evans.

Proficiency and hard work earned him the reputation of a ‘first-class crime buster.’ He has to his credit a long list of solved high-profile criminal cases, including the recent clampdown on acclaimed most brilliant kidnapper in Nigeria,

For the past eight months or thereabout, he had lived under the constant threat of extradition. Several reports had been filed in support of his extradition, and the police, to try him, had raised panel but he had come out unscathed.

But on a bright February morning, his instinct failed him. Danger gnawed and now he is in the eye of the storm.

The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) revealed a drug deal allegedly involving Kyari.

An NDLEA covert operation exposed the personnel as collaborators in a-25kg cocaine deal involving an international narcotics cartel.

The US Department of Justice had earlier announced in 2021 that Hushpuppi had been involved “in an elaborate scheme to steal more than $1.1 million from a business person attempting to finance the construction of a school for children in Qatar.”

In laundering the proceeds of the Qatar operation, a dispute broke out among members of the conspiracy, courts documents said.

The dispute allegedly prompted Vincent – one of the members, to contact the victim and inform them of the scam operation.

After this contact, Hushpuppi allegedly arranged to have Vincent jailed in Nigeria by Kyari.

The commission had directed the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, to furnish it with information on further developments on the matter for necessary further action.

The DCP’s suspension followed the issuing of an arrest warrant by a U.S magistrate judge, Otis Wright in the case involving popular socialite, Ramon Igbalode, a.k.a Hushpuppi.

According to documents unsealed in the US, Kyari had arrested and jailed one Chibuzo Vincent, at the behest of Hushpuppi.

Giving an update on the case, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, said he was yet to see or receive a formal extradition request for Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Mr Abba Kyari following his indictment by a US Court.

IGP Baba disclosed that he had only heard it on social media, stressing that there is no extradition request as some have reported.

The Inspector General further explained that the panel constituted to investigate the case had submitted its report to the Secretary General of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha for vetting and advice on the findings.

With the alleged involvement in drug deal and the issuing of an arrest warrant by U.S. officials for a prominent Nigerian policeman, many have reasoned that they have exposed a corruption scandal in Nigeria that is being treated with levity.

From this scandal, Buhari should take sweeping, decisive action, including sacking complicit senior officials, overhauling the police and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, as well as taking charge of, and coordinating the anti-corruption and anti-drug trafficking wars. Nothing less will suffice to salvage the havoc done to the country’s image.

In a statement by the Acting police spokesman, Muyiwa Adejobi, made available to newsmen in Abuja, “In line with standard administrative procedure of the Force, the Inspector General of Police ordered a high-level, discreet, and in-house investigation into the allegations.

“The interim investigations report revealed that two international drug couriers identified as Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus, both males, were arrested at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu on January 19, 2022 upon their arrival from Addis Ababa aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight ET917.

“The arrest led to the recovery of substantial quantity of powdery substance suspected to be cocaine from the two narcotic couriers. The operation, which was intelligence-driven, was undertaken by a Unit of the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT).

Though the Police Service Commission (PSC) has suspended officers indicted by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) along with suspended Kyari.

They are Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sunday Ubua, and Assistant Superintendent of Police, James Bawa.

A statement on Thursday by Ikechukwu Ani, PSC spokesman, announced the sanction of Ubua and Bawa.

They were attached to the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the Force Investigation and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB).

Hushpuppi

Hushpuppi

Retired Justice Clara Ogunbiyi on behalf of PSC Chairman, Musiliu Smith, a retired IGP, signed the letter to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba.

The suspension, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Service Rules 030406, will remain effective until the outcome of the investigation.

Baba was also requested to place on suspension Inspector Simon Agrigba and Inspector John Nuhu in accordance with the Powers of Delegation.

“DCP Abba Kyari, who prior to this allegation was on suspension, shall remain so until the conclusion of investigations,” it read.

“The IGP is further requested to inform the Commission of the arrest of ASP John Umoru, currently at large, whenever his arrest is effected.”

The letter to the IGP with reference number CB: 4099/FHQ/ABJ/Vol16/151, copied NDLEA Chairman, retired Brigadier General Buba Marwa.

However, security expert, Dr. Bone Chinye Efoziem has called for an overhaul of the police and security systems.

According to Dr Efoziem, who the Managing Director of Strict Guard Security, “It is like a two edged sword.

However, it brings out the level of decadence among our security personnel, leaving us with so many questions.

“If the case is true how come Kyari who is on suspension still receiving such sensitive intelligence? Why is he able to instruct a service team under someone’s command to proceed on such operation despite being on suspension? Did the team arrive Enugu state and carry out such operation in the state without the knowledge and the consent of the state command?

“The second sphere is that if this is true, it means the leadership of all security agencies need to investigate the activities of their supposed special units and possibly overhaul them.”

They also said Baba must explain how Kyari was able to conduct operations and mobilise police officers he called “my boys” while ostensibly on suspension, especially as another officer had been appointed to run the unit.

They noted that the IG needed to explain why it took him four days after the NDLEA formally requested it and the viral public exposure by the NDLEA to arrest and hand Kyari and his accomplices over to the drug law agency.

