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From Grace To Grass? The Rise And Fall Of Kyari, Nigeria’s ‘Super Cop’

The police boss was, on Wednesday, revealed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as one of six persons who conspired with Ramon Abass, popularly known as Hushpuppi, to fraudulently obtain over $1 million from a businessperson.

When his presence at the opulent burial of businessman Obi Cubana’s mother raised eyebrows, Nigeria’s highly decorated police officer Abba Kyari said he did no wrong because he considered the entrepreneur a “brother and good friend.”

Cubana is one of the most hardworking entrepreneurs and humble personalities that Kyari has known for many years,” he wrote on Facebook.

Perhaps that was his belief with Hushpuppi, a notorious fraudster whom he “helped to deliver native clothes and caps.” But the US Department of Justice has now said their relationship went beyond harmless friendliness as Hushpuppi admitted to bribing Kyari to help him jail Chibuzo, another fraudster he quarrelled with over a $1.1 million fraudulent deal against a Qatari businessman.

Abba Kyari at Obi Cubana’s mother’s burial. Photo: Instagram/Obi Cubana

Infamous Hushpuppi

Hushpuppi was a widely known ‘Instagram celebrity’ in Nigeria. Before his arrest in June 2020, he had a global following of over 2.5 million on Instagram, where he posted pictures and videos of his exotic cars, watches, designer clothes, and bags from luxury brands like Gucci, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton. He also shared posts of himself boarding helicopters with celebrities, footballers, and Nigerian politicians.

HE claimed to be a real estate developer. But his arrest exposed his multiple fraudulent activities. He was picked up in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and extradited to the U.S. to face trial.

One of the many pictures of Husspuppi flaunting his riches on Instagram. Source: US Department of Justice

Hushpuppi recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering involving the proceeds of the fraud and other schemes uncovered by the FBI. This means he could be facing an imprisonment term of up to 20 years.

Hushpuppi’s dealings with Kyari

Following the disagreement between Hushpuppi and his co-fraudster, Vincent Kelly Chibuzo, over a $1.1 million fraudulent deal against a Qatari businessman, he reportedly contacted Kyari to arrest Chibuzo. He alleged that the police boss sent pictures of Chibuzo in jail. After perfecting the assignment, Kyari allegedly sent a bank account number to Hushppupi to wire the fee for the arrest and detention of his co-fraudster.

“Abbas asked Kyari to have the police administer the ‘serious beating of his life’ and arranged with Kyari to pay to keep Chibuzo imprisoned for at least a month, so that the fraud scheme could be successfully executed, and the money could be obtained,” the FBI wrote in its criminal complaint filed at the US District Court for the Central District of California, which detailed the online conversations between Kyari and Hushppupi. 

“After Kyari arrested Chibuzo, he sent Abbas photographs of Chibuzo in custody and later told Abbas that he would not allow Chibuzo’s girlfriend to pay money to get Chibuzo out of custody as he would have done for a ‘normal arrest.’ Following Chibuzo’s arrest, Juma and Abbas convinced the Victim Businessperson to make the payments of $299,983.58.”

During Kyari’s trip to Dubai in September 2019, Hushpuppi reportedly sent a car and a driver to drive the police boss around in Dubai.

Following all of these revelations, Otis Wright, the judge, granted the U.S. government’s request for a detention order and arrest warrant against Kyari and others involved in the scheme. This development has triggered outrage on social media.

Nigeria’s super cop turned clothes dealer?

Kyari did not deny knowing Hushpuppi following the revelations. He also admitted that money exchanged hands but not directly. According to his statement on Thursday, July 21, he helped the fraudster to facilitate the purchase of native attires. He said Hushppupi directly paid about N300,000 into the seller’s account.

The police chief also explained that he knew Hushpuppi from a distress call made two years ago that threats were allegedly issued to his family by Chibuzo. He said, “Nobody demanded a kobo from Abbas Hushpuppi. Our focus was to save people’s lives that were purported to have been threatened. Kyari stressed that his team only “responded to a distress call he made on threat to his family and released the suspect when we discovered there was no life threat from the suspect.”

Many Nigerians, however, felt Kyari was economical with the truth.

