By Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, President, Eculaw Group, Founder and CEO, DPA
The criminal indictment of Nigeria’s most decorated Police Officer is the best thing to happen to Nigerians and the worst thing to happen to The Nigeria Police Force!
Nothing could have saved Nigeria from The Nigeria Police without some external involvement, especially by the most powerful nation on earth. In that respect, the indictment of Deputy Police Commissioner Abba Kyari in the United States comes as a divine intervention.
Victims of The Nigeria Police are totally powerless to seek a meaningful redress within Nigeria. This is because The Nigerian Police controls everything and every stage in the criminal justice system. They run private prisons where they detain thousands secretly for years outside the rule of law. They run their own court system where they try and condemn suspects, and even carry out executions of those they condemn, all outside the purview of the constitution. To find oneself against even a moderately powerful Nigeria police officer is to find oneself against the gods. They control everything – they control what the press report about you. They control the judiciary in many subtle ways. They intimidate lawyers. They control the witnesses. They control the evidence. You are dead and finished if anyone of them has been paid highly enough to get you out of the way.
There is no major crime pattern in Nigeria without it being engineered and directed by The Police. Kidnapping could not abate because there is a way for the police to reap from the ransoms. And as has been illustrated in this US case against the most decorated and most celebrated Nigerian police officer, the spate of international scam, internet fraud and money laundering could not have been possible without the involvement or permissive dispositions of Nigerian police officers.
ABBA KYARI, THE SUPER COP?
As the then head of SARS in Lagos and until now the head of the IRT, Abba Kyari sat at the peak of the worst of the Nigerian police system. He is the worst of the worst, but covered in a robe silk and velvet. And as evidence of the incurable decadence of the Nigerian police, he is packaged as “the best” of them. He even controlled his own rise in the force. He was untouchable. He played God. By the way, IRT stands for Intelligence Response Team, an oxymoron used to cover the false truth about law enforcement in Nigeria. As head of SARS Lagos, he had the unfettered power of life and death over anyone. According to the few reports that dared come out against him, he traded on that power to a level never seen before. As the head of IRT, he elevated his game by running a monopoly of police violence. He became too powerful on the national scale.
Abba Kyari is the biggest showman Nigerian police have ever seen. He played the press and became a master in publicity. Just to give one example. Recall the case of Hamisu Bala, known also as Wadume. In that case, police officers working under Kyari had an encounter with some soldiers that led to the soldiers killing three of the police officers. Recall the official narrative pushed by Abba Kyari, which told the nation that Wadume was a kidnapping kingpin that had soldiers in his payroll, and that those soldiers killed the police to free Wadume. What Nigerians did not know was that after a joint police-military investigation, those soldiers were found to have performed their work well. It was Abba Kyari’s boys that were at fault when they went in mufti in an unmarked vehicle and kidnapped a man exactly like kidnappers, and refused to stop when soldiers on alert tried on multiple occasions to stop them. Also, there was never any kidnapping offense involving Wadume. The proof of that is in the fact, that in the end, the only charge the police could file against Wadume and all those arrested in his case was unlawful possession of firearm. Wadume’s case is pending now before Justice Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja. Anyone can confirm the charge Wadume is standing trial for. So, it meant that Abba Kyari alone could declare a person a kidnapper and Nigerians would believe it. Thank God the involvement of soldiers in that case prevented the extrajudicial execution of Wadume in police custody.
Nothing pleases man more than to witness the defeat of a false god. Do not mistake the feelings of Nigerians, as they watch Abba Kyari go down. If Abba Kyari loses the ability to control the public narrative of his activities, the truth that will come out will shake the already numbed nation to its foundation.
THE IMPACT OF ABBA KYARI INDICTMENT ON THE NIGERIAN POLICE
Now, let us assess the impact of Abba Kyari’s indictment on The Nigeria Police. The impact will come as a part of the process of the US Justice Department. To develop the case against Hushpuppi, the US District Attorney for the Central District of California understood that the massive money laundering scheme presided over by Hushpuppi would not be possible without someone powerful in the law enforcement being involved and providing protection to Hushpuppi. The logic was clear. If every official that Hushpuppi came across had enforced the law, Hushpuppi would not be so successful in his criminal enterprise. So, to solve the crime, you have to locate the state actor who has been aiding and abetting the criminal enterprise.
When Hushpuppi was identified, the US Justice Department was interested in unmasking that state actor probably in Nigeria or Dubai. The speed with which the officials of UAE cooperated in extraditing Hushpuppi to the US without an extradition hearing in UAE was enough to show the Americans that the official aider and abetter was not in Dubai, must be in Nigeria.
How significant is the role of a state actor in an organized criminal activity of the nature at hand? Very significant indeed! It takes state actors to help the criminals in maintaining order among themselves and settling scores among themselves without anyone member of the gang breaking out to report to authority. Hushpuppi needed Abba Kyari to keep his crime partner, Vincent Chibuzor, under control and to send a message to others in the gang who might try to double-cross him in the future. So, Abba Kyari can be said to have played the role of the stabilizer, a coordinator of the gang. He stopped the gang from falling apart. Hushpuppi knew that he could use Abba Kyari to deal with any obstacle in his path. The US Disrtict Attorney knew this and was determined to expose it. In fact, according to the affidavit by the FBI agent, Abba Kyari used unlawful detention of Chibuzor to facilitate the defrauding of the victim. That makes Abba Kyari an active participant in the fraud. Also, the position of the US Justice Department, further buttressed by the plea agreement by Hushpuppi, is that part of the proceeds of that fraud was paid to Abba Kyari. These are significant claims that have gone partially beyond mere allegation.
When this story broke out in the press, Abba Kyari made the worst mistake of his life by trying to deflect the story with his personal rebuttal on his Facebook profile. In that purported rebuttal, he committed something akin to a suicide. He admitted that he knew that Hushpuppi filed a false police report against Vincent Chibuzor over a very serious allegation. He admitted that despite being aware of that, he went ahead to befriend Hushpuppi and associate with him at personal level. That was suicidal. It was shocking that a supposedly intelligent police officer would be so naïve and so desperate to offer such as his explanation and defense. Indeed, Abba Kyari ought to have known that what happened was actually a confession. He clearly underestimated the FBI and the Justice Department.
HOW ONE SHOULD EXPECT THE CASE TO PROCEED HENCEFORTH
Looking at the investigative track of this case, the following must have happened:
(1) During the interrogation of Hushpuppi, there would have been several officers representing the Office of the District Attorney, the FBI, the Treasury Department, etc. They would have gathered with huge amount of information at their disposal and interrogated Hushpuppi against such information. They would normally start from the belief that Hushpuppi was a suspect and fraudster who would lie and who would try to blame others for his actions in order to shift criminal responsibility to others and away from himself. So, they would not believe anything he said unless it clears the doubts they already had.
(2) They had obtained by subpoena every WhatsApp and Instagram message and post made by Hushpuppi. They would have obtained every information UAE has on Hushpuppi and his travels, immigration and residential records, banking records, ATM and credit card records. They would have seen all WhatsApp communications between Hushpuppi and Abba Kyari even before they started interrogating Hushpuppi. In fact, it is highly likely that it was out of those records that the US agents would have been the first to bring up the name of Abba Kyari during their interrogation of Hushpuppi.
It is reasonable to assume that even before the arrest of Hushpuppi, the FBI had the following:
(a) Every relevant communication sent or received through WhatsApp, Instagram, etc by Hushpuppi.
(b) Every relevant communication sent or received through WhatsApp, Instagram, etc by Abba Kyari.
(c)) Every relevant communication sent or received through WhatsApp, Instagram, etc by Vincent Chibuzor, the victims, girlfriend of Chibuzor, and down the line.
So, it is very easy to confirm the exact communications that occurred between Abba Kyari and the relevant personalities.
(3) Very likely, it was not Hushpuppi that offered to implicate Abba Kyari. Vicent Chibuzor is already identified as a codefendant, next to Hushpuppi. The US agents saw communications between Hushpuppi and someone in Nigeria called Abba Kyari, concerning the arrest and detention of Chibuzor. It is natural that the US agents would want to know the role of the Abba Kyari in the dealings between the gangleader and a gang member. Interrogation of Hushpuppi was merely to confirm what the US agents already knew or thought about Abba Kyari.
(4) The US agents would have conducted focused investigation on Abba Kyari’s WhatsApp accounts and other social media accounts and they would have discovered other activities or similar activities between Abba Kyari and others. This is where the bomb is waiting for Abba Kyari and his contacts within The Nigerian Police. Every similar event whereby a powerful person engaged the services of Abba Kyari to silence or suppress a person or where Abba Kyari reported to those who engaged him that he has carried out the instructions and any evidence of payment and acknowledgement of payment would have been seen by the FBI. So, the interrogation of Abba Kyari by the FB and Justice Department lawyers will be explosive.