Buhari should order an inquiry that will among others, uncover the veracity or otherwise of attempts to shield, cover up and exonerate Kyari, who recently turned up as a guest at the wedding of Baba’s son in Maiduguri, Borno State, from the Hushpuppi extradition affair.

They recalled that Baba had been having a running battle over Kyari with the Police Service Commission. While the IG’s initial report on the Abbas case was deemed to be mild on the disgraced officer, the PSC has insisted that the officer has a strong case to answer and should be so treated. Its insistence on a new investigating panel after it rejected the tepid result of the one set up by the IG has not been acted upon.

Elsewhere, there is zero tolerance for corrupt law enforcement officers.

An independent inquiry enquiry should thoroughly examine the role of the Office of the AGF. Though Malami has always declared that the Federal Government is cooperating with the US government over the extradition request, some civil rights groups have alleged delaying tactics in bringing Kyari to trial by his office.

That is not all. The police also alleged collusion with traffickers by NDLEA operatives, citing investigations and confessions by detained suspects. This is certainly plausible. The NDLEA Chairman/Chief Executive, Mohammed Marwa, should first order a thorough internal investigation to smoke out complicit officers. Buhari’s investigation should also encompass the agency. The police allegations should not be swept under the carpet.

Former Director of Department of Security, Dennis Amachree, said it pained him that Kyari is slipping deeper and deeper into the quagmire of illegality.

“I have met Kyari on a couple of occasions where I personally congratulated him for his fights and wins against kidnappers. But recent revelations have shown that Kyari must have a split personality.

“This also shows how deep the drug problem is in Nigeria. Kudos to the NDLEA boss and his officers, at least for staying above board.”

However, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), is disappointed.

He said, “I heard it with very big sorrow. I am so sad because he was one of the great heroes of Nigeria public life. His achievement makes me proud of him and whenever we had a serious problem, I call Abba Kyari.

This is a big downfall. First, the American application for extradition, which I was against, because I said the man, has served us so much and they should not go and disgrace him in America.

“And just as I was in the middle of that, this bombshell exploded. There is nothing anyone can do. I can’t say anything in his favour. The level of criminality in what he has done now is just so high. It seems he has been doing it consistently; it’s just that we didn’t know. So, it’s a sad story but a very tragic end to a glorious era in our crime bursting and security achievement in the country.”

On the image of the police: “I was listening to various radio stations today and the general impression is that every policeman is involved in this type of thing and that they are doing double dealing and that they are committing crime in private and pretending to be solving crime in the open. It’s a damaging event on the image of the police. It’s a big question on the image of the police.”

The lawyer and human rights campaigner, Femi Falana (SAN), said: “It’s an embarrassing situation and the decision to hand him over to the NDLEA is commendable. The NDLEA, which has already concluded its investigation, will charge him to court as soon as possible so that a lesson can be taught that nobody is above the law in the country and that the culture of impunity will give way to the rule of law.

“The implication of this is that it has confirmed the collapse of the new colonial state. That a serving police officer, who is suspended, would also mobilise police personnel to go and perpetrate drug trafficking, just shows that the system has collapsed and that nobody was monitoring him. He’s always operating like somebody above the law, and this will provide an opportunity for the authority to invite Nigerians to give evidence on the alleged atrocities, particularly extra-judicial killings.

“I met a lawyer that told me today (yesterday) that he has a judgment of N41 million stolen by this guy. So, this is the time for the police authority to implement that judgment, but it’s a sad thing. It would have been a dangerous situation if he were again indicted outside the country because this is an international trafficking ring.

“The Americans are still asking for him. This is a different matter entirely, even if it’s going to take America 50 years, they would pursue a criminal suspect.”

However, his lawyer, Debo Adeleke said it was a set-up. According to Adeleke, it is a lie fabricated against him.

He said: “We know him to be a man of impeccable character. A man that has dedicated his life to the commitment, preventing and to fighting criminality to a stand still.

“No doubt that the man would have stepped on various toes because of the enviable pedigree, knowing full well the nature of the country called Nigeria.

“It’s just like Mr. President said if we don’t win corruption, corruption would win the fight and bring us down. Because of the enviable pedigree of this man, some powerful cartel that wants to destroy him is trying to pull him down.

“The so-called Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), that American called for his extradition, was an aberration of lies and orchestrated calculated attempt to pull him down. Is a simple case of pulling down syndrome. This young man has not only been the best police officer in Nigeria but internationally.

“Barely three years ago, I was in Germany when my personal assistant drew my attention to a CNN report on Abba Kyari being praised by some of his colleagues at the FBI.

“Let us face reality, if he has been involved in drugs, the American government and other countries have a list of drug barons. They might have decided to invite him if was involved in such a thing. America and some European countries will never spare him.

“He would not have lasted in the police force. He has enemies including police officers. Most of them I have worked tirelessly with in solving Nigeria’s problems.

I do not understand what these people want to do with the campaign of calumny. We have not heard of the whole story. This is nothing but a charade of lies.

“He will never be involved in such an act. For all this year, his achievement has become envious. In his class of 40s, he has Excel. But Nigeria is good at fabricating lies that look more credible than truth. I can assure you that this man will be exonerated.”