Opinion

Abba Kyari and irony of Nigeria’s anti-crime initiatives, By Emeka Duru

Access Bank
Abba Kyari, in his fall, follows the odious paths of heads of Nigeria’s crime bursting agencies that ended up consumed by the virus they were paid to combat.

If you attempt an analogy of failed coup plotters in Nigeria and disgraced officers of the country’s crime fighting agencies, you may not be wrong. They followed the same pattern, they ended up being consumed by the very same act they had condemned at some point.

In his well-received book, ‘Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966 – 1976)’, celebrated author and essayist, Max Siollun, made a brilliant presentation of the tragic end of some coup plotters in Nigeria. In summary, many of the officers that failed in the act and were subsequently killed or subjected to various ranges of punishment, had at some point, participated in trying those who had carried out coups or had attempted the act, earlier. Irony of sort, or nemesis, you may say!

Take the same comparison to the discredited heads of crime or corruption fighting squads in the country, you may arrive at similar conclusion. They had started on good note, vowing to uproot corruption from the land but often ended in ignominy, accused of being more corrupt or involved in the crimes they were supposed to burst.

The sudden eclipse of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, erstwhile Commander of Intelligence Response Team (IRT) at the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigerian Police Force, captures the situation, succinctly.

In Igbo society, the saying is that a dog does not eat the bone yoked on it. For the Yoruba, an elephant does not eat the grass under it. Both illustrate the weight attached to offices and the responsibilities that come with them. Simply put, to whom much is given, much is expected from. But that does not seem the case with Nigerian officials.

From the moment he stole himself into the media as head of Lagos state anti-robbery squad, Kyari had not looked back in garnering public acclaim. At a time, he was seen as the poster boy of the Nigerian Police; a rare officer gentleman in a system commonly associated with odium.

When he stood before lawmakers in the House of Representatives for commendation over his exploits in dealing with kidnappers, cyber fraudsters and other classes of criminals, many had pictured him as the Inspector General of Police in the making.

Kyari understood the game and the gullibility of Nigerians clearly. He worked in accordance with Robert Greene’s prescription in The 48 Laws of Power. Part of it says, “Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd, then, or oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colourful, more mysterious than the bland and timid masses.”

Kyari, knew that in Nigeria, appearance matters more than the real and he drew from that curious insight, positioning himself at strategic points for significant feats.

But little did Nigerians know that while he sold the dummy of a super cop and appropriated accolades from the unsuspecting public, he was neck-deep in the monster he pretended to fight. “It is proper to delude others but never yourself,” he must have gleaned from The Mafia Manager (A guide to the corporate Machiavelli) by V.  As it turned out, he merely shone with small fries, while hobnobbing with the big fishes in the underworld. But there is always a loose end to any crime.

Kyari’s sordid sides began to be exposed last year when he was linked to deals with confessed internet fraudster, Ramon Abba, also known as Hushpuppi, currently held in the United States. Pronto, allegations began to fly around on his involvement in other kinds of deals, including even, murder.

The latest in the charges against him is cocaine trafficking and attempting to compromise an officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

According to the NDLEA, an Intelligence Response Team (IRT) intercepted 25kg of cocaine en route Nigeria from Ethiopia.  Abba Kyari then proposed a deal to a narcotic agent that he would replace 20 kilograms of the cocaine with a dummy, while the remaining 5kg would be used for prosecution.

He was actually caught in a video doling out $61,400 (N35million) in bribe to a narcotic agent.  The bribe was to under declare a seized cocaine that he claimed his mean of (IRT) intercepted from cocaine couriers. By his account, a kilogramme of cocaine sells for N7million, which means the 20kg would go for N140 million.

The allegations against Kyari sound weighty. But that is the Nigerian system – one in which a dog eats the bone on its yoke. He merely symbolizes the character of the Nigerian society. Some of those that had held similar strategic positions in other outfits, had also abused their positions.

Fidelis Oyakhilome, retired police officer, who was chairman of NDLEA between 1988 and1991, was dismissed after being accused of having a relationship with a Lagos businesswoman and socialite, Jennifer Madike, who had been arrested for drug-related offences.

Some heads of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had also gone down in disgrace. The controversial exit of the pioneer chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, remains a topic of discussion. But his successors were worse for it.

Farida Waziri who took over from Ribadu in May 2008, was removed from her position by President Goodluck Jonathan on three years later. Her dismissal was linked to suspicions on EFCC being selective in its investigations.

Waziri was replaced by Ibrahim Lamorde on 28 November 2011as acting chairman. He was confirmed as Chairman by the Senate on February 15, 2012.  Lamorde was sacked on November 9, 2015, by President Muhammadu Buhari on hazy circumstances.

He was replaced with Ibrahim Magu. On 6 July 2020, Magu was arrested for corruption charges related to finances he allegedly embezzled for, among other among things, supporting his lavish living and traveling expenses. 22 corruption allegations were reported against him. He was later suspended from office on account of the charges. A special panel to investigate him found him guilty of the allegations. His case is still in the court.

Former Inspector General of Police, Tafa (Mustapha) Balogun, suffered more humiliation to the point of being forced out of office due to widespread charges of corruption in January 2005. 70 charges were brought against him covering the period from 2002 to 2004. He made a plea bargain with the court in exchange for returning much of the property and money. He was sentenced to six months in jail and was released on February 9, 2006 after serving his sentence.

These are just snippets of why Nigeria’s claim of fighting corruption and graft, is dismissed by serious minds.  When the officers in charge of anti-crime agencies or senior officials of the government or corporate organisations are more into corruption than mere street suspects, the country continues to go down. Except in few instances, most of the former governors have cases to answer bordering on embezzling resources of their states.

So, when Transparency International (TI) in its 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), indicated that Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points and was ranked 154 out of 180 countries surveyed, pushing it back five places from the rank of 149 in 2020, it was not an attempt to blackmail the country. It rather shows that the claim by the Federal Government of reducing corruption in the system is a ruse. We still have a long way to go.

Getting it right requires a comprehensive overhaul of the society especially the political system to get the right leadership.

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