EXTRADITION OF ABBA KYARI
It is expected that Abba Kyari will resist extradition. He will do it in three different ways. We are already seeing the first part of it – the mobilization of the same type of crowd used to frustrate the EndSARS protest. That crowd is already protesting at the US Embassy in Abuja against the extradition of Abba Kyari. But this is not going to help Abba Kyari. Rather, it will worsen his position. What makes him a special defendant to the Justice Department is because of his high position and level of influence. The use of this crowd confirms that belief and will lead to the hardening up of the US position. If you want to understand how such protest influences the American government, study the situation in Iraq. The more the various factions in Iraq sponsored protests against America, the more entrenched in Iraq the Americans became. If American Government feels that its Embassy in Nigeria is threatened, they will send a security team to enhance the security of their Embassy staff. That will form the nucleus of the extraction force that may extract Abba Kyari from Nigeria at the right time.
Also, you are seeing the noises from Arewa Consultative Forum, opposing the extradition of Kyari. The second stage is that Abba Kyari will definitely have secrets on several powerful people in Nigeria. Police atrocities and human rights abuses are often carried out on the requests of civilians and politicians. So, Abba Kyari must have maintained a list of very powerful people he did favours to. He may well go to them and say: “If I go down, I may go down with you”. And those may try to help resist his extradition.
And finally, Abba Kyari will deploy every financial resource at his disposal, which must be quite a lot to hire the best lawyers in Nigeria to fight his extradition in courts all the way to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. So, we are looking at such fight lasting till the next 3 years.
But in the end, Abba Kyari will be extradited or the Americans may take him out of Nigeria by force. The Americans believe that the menace caused by Nigerian-connected internet fraud and scams all over the world could be tackled if only they could identify the state actors that aid the fraudsters. America has suffered numerous internet fraud cases that are linked to people connected to Nigeria. It is a major concern for the Justice Department. And the Justice Department seems to have decided that the only way to deal with this problem is to go for the state actors that aid and abet in these crimes. In this context, Abba Kyari is an ideal defendant with which to show the long arm of the American justice. The Americans I know will not back down on this.
Therefore, getting Abba Kyari will be to the Americans equivalent of getting 1000 Nigerian fraudsters at once. So, this case must be so important to the US Justice Department that nothing we have seen so far will dissuade the Americans from pressing forward with the extradition of Abba Kyari. It is reasonable to predict that Abba Kyari will be facing the American justice very soon.
INTERROGATION OF ABBA KYARI IN AMERICA
When Abba Kyari appears before the US District Court in California, he will have two stark options early in the process. He will either enter into a plea deal or he will deny the allegations and go for trial. His American lawyers will advise him that there is 100% chance that he will be convicted and sentenced to over 45 years in prison. His conviction on trial is a sure banker because both Hushpuppi and Vincent Chibuzor will be pleading guilty and entering into plea agreements that will require them to testify for the state against Abba Kyari. So, Chibuzor will be there to explain to the government how he was arrested by Abba Kyari and why and how much both sides paid in bribe. (Shocker: Vincent Chibuzor may reveal (or more likely confirm) to the US some shocking details of what he observed in Abba Kyari’s cells in Abattoir (a place where IRT detains suspects).
On the other hand, if Abba Kyari enters into a plea deal, he may get 20 years in prison.
There are banana peels everywhere for Defendant Abba Kyari. First, he is the big fish in this criminal investigation. He is the state actor that made everything possible. That is how the US sees him. Smaller flies are offered favourable plea deal in order to enable them surrender some big fish. And Hushpuppi and Chibuzor shall have surrendered Abba Kyari. There is no other big fish that Abba Kyari can use as his bait for favourable plea deal. The US has nothing to benefit from offering Kyari any plea deal. What serves their interest right now is to lock him up and throw away the key as a way to send a message to other Nigerian police officers. And this is what they may do.
However, who knows: Abba Kyari may try to make things easy for himself by offering some other top Nigeria Police officers and politicians to the US, either in this case or other cases where the Americans have interest. So, Abba Kyari may bring down the house on the heads of many. A man like him knows a lot and may decide not to go down alone.
So, other Nigerian police officers and politicians have a lot to fear. But nothing they can do will be enough to stop America from going forward, given how far they have gotten.
The case of money laundry against Abba Kyari may be a relatively small case when compared to information that will emerge about Abba Kyari the moment Nigerians feel safe enough to say the truth they know about the Super Cop. So, Nigerians must prepare for the tsunami about to occur once Abba Kyari has been discovered to be out of the way. Once he is seen to have lost control of his network of coercion and terror, Nigerians will be shocked by what they will learn about Abba Kyari’s activities.
By Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, President, Eculaw Group, Founder and CEO, DPA