The rise of Kyari

Before the latest developments, Kyari was the toast of all following his prowess in crime fighting, especially in the arrest of Chukwudi Onuamadike, the notorious kidnap kingpin better known as Evans, in 2017. After the arrest, Kyari said the kidnapper gave him $2 million if he could keep quiet and let him go.

In 2019, Kyari’s team busted Taraba’s most wanted kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Wadume. Unfortunately, soldiers opened fire on the police officers along Ibi-Wukari Road while driving Wadume to Jalingo. Three officers and a civilian died in the process. 

He also led the team that arrested the killers of former Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) Air Marshal Alex Badeh and the arrest of Boko-Haram Commander Umar Abdulmalik alongside eight of his terrorist gang members.

These, among many others, made Kyari the pride of the police force, and his giant strides have fetched him many laurels. He won the police medal for courage three years in a row (2012, 2013 and 2014), and the House of Representatives last year honoured him for his hard work and outstanding performance over the years in the Nigeria Police.

House of Representatives members honouring Abba Kyari for his hard work and outstanding performance over the years in the Nigeria Police Force. Photo: Bashir Ahmed

President Muhammadu Buhari honoured him with the Presidential Medal for Courage in April 2016. He is also a three-time recipient of the Lagos State Governor’s Award for Gallantry, Leadership and Service Excellence in 2011, 2012, 2013, and the Lagos State Commissioner of Police Commendation Award for Courage in 2011. He was declared Africa’s Best Detective in 2018. Kyari recently bagged the best police officer of the decade award and the 2018 hero of the year award by the Silverbird Group.

The same FBI that recently indicted Kyari is said to have given him a Certificate of Appreciation back in 2018 in recognition of his “assistance and continued support of kidnapping investigations.”

Kyari’s many controversies  

As the ovations got louder, Kyari was confronted with allegations of corruption and extra-judicial killing. Amnesty International and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2019 accused him of illegally depleting the assets of one Collins Ezenwa, a suspected criminal after his team shot the man dead.

The deceased’s wife claimed Kyari and his team withdrew money from her late husband’s account and pocketed millions from his hotels. Kyari denied victimising the deceased’s wife but claimed he was acting within his powers by confiscating the man’s properties.

Also, a resident of Lagos, Afeez Mojeed, told the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry on Police Brutality Kyari extorted N41 million from him in 2014 and locked him up for 14 days. He claimed in his petition that the police boss forced him to sign blank cheques before taking him to court over trumped-up charges.

While Kyari is yet to defend himself on previous allegations, he has found himself in another scandal. 

Suspension recommendation

Following his recent entanglement with Hushpuppi, the police authorities have ordered his probe, and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, has recommended Kyari’s  suspension, pending the outcome of an ongoing internal investigation touching on him. 

The spokesperson of the force, Frank Mba, said in a statement on Sunday that “the suspension is also expected to create an enabling environment for the NPF Special Investigation Panel to carry out its investigations into the weighty allegations against DCP Abba Kyari without interference.” 

“The suspension is without prejudice to the constitutional presumption of innocence in favour of the officer. The probe panel will be led by Joseph Egbunike, deputy inspector-general of police in-charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID).”

“The SIP, inter alia, is to undertake a detailed review of all the allegations against DCP Abba Kyari by the US Government as contained in relevant documents that have been availed of the NPF by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The SIP is also to obtain detailed representation of DCP Abba Kyari to all the allegations levelled against him, conduct further investigations as it deems fit, and submit recommendations to guide further actions by the force Leadership on the matter.”

Kyari’s investigation, and possibly extraction, is a test that the Nigerian police institution and President Buhari’s government are expected to pass as Nigerians patiently wait to see the outcome.

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Adejumo Kabir

Kabir works at HumAngle as the Editor of Southern Operations. He is interested in community development reporting, human rights, social justice, and press freedom. He was a finalist in the student category of the African Fact-checking Award in 2018, a 2019 recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, and a 2020 recipient of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award. He was also nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2020. He has been selected for various fellowships, including the 2020 Civic Media Lab Criminal Justice Reporting Fellowship and 2022 International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) 'In The Name of Religion' Fellowship.

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