Abba Kyari’s response in July after the US Attorney General’s Office Central District of California issued a warrant of arrest against him following his indictment in a case of internet fraud involving Ramon Abbas, otherwise called Hushpuppi, was the earliest warning sign that the Nigerian end of this affair might descend into a farce.
The US authorities might have taken the allegations against Kyari seriously, but his response suggested, without a doubt, that he knew his way around the charges, and he was going to get justice on his own terms.
Abba Kyari, a deputy commissioner of police in charge of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), reporting directly to the Inspector General of Police, was not called a super cop for nothing. He knew exactly where the fool’s button of the system was. And he knew how to press it. While most of his mates doing their day jobs are still two ranks below, he has left them by carefully cultivating an image with the press of the cop who did what Napoleon could not do.
His reported role in the arrest of two alleged kidnap kingpins – Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, otherwise called Evans, in 2017, and Hamisu Wadume two years later, raised the testosterone of a hero-deprived press to crown him “super cop”.
The National Assembly blessed the charade by inviting him to come and take a bow on the floor of the house. And to top it, he got a presidential award for courage. It was the type of adulation which CSP Kayode Unaneroro who died in penury after leading the police team that captured the notorious armed robber, Lawrence Anini, would have envied.
By the time the story of his indictment broke, Abba Kyari had already accumulated enough in his favours bank. He responded to the warrant which also alleged that large sums of money from Hushpuppi had been traced to his account, by saying it was no big deal. The only transfer from the suspect, he said, was N300,000 sent to him for his tailor.
Even by Abba Kyari’s own exotic standards of sartorial taste acquired from being regularly in the company of Nigeria’s A-list celebrities, that amount seemed quite high for any honest tailor. But after years of lounging in the celebrity zone, such minor details were hardly a concern for Abba Kyari who was happy to be Hushpuppi’s conduit to the tailor.
In response to additional information by the US authorities of more suspicious transfer details into his account, Abba Kyari quickly returned to his teeming Facebook fans. He took down the tailor story, but stuck to his guns that he had done no wrong. He still maintained a surprisingly robust presence and engagement on social media, some say, in defiance of advice by insiders to slow down.
It was not his fault. After a long career of making the system work for him, this did not look like a mountain too high to climb. The police high command appeared too confused and embarrassed. To its credit, however, within days of the announcement the police suspended Abba Kyari and set up two panels to investigate him – one by the Police Service Commission (PSC); and the second – Special Investigation Panel (SIP) – by the office of the Inspector General of Police. Nothing was heard again about the first panel, while the latter, headed by DIG Joseph Egbunike, was given two weeks to submit its report.
That turned out to be the longest two weeks in the police calendar. While the PSC kept the outcome of its own internal investigation secret, the Inspector-General of Police kept sealed lips on the outcome of the SIP investigation for nearly five months. During this time, Abba Kyari carried on living not just like the celebrated super cop, but also as the star guest at a number of social events, including the wedding of the son of the Inspector-General of Police.
Abba Kyari knew the Nigerian end of the whole thing would be a farce. He was not disappointed when, after the long wait, the Force Disciplinary Committee (FDC) “reviewed” the report of the Egbunike committee and recommended a reduction in rank which, in effect, meant that he could go and sin some more.
Neither the Egbunike special investigation panel nor the FDC of which the Inspector-General of Police is a member, saw anything wrong with over N200 million transferred to Abba Kyari’s brother nor were any questions asked.
If the Inspector-General of Police was remotely outraged by Abba Kyari’s conduct, we would never know. But the outcome of the recommendation of the FDC of which he is a member suggests that at best, he thought it was a misdemeanour deserving nothing more severe than the loss of a rank. If Abba Kyari had presided over his own internal trial, he would not have written a better script.
But as we have seen, it’s not only about Abba Kyari; it’s also about what his alleged liaison with criminals does to the reputation and integrity of a system already beset by multiple malignancies. I cannot for the life of me understand how the Inspector-General of Police feels comfortable to be called Inspector-General of Police in a force where an assistant superintendent will openly call himself “Too much money” on his Facebook page; or why the Inspector-General of Police is not outraged that an officer under his nose and head of the intelligence unit that reports directly to him posts pictures of himself hanging out with dodgy people.
How can he be comfortable calling himself Inspector-General of Police when a suspect in a criminal case that reports directly to him still has the same special unit lodged inside his in-pocket while he is supposed to be on suspension and wanted abroad? There’s no outrage, no fear of consequences, nothing. How can the Inspector-General of Police be comfortable?
Abba Kyari was always sure of his medicine and his medicine man, so, as they say, he could beat his chest with it. But beyond and above knowing that he had a boss in whose eyes he could do no wrong, he also knew there is a powerful chain of primordial allegiances he can call to return years of favours done at the expense of his duty as a police officer. And that is the real tragedy of this matter and the root of his audacity. Otherwise, how can an officer suspended and already facing serious charges still be involved in “negotiating” brokerage for a so-called whistleblower? How?
He deserves his day in court and I have no intention, at this time, to comment on the circus which the malicious incompetence of sections of the press, PR agents and the police high command have turned the matter into. As you read this piece, neither the investigation of the PSC nor the recommendations by the FDC which the Inspector-General of Police is a member of has been made public.
The public perception of the sting operation by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) which has obviously complicated matters for Abba Kyari is that it was a coup d’etat, executed to save him from the greater peril of extradition to the US, where his tailor’s fancy cuts or decades of dubious favours may not save him.
That perception may be wrong, and clearly the tensions between the NDLEA and the police – followed by clarifications and counter clarifications – showed that the police turned Abba Kyari over to the NDLEA at gunpoint, in a manner of speaking.
Yet, the tardiness and inexplicable delay in investigating the matter in the first place, the drip, drip in the release of the police report, its inconclusiveness, not to mention the inter-agency rivalry, puts the government in a tight spot. It would be interesting to see how matters proceed after the drama of last week and Abba Kyari’s initial two-week detention on the orders of the court.
Despite the NDLEA’s best efforts, the drama surrounding this case appears to be paving the way for Abba Kyari’s soft landing perhaps on grounds of press trial or such useless technicalities, followed by his passage into quiet oblivion. The farce couldn’t have been better scripted.
•Ishiekwene is Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP