“Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen.”
– Robert Greene, in the 48 Laws of Power
The Nigeria Police Force is arguably that department of government with the biggest integrity deficit and credibility crisis in the country today. It has over the years gained a solid reputation, or notoriety for more negatives than positives. As far as most Nigerian parents are concerned, Nigeria Police Force is not a dream place for their wards to work because the institution’s public profile is synonymous with bribery and corruption, and many other negatives. There is hardly any encounter with the police that civilians come out praising the uniform men.
Whether this is right or wrong, or its just an exaggeration, the impression the average Nigerian has about the police is that they extort money from motorists on the highway; they collect bribe before doing their jobs; they arrive late to crime scenes as they sometimes collaborate with criminals; and they also implicate innocent people in crimes they didn’t commit and lock them up for years. The rank and file and middle level officers of the Police Force are poorly trained as they are extorted by their own superiors in police colleges; they are made to pay for what government has already paid for, and the culture of extortion, crime and corruption are imbued in them from that formative stage. They are also poorly remunerated and live in squalor in dirty barracks and take out their frustration on innocent civilians who they are employed to protect and serve. The big shots in the service steal the little meant for the welfare of their less endowed junior colleagues, collaborate with crooked politicians and closet criminals masquerading as businessmen to lock up and torture innocent people, and help to create an unjust and unfair society where anarchy and chaos become the order of the day.
Of course there are exceptional cases of few policemen who have displayed rare patriotism and sheer passion for the job but they have been too few to affect the image of the Force positively. As far as most Nigerians are concerned, if those few good ones are just about 20 out of 100 for example, that’s an extremely low mark.
That is exactly why Nigerians fell for the Abba Kyari bandwagon when it became obvious few years ago that he was an officer with an uncommon knack for breaking new grounds in crime fighting. Nigerians have been so bruised and battered by bad leadership that they have become desperate to search for heroes wherever they can find one.
With his imposing height, rare courage, massive leadership qualities and incredible ability to unearth the most complex criminal networks and sophisticated crime, Kyari was made for policing job. And with consistent romance with the media and fascination with cameras, he easily became everyone’s darling, aka the Super Cop.
Incredible Crime Fighter
Kyari first displayed an exceptional bravery in Lagos as the OC of the now defunct Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS). It is believed in some quarters that the success that former Governor Babatunde Fashola recorded in his determination to rid Lagos of criminals was made possible by the role played by Kyari. Kyari and his team worked day and night to ensure that armed robbers were either dead, imprisoned or chased out of the state.
Evans, Godogodo, Wadume, Offa bank robbers etc are some of the most celebrated criminals and crime networks he and his Intelligence Response Team (IRT) officers have busted with incredible efficiency.
Other major exploits were the arrest of the killers of former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh (retd); arrest of the most wanted Boko Haram commander, Umar Abdulmalik and eight other terrorists; and arrest of 22 Boko Haram terrorists responsible for the kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls in 2014. He also captured a notorious kidnapper, Henry Chibueze aka Vampire, and his gang in Owerri.
Hundreds of robbers and bandits were also banished from the notorious Abuja-Kaduna expressway and other major roads as a result of Kyari’s crime fighting skills.
If he didn’t notice him earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari himself must have nodded his head in awe when Kyari led his IRT team to Kano to rescue the District Head of Daura, Alhaji Musa Umar who was kidnapped by dare-devil terrorists (who the government conveniently calls mere bandits). One can imagine how personally embarrassed the President must have felt that a prominent traditional head in his town, who was also his in-law, could be kidnapped without trace for months. In fact, his political rivals were already calling him a President who could not secure his own state and hometown. But like a miracle worker or a saviour, Kyari arrived the scene and shamed the devil. This feat must have earned him the Presidential medal and award by the National Assembly.
Unknown gunmen in the southeast and surroundings was also another phenomenon Kyari busted recently. Before Kyari’s intervention, the unknown gunmen had killed countless policemen and burnt police stations and other government properties. They were about to turn the place into another failed zone before Kyari intervened and brought about relative peace in the area.
Before the Hushpuppy brouhaha, Kyari was easily the most celebrated uniform officer in the country in recent years, with awards and medals from within and outside the country to show for his brilliancy and consistency in undoing formidable criminal gangs.
The police is your friend appellation found true meaning in Kyari’s policing style which was more humane than elitist. He didn’t need to know anyone to defend or attend to their cases. His office in Abuja was home to victims of robbery in search of justice and there are tens of testimonies from individuals and families who Kyari had helped to recover monies, vehicles and properties, without demanding or taking any form of gratification.
But with recent developments and credible pointers that impugn on the integrity of this super cop, one has to ask how we arrived here …
At what point did he decide to start profiting financially from his policing prowess? Did he get entangled with some of the bad boys he innocently dined with and dreamt of making mega bucks as well? Was he always like this from the beginning of his career and maybe masking his night escapades with over-publicized daylight crime bursting successes?
Beneath Kyari’s much talked about record as an outstanding police officer and crime fighter is the image of a showy character who often deliberately make use or overuse the media to hype his achievements and activities. Unlike other intelligence officers both in Nigeria and in other jurisdictions that are very discreet, reserved and shy away from public view, Kyari lived the life of musician, actor or fashionista who shared his personal and official activities on Instagram, Facebook and other social media pages. When he was going on operation, he would share pictures, during the operation, he would do the same and after the operation, he would immediately display the evidences of his feat online and claim the credit (as if the publicity is as urgent and important as the arrest of the suspects), to the disgust of a lot of concerned Nigerians who felt his media exposures were unsafe and counter-productive.
There was hardly any effort by his superiors to rein him in; if any, he never listened. Rather, Kyari doubled down on his celebrity lifestyle. The more he won awards and Nigerians bathe him in flowery words, the more the suspended super cop sank deeper in the vast ocean of his own false sense of invincibility.
He danced openly at parties, openly hobnobbed with wealthy business moguls, artistes and social media celebrities. In his excessive social displays, he didn’t discriminate against some shady characters who had no known sources of income but who engage in public show of stupendous wealth. These are people he was supposed to either suspect the source of their obscene wealth or have intelligence on their criminal activities.
This is as odd as seeing an FBI top intelligence agent hobnobbing, drinking, smoking and dancing at parties and going naked at beaches with Drake, R Kelly, Chris Brown, Ja Rule, DMX, 50 Cent etc.
Like the celebrities he dined with, Kyari and some of the closest persons to him engaged in obscene display of wealth, some of which his legitimate income could not account for. His brother was particularly known on social media for extravagant show of exotic stuff – cars, houses, jewellery etc. And when The Cable Online Newspaper did a close-up on his expensive lifestyle as displayed in pictures he posted online, he quickly deleted all his posts on Instagram and other social media outlets. If he was sure those possessions were legitimately obtained and had nothing to do with his brother’s alleged crimes, he wouldn’t see the need to delete them, even in the face of public scrutiny on his brother.
Even at the peak of Kyari’s stardom, he had never been without blemish, or at least some allegations. As OC SARS in Lagos, while he did a lot to curb violent crimes in the state and environs, he and his boys were also alleged to be involved in some form of extortion, extra judicial killings and human rights abuses – offences which form the basis of the EndSARS movement.
Some observers are of the belief that if Kyari and other young brilliant officers had been reined in by the necessary institutions early on, they would have reformed themselves and the embarrassing FBI scenario that is upon us now would not have happened.
As the head of IRT, he allegedly got involved in election meddling. His boys were named in the electoral heist that aided Governor Yahaya Bello, back into office in 2019. Kyari was also one of the officers drafted into Kano when CP Wakili was removed after the inconclusive election. He allegedly aided the reign of thugs and guns that gave Governor Ganduje an edge during the supplementary poll, also in 2019.
According to Femi Falana and other human rights activists, Kyari is a product of the rotten system – a system that indulged him from his days of little misdemeanours. According to him, the ongoing probe by the Egbunike Panel must extend to the many previous allegations levelled against him which he said the police authorities are aware of through many petitions.
From forcing suspects to implicate politically exposed persons and killing one of them (Michael Adikwu) as it happened with the Offa bank robbers, to bare-faced extortion, stealing loots and properties of suspects and under-declaring recovered loots like it happened with the cases of Afeez Mojeed, Raphael Tersoo, Moses Mfe, Colins Ezenwa, Evans etc, Kyari has never been free from very serious allegations in the course of his glittering career. Some critics have accused him of over-publicising his good deeds to deflect attention from his bad deeds which may get to the public through petitions.
When FBI Sneezes…
Apparently due to the institutional rot in the system, the Police had over the years ignored weighty allegations made by Nigerians against Kyari, without investigations. But the same Police Force has now suspended Kyari and in an uncharacteristically swift manner put up a panel to investigate him, just because it’s FBI and the United States that are involved, this time.
Kyari had over the years manipulated the (social) media in his favour and taken advantage of the bigoted nature of many Nigerians to whip up up all manners of sentiments each time an allegation is made against him. He often managed to convince his followers on social media that all allegations against him were from people who either hated him for who he is and where he comes from or were agents of the crime syndicates he was fighting. But lies can travel for two decades, it takes only two hours for truth to catch up with falsehood.
When the news of his illicit romance with Ramon Abbas aka Hushpuppy first hit the airwaves, the suspended super cop thought it was one of those ones he easily dismissed in the past. He rushed to Facebook to defend himself with some wild claims and weak punches, which he later regretted. Having no idea of the depth of evidence the FBI had against him, he claimed he only arrested Kelly Vincent Chibuzor over death threats he made on Hushpuppy, and released him after discovering that he was innocent. He also said he acted as a link between the fraudster and his tailor, and clothes were picked up in his office, adding that Hushpuppy only sent N300,000 to the tailor directly.
