By Kazeem Akintunde
At the age of 43 in 2018, Abba Kyari became the youngest Deputy Commissioner of Police in the history of the Nigerian Police. His rise was an exceptional one due mainly to double promotions in recognition of his outstanding performance on the job. His eventual rise to becoming the number one cop in the land was only a matter of time.
His place of birth will also work in his favour. Already, he has earned such appellations as ‘Super Cop’, ‘Awaiting IGP’ among his colleagues and has become a darling of the media. But in the last few months, there has been suspicion whether our man is as clean as snow as he has been portrayed, or whether he is in bed with criminals or sending them to the gulag. And like the title of one of James Hardly Chase’s novels, ‘How The Cookie Crumbles’, all the carefully cultivated image of our super cop came crumbling when the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, indicted him for his involvement with International fraud kingpin, Ramon Azeez, known as Hushpuppi and demanded his extradition to the United States of America, USA to face justice.
Nigerians won’t hear any of such and rose in defense of their own. The accused also dismissed the allegations against him with a wave of the hand. Though he was suspended from work while a panel was set up to investigate the allegations against him, Kyari continues his work as if nothing happened. Indeed, nothing would have happened except that greed took the better of him.
Even while on suspension, he was involved with a cocaine trafficking ring and a sting operation mounted by the top echelon on the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, caught a big fish in Abba Kyari.
For the case not to get swept under the carpet the Nigerian way, a video of our man negotiating bribe soon found its way to the social media space. He became a fall guy. If greed had not set in, Kyari could have survived the FBI dragnet.
At a point in his career, he was seen by many as a Nigerian version of the American super cop, Eliot Ness – an incorruptible crime buster on a mission to weed out criminal elements from the society.
Like Ness’s feisty exploits against Al Capone and his Chicago Outfit gang as head of the police team dubbed ‘The Untouchables’, Kyari was seen from one crime scene to another leading the police’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT) to crack the nuts of criminality and track down the perpetrators.
However, unlike many dutiful men of the security services who barely get heard for what they do, Kyari was loudly heard and lavishly seen. This, for cynics, was the first alarm, but many ignored the red sign and gave him the benefit of doubt.
Kyari began his ascent to the limelight with his appointment as the officer in charge of the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos State, in January 2011. He went on to carve a niche for himself by busting syndicates of criminals – armed robbers, kidnappers and Internet fraudsters, among others.
With family roots traced to Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe State, Kyari was born on March 17, 1975, and grew up in Maiduguri, Borno State, where he was schooled to university level. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography from the University of Maiduguri in 1997, and did his mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Akwa Ibom State in 1998.
He joined the Nigeria Police Force as Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police in 2000 and served at different times at Song, Girei and Numan local governments and made local news for his arrest of a notorious armed robber called, ‘Ndagi’ aka Spirit, who had held Numan, the third biggest town in Adamawa State hostage for years.
He was soon transferred to Lagos and his recorded headline-grabbing milestones including the arrests of kidnapping kingpins Evans, who alleged that Kyari and his boys looted his house and went away with cash and other valuable properties. Evans was ignored by many Nigerians who are not ready to listen to him.
Again, another notorious criminal in Taraba State, Wadume, was also arrested by his team and a similar complaint was made but Nigerians didn’t give a damn. Our super cop was solving so many difficult crimes and the whole Nation was ready to celebrate him.
Indeed, the House of Representatives invited him to the floor of the house to shower encomiums on him and he made history when all the legislators gave him a standing ovation. Earlier in 2016, he received a presidential medal of courage from President Muhammadu Buhari after his team rescued three kidnapped schoolgirls in Lagos. He was also honoured by the Lagos state government, winning the top award for gallantry three years in a row between 2011 and 2013.
But the adulation was not what caught our super cop’s eye. He wanted to live big and roll with the big boys. He went to bed with the underworld criminal ring and began to live large. Social media also became his wealth display platform. Our guy has arrived.
It was, however, heart-breaking for many of his fans when, in August last year, details of his close relationship with celebrity internet fraudster, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, alias Hushpuppi, was made public. The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation which released the details as part of its probe into a $1.1 million fraud committed by the conman indicted Kyari as a partner in the fraud.
As sensational as it was, the US government’s 2021 indictment of the ‘super cop’ was not the first time he would be accused of compromise. US officials allege in an affidavit that Hushpuppi got Kyari to arrest Vincent Chibuzor, with whom he had fallen out.
Kyari allegedly sent Hushpuppi’s details of a bank account to deposit payment for the arrest, the statement said.
However, in a now-deleted response on his Facebook page, he described the allegations as “false” and said Hushpuppi was only paying for clothes that had been made for him.
“He saw some of my Native Clothes and Caps on my social media page and he said he likes them,” adding that Hushpuppi sent money for the tailor.
A US court document submitted by the FBI also show details of alleged WhatsApp chats between the policeman and the Instagram celebrity-cum-fraudster.
Aside the Hushpuppi saga, in 2019, the National Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International accused Kyari of using assets confiscated from a suspected kidnapper who had been killed by another police unit, for his personal benefit. The indictment did not gain traction in the news media. Our super cop could do no wrong until the NDLEA declared him wanted for hobnobbing with International Drug syndicates.
The leadership of the police had no alternative than to arrest Kyari alongside four of his team members and were handed over to the NDLEA.
The Kyari saga has become an international embarrassment for the country and it is time our leaders put on their thinking caps to work out how to reform the police. It is time to get many of the bad eggs that have found their way there out. A complete overhaul of the recruitment process should be done while the welfare of Policemen should be improved so that it would deter them from easily falling into temptation. The faceoff that has lingered between the IGP and the Police Service Commission over the recruitment of 10,000 additional men for the police should be seen as a show of shame that it is. In saner climes, both the IGP and head of the PSC would have been shown the way out of the system.
The latest scandal may be the beginning of the end of his career in the Police as it is sure that he would be prosecuted and may spend some time behind bars. Again, the USA indictment is still hanging on his neck and it is still not clear how that will pan out.
But one thing that is clear is that our Super Cop, Abba Kyari, has allowed his greed and love for life on the fast lane to cut short a promising career. He could, at the end of the day return to his first love, which is fashion designing.
See you next week.