He was honoured by the House of Representatives in 2020 after becoming a Nigerian celebrity for his daring exploits in crime-fighting, but life appears to have turned half circle for deputy commissioner of police Abba Kyari following his arrest for allegedly aiding and abetting drug pushing.
Mr Kyari was taken into custody on Monday by the anti-drug trafficking agency, NDLEA, which accused him of involvement in trafficking 25kg cocaine by a drug cartel operating the Brazil-Ethiopia-Nigeria illicit drug pipeline.
Long dubbed “super cop” in the media because of his crime-busting heroics while he headed the Nigeria police intelligence team, the detective lived a socialite lifestyle strange to his profession. Security operatives are usually known for their discreet lifestyles. But not Mr Kyari who appeared to hug publicity.
Touted as one of Nigeria’s best brains in the police with many intelligence breakthroughs under his belt, Mr Kyari has also been accused of rights abuses, for which he denied wrongdoing.
Flirting with a fraudster
Mr Kyari’s fall began last year when the US Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, in July, issued an arrest warrant against him and five others for their roles in a scam spearheaded by a former Nigerian Instagram celebrity, Ramon Abbas, popularly known as Hushpuppi. Mr Abbas, the self-acclaimed “Prince of Cash and Flash”, has since pleaded guilty to internet fraud and money laundering charges and faces 20 years in jail.
With Hushpuppi awaiting sentencing in the U.S, Nigerians on social media were trolling the Nigerian government and police for their seeming determination to stall the extradition of Mr Kyari to the U.S. when the bombshell of the NDLEA catching him in a sting operation with his hand in the jar, dropped.
Who is DSP Abba Kyari?
Mr Kyari was born into a polygamous family on March 17, 1975, in Maiduguri, Borno State. As a kid, he had wanted to be either a police officer or pilot.
Three years after taking a Bachelor’s degree in Geography in 1997, he joined the police in 2000 as a cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP).
Before his promotion to DCP in 2018, he served as the Officer-In-Charge of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) for five years at the Lagos Police Command. The unit was notorious for human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings which provoked a nationwide youth protest that ultimately led to the dissolution of the unit in 2020.
Mr Kyari has a record of bursting high-level crimes and was eager to share his exploits across his social media accounts. From netting kidnappers, ritual killers, armed robbers and other notorious suspected criminals, Mr Kyari over a few years made himself known to both the lowly and the highly placed in Nigeria.
Celebrity police officer
His Instagram page leaves little to the imagination about his flamboyant lifestyle. Mr Kyari enjoyed the glitz and glamour that social media platforms offer and often shared pictures of himself in the company of music stars, billionaire business people and the Nigerian high society.
From a review of his posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from 2017, it is difficult to think of another Nigerian police officer who enjoyed social gatherings more than the now embattled officer. He had posted pictures of himself with music stars such as Innocent Idibia (2Baba) and David Adeleke (Davido) and nightclub operator, Obi Cubana.
If he was not sharing pictures of his family activities, Mr Kyari would be showing off to his over 81,000 followers with pictures of himself eating, working or gisting with his friends or visitors in his office space, always radiating the ‘police is your friend’ sort of energy.
While his displays drew the consternation of critics, they earned the applause of his admirers. Yet that lifestyle seems to sharply contradict one of the qualities that earned him his appointment as OC of the defunct SARS in Lagos by a former Assistant Inspector General of Police, Abubakar Manko.
In one of the Instagram posts Mr Kyari shared on his wall, Mr Manko recalled how he appointed the now embattled DCP to head the anti-robbery squad section in Lagos.
“When I reported as a commissioner of police in Lagos, I made it a point of duty to always move around to assess situations. At the Anti-Robbery section, I discovered that a lot was happening that I didn’t like. I had one-on-one talks with all the officers there and I made up my mind to immediately reorganise.
“Kyari was the second-in-command of the section then, and was the quiet type, but after we interacted, I was wowed with his high level of intelligence. Then I said to myself, ‘this is the new OC of the Anti-Robbery section.’ Some of the officers said he is too quiet, but I know a good officer when I see one. I knew he’d go places.
“And when he assumed command, he turned things around and we started getting results. It even came to a time when armed robbers were afraid to come and operate in Lagos, and those based there relocated entirely. It was due to the purposeful leadership of that young man that Lagos, at that time, was rid of criminals,” the retired officer said.
Mr Kyari led the team of SARS operatives that ended the 14-year reign of a notorious South-west robbery gang called Godogodo, led by Abiodun Ogunjobi, in 2013.
Among his other, more notable feats are the March 2017 arrest of Henry Chibueze (Vampire)-led kidnapping gang in the Southeast and Rivers State. He also led the IRT to arrest Chukwudi Onuamadike, the notorious billionaire kidnap suspect popularly called Evans, in 2017; and Taraba’s wanted kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Wadume.
Hero to Zero
Among many other recognitions and awards, the Maiduguri-born officer was in June 2020 given a standing ovation at a session of the House of Representatives for his exceptional work in the fight against criminality in Nigeria.
He had earlier bagged the Presidential Medal for Courage in April 2016 and was declared the 2018 Africa’s Best Detective and presented with Silverbird Group’s Best Officer of the Decade Award. A street in his hometown of Maiduguri was also named in his honour.
However, with his suspension by IGP Usman Baba for his alleged connection to the convicted fraudster Hushpuppi and his arrest on Monday over the indictment by the NDLEA, the sun of Mr Kyari’s career in law enforcement appears to have set.
If found guilty of the several allegations made against him, Mr Kyari will spend several years in jail. He would also join in infamy the likes of deputy superintendent of police George Iyamu, who was executed by a firing squad in the mid-1982 for supplying guns to the deadly Lawrence Anini robbery gang that terrorised now Edo and Delta states in that period.
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