The universal rule of hole is simple: When you find yourself inside one, stop digging… After a few days of digesting the comprehensive FBI court deposition, which was made public after his Facebook rant, and with the nationwide outrage that followed, Kyari apparently felt he may have shot himself in the foot with the hasty statement. He therefore dug deeper, edited the statement and removed the part where he served as the #300,000 Kaftan link for Hushpuppy. He instead added that he helped him to collect an #8m debt from one of his debtors. Meanwhile, the equivalent of #8m is the sum FBI is accusing him of collecting from Hushpuppy for aiding and abetting a wire fraud of global proportion! This alone is self-indicting!
Within few hours, Kyari had edited the statement 12 times. Many Nigerians were shocked that the best cop in the country who once headed the elite intelligence unit of the IGP could commit these series of school-boy blunders.
After all the bashing he got on social media, he dug deep again by removing the entire post. Many Nigerians were surprised he didn’t know that millions of people already had his first post and different edited versions on their gadgets before he eventually deleted the entire post. And again, Facebook has a way of informing users of how many times a particular post has been edited.
When FBI released the full details of the messy alliance and a District Court in Central California issued a warrant of arrest on Kyari, everyone realised that the super cop had finally overreached himself and his game could be up.
Reading through the 69-page document that FBI deposed before the court, Kyari was found in what looks like a criminal romance with Hushpuppy, helping him to put away Chibuzor so he could proceed with his 1.1m dollars scam against a Qarari businessman. According to the exchange between Kyari and Hushpuppy, Chibuzor was about to bust the deal and expose Hushpuppy, so he had to be taken out of circulation… And that was why he engaged Kyari.
Reading that piece must be saddening for any Nigerian. That was in 2019 and every Nigerian aleady knew Hushpuppy must be some wire fraudster. Kyari can’t therefore claim he didn’t know he was aiding and abetting a crime. So for the highly rated super cop to be taking instructions from Hushpuppy as if he was his IGP or C-InC must be really embarrassing.
According to the affidavit sworn to by Andrew John Innocenti, a special agent with the FBI, Kyari did not only arrest, detain and torture Chibuzor at the behest of Hushpuppy, he also sent the picture of his captive to him and equally sought his approval before releasing him a month later. He accepted to be paid through a third party account, which he sent to Hushpuppy, for his services. He also seized Chibuzor’s phones and gadgets and never released it to him, on the instruction of Hushpuppy.
The rate at which powerful Nigerians use the Police to settle scores is already well known. The super cop is now taking the illicit practice to global levels… and this time it looks like he got his fingers badly burnt.
To confirm that Kyari knew exactly what he was doing, Chibuzor’s girlfriend was going about looking for money to bail him out, so while chatting with Hushpuppy, the super cop mocked the lady, saying something like “she’s looking for money for bail thinking it is a normal arrest.” This is quite revealing. It means that (1), In Kyari’s cell, bail is not free and (2), Kyari knew that Chibuzor’s elongated incarceration was not normal, he did that to deliberately aid Hushpuppy’s criminal scheme.
Equally upsetting was the fact that Kyari also sent some of the pictures of his success stories to Hushpuppy just like prostitutes send their nudes to potential clients. This means Kyari may have for long been profiting from his public image as a powerful cop while doing illegal jobs for the shady characters he openly fraternized with.
When other Nigerians complained about the way Kyari dined with some of these questionable characters, his defenders claimed he was human and was free to wear aso ebi and share beer bottles with all manners of people. It has now come to the open that the kind of relationship he has with those people may not be noble afterral. Who knows how many Chibuzors he has kept away or silenced forever to aid the Hushpuppies of this world.
While it is unclear whether Kyari will have his day in the American court or not, it is very important for him to first of all face the justice system here since he has been alleged to have abused his office, aided a crime and corruptly enriched himself, which are violations of our own laws too. Despite the overwhelming evidence provided by the FBI, Kyari deserves fair hearing and fair trial.
The Nigerian justice system must learn some lessons from the way saner climes conduct the business of investigation, arrest and prosecution, in that order. But here in Nigeria, what we have is arrest first, investigation which is often done with torture and other human rights abuses, and prosecution which often ends in disaster because it is often politically motivated and/or shodily done. The thorough and meticulous way the FBI conducted the investigation and convinced the court to issue an arrest warrant on Kyari, is another lesson for our institutions.
Successive administrations have refused to reform the Nigerian Police Force while the institution itself has failed to reform itself so much so that even her best officers are also deeply involved in the culture of extortion, bribery, corruption, illegal detention, human rights abuses and extra judicial killings. EndSARS provided an opportunity to holistically address the issues but the violent way it was put off without any accountability and restitution means it was another missed opportunity.
Nigeria’s political leadership must summon the political will to solve the problems from the top. Emphasis must be on building institutions that can endure, set rules and enforce them, and also rein-in defaulting individuals.
If found guilty, it means Kyari has always been a bad cop who took advantage of the naivety of Nigerians, to make illicit money for himself and yet collect undeserved accolades… But the system enabled him, empowered him and made a monster out of someone who had the potential to be a real super cop.