Super cop Abba Kyari and the tollgate to justice

Hushpuppi and Kyari


By Owei Lakemfa

A COP is not a rock star. A serving cop who strives to live like a celebrity, exhibiting his claimed prowess in photos and video clips, keeping high media profile, and rolling with local and international big boys, is bound to get into trouble. Basically, his salary cannot sustain such a life style.

A trite in English says, show me your friend and I will tell you who you are. Another has it that birds of the same feathers, flock together. As adolescents in imbibing this basic saying, we used to render it this way: “Aves of identical plumage congregate in the same vicinity.”

The Yorubas counsel that if you are a worshipper of the god, Obatala, who requires devotees to always wear spotless white, you should not make sellers of palm oil your best friends and be found in their midst. This is because they are bound to stain your white linen which will make you unclean. This is the case of Nigeria super crime buster and Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP Abba Alhaji Kyari, who was declared wanted on Thursday by the United States for alleged wire fraud and money laundering. His predicament stems from his association with an indicted   international fraudster, Ramon Abbas alias Hushpuppi who had raked in at least $24 million from victims. In April 2021, he pleaded guilty in American courts for multiple cases of financial fraud which carry a twenty-year sentence.

Records released by the American courts showed that Hushpuppi had complained to his friend, Abba Kyari, that a fellow fraudster, Kelly Chibuzor Vincent, was trying to double cross him in a “job” of defrauding a man of $1.1 million under the guise of opening a school for children in Qatar.

He sent details of Vincent who was then picked up by Kyari and detained under sub human conditions for one month to ensure he was out of circulation while Hushpuppi closed the fraud deal. The records showed that Kyari had sent photographs of Vincent in police cell to Hushpuppi to confirm his identity, and that Vincent was only released after Hushpuppi took pity on him and asked Kyari to set him free. The fraudster then sent some money to Kyari through a third party account.

Kyari has a different version of what transpired. He wrote: “We responded to a distress call he (Hushpuppi) made on threat to his family and released the suspect when we discovered there was no life threat from the suspect.” On the money Hushpuppi sent him through a third party account he had provided, Kyari claimed it was to buy and sew clothes for the former who had admired the clothes he wore in photos on social media. Kyari claimed the clothes: “were brought to our office and he (Hushpuppi) sent somebody to collect them.”

This version seems incredible. If you are a super crime buster like Kyari, your best friends whom you are willing to dress up like models, should not be infamous criminals. It cannot be good business that a super cop is the fashion designer of a ‘celebrity’ fraudster who plays in the international league. Even if it was a business deal, it was bad business.

Kyari as a cop ought to know this, otherwise, why arrest the baker who sold bread to bandit camps to feed kidnap victims?  Kyari’s tailor defence does not portray him as an intelligent person, or perhaps, he took Nigerians as daft idiots who are incapable of reasoning.

Kyari, as a cop should have cautioned himself knowing that anything he says or writes following his indictment by the American courts, could be used against him. More so when he clearly was not under duress when he made his public defence. He seemed too quick in making his defence; perhaps he should have consulted a lawyer, or allowed one to speak for him.

His speedy response gives the overall impression that he was rattled. His weakest defence was inadvertently admitting the conversations and text messages with Hushpuppi on how to handle Vincent including an alleged N1 million bail bribe, and when to free him. In this, Kyari behaved like the lap dog of the Puppy.

In July, there was a trending burial plan for the mother of a businessman. It promised to be an occasion when the Naira would be shown as an orphan with nobody to protect it. True to its billing, there were viral video clips which showed the Naira scattered around fields and large spaces so much that poor gate crashers confessed they picked the national currency Naira from the ground in its hundreds of thousands.

In another video, the chief celebrant was shown using bundles of the currency to joggle, chest, trap and kick like Lionel Messi on a football field. Who showed up at such a gathering? The super cop Abba Kyari! As expected, he could not keep his mouth shut. First he rationalised his ill-advised presence. Then praised the chief celebrant who has been hard put to explain his stupendous wealth. The sheep that frolics with the dog, is bound to eat faeces. The Bible puts it this way: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…” (Psalm 1:1).

I am aware that the Inspector General of Police has ordered an internal investigation into this case.  However, I appeal that DCP Abba Kyari, in accordance with our laws, is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, so the Nigeria Police  Force, NPF, should not in its usual tradition, parade him before the public in its characteristic media trial.

As is with many serious issues in Nigeria, this Hushpuppi-Kyari matter may soon turn into a media circus with some blaming so-called detractors. Already in the social media it has become a battle between “Haters” and “Supporters” or to use a more contemporary lingo; between Hailers and Wailers.

But the case is not a matter of personal opinion or insults. The American Federal Bureau of Investigations, FBI is not the investigative arm of some Banana Republic that can be intimidated or banned like Twitter. Kyari and his supporters should not expend their energy on inanities but on concrete legal issues that would address the allegations.

As for extradition, I imagine it can be tough like the Buhari government is witnessing in the Sunday Igbogho case in neigbouring Benin Republic, or be unsuccessful like the Buruji Kashamu case. However, we should be mindful of the fact that America, as Nigeria did in the case of Nnamdi Kanu, can resort to extra ordinary rendition. Americans are actually experts in this kind of illegality.

*Owei Lakemfa, journalist, human rights crusader and labour unionist is a public affairs analyst