The involvement of a well-decorated officer like Kyari in alleged criminal activities is scandalous
Although the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, has ordered an internal review of the “allegation and indictment processes from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)” against Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Abba Kyari, we hope the federal government will take the matter much more seriously. This is a case that goes to the heart of law and order in Nigeria and our reputation as a country. While the police are in order with their internal process, President Muhammadu Buhari should get the office of the Attorney General of the Federation involved on how to ensure a quick resolution of vexatious international embarrassment.
Ordinarily, law enforcement agencies draw their oxygen from moral authority. That seems undermined severely by this grave allegation against a key officer of the Nigerian Police Force. Worse still, this is someone that has been touted as a “super cop” and officially decorated as a “good example” to his peers, including by the House of Representatives. Whatever may therefore be his excuse, the lurid details contained in the United States’ court papers, obviously from phone tap and forensic investigation, are pointers that Kyari may have been living a professional double life.
It is indeed noteworthy that Kyari, who heads the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) of the police, is not new to allegations of impropriety. In 2019, both the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Amnesty International had accused him and the IRT of gross human rights abuses and illegal expropriation of proceeds of crime to the tune of hundreds of millions of naira. As head of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Kyari also had a reputation for gross human rights violations.
But the embattled DCP is well connected within the political hierarchy and the media and has always casually dismissed allegations against him. With the FBI indictment–which he carelessly described as a “show” on his social media handle before deleting the message–his luck may have finally run out.
The U.S. Justice Department last Thursday charged Kyari alongside five others with offences bordering on wire fraud, conducting financial transactions involving proceeds of unlawful activity, and aiding and abetting identity theft. He is fingered as the muscle man for Ramon Abass, aka Hushpuppi, an Instagram celebrity, arrested last year in Dubai and whisked to the U.S where he has changed his initial plea of ‘not guilty’ to guilty in a multi-million-dollars money laundering fraud.
We hope the federal government understand the gravity of Kyari’s indictment by the FBI. While it is not fair to use the action of a few criminally minded citizens as an excuse to profile or negatively brand any country, that has become the reality of the Nigerian situation regarding identity theft otherwise called ‘419’. A few weeks after Hushpuppi was arrested in Dubai last year, six Nigerians were also arrested. “The suspects targeted victims overseas by creating fake websites for well-known companies and banks in a bid to steal victims’ credit card information and then launder the stolen money,” Dubai police Brig. Jamal al-Jalaf said. A damning statement by the American Department of Justice (DoJ) in June last year said, “Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC (Business Email Compromise) scams. Those individuals are often members of transnational criminal organisations, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world.”
Given the foregoing, the involvement of a well-decorated senior officer like Kyari in alleged criminal activities is a major blow for the country’s already battered image. But his indictment by the FBI may not come exactly as a surprise. Often, the link between law enforcement officers and criminal kingpins in our society has been hazy. In addition, we have developed a police culture that is perceived by the public as synonymous with corruption. Even before the Hushpuppi indictment, Kyari had earned enough doubt in his career to have elicited questions from the relevant authorities. That he has come thus far is in itself an indictment on the place of integrity in the Nigerian public life.
For the president, this case presents a low hanging fruit opportunity to remind Nigerians and the world that he still has a residual commitment to anti-corruption.