IF YOU MUST RUN with the hare and hunt with the hounds, make sure you don’t get caught! Once you are caught, don’t blame your stars, or your enemies. Always remember that, as the bard says, “There’s blood on your lies/The scars open wide/There is nowhere for you to hide/The hunter’s moon is shining.”
Man up! Anyone bold enough to do the crime should be equally brave to do the time.
There was the story of two thieves who specialised in stealing yams from their neighbour’s farms late at night. After each successful raid, they would compare notes and wonder if they would ever stop stealing. On deeper reflection, however, they both resolved that they would have to stop the practice in the near future.
Then, one night, as they were returning from their escapade with the full moon behind them, one in front of the other on the footpath, the man in front caught the glimpse of a shadow and instinctively looked back. He saw his comrade-in-crime at his rear holding a tuber of yam which he had stolen from the basket of loot he (the frontman) carried on his head.
Remembering their resolution to quit stealing in the near future, the frontman said, “What! A thief robbing a thief? If I ever quit stealing, it is clear that you will be in it for life. Nothing can redeem you!”
In real life, if a criminal knows when to stop, he may still live happily ever after. But they hardly do. Ramon Abass, aka Hushpuppi, was living large like an oil sheik, benefitting from his criminal network with a web woven round the continents, that he could have remained under the radar for a long time. But the bug of greed bit him and he decided to cheat his co-conspirators in the agreed formula of loot-sharing. He even employed law enforcement agents to punish them. In revenge, they sang. And the tune was picked up by the United State’s FBI who had been monitoring the criminals for a while. The entire story is out there for the entire world to see.
When Hushpuppi was confronted with the detailed investigation of his crime, and faced with the possibility of several decades in jail, he pleaded guilty and opted to sing too. He confirmed many of the things the FBI already deduced from scrolling through his phone records, text messages, home search, wire trails and other records. That was how the alleged complicity of Abba Kyari was unearthed. It had nothing to do with our perennial ethno-religious sickness.
Mr Kyari was not indicted alone. For example, in a $1.1 million fraud coordinated by Hushpuppi and others against a Qatar-based victim between November 2019 and April 2020, others on the list of suspects are: Abdulrahman Juma (aka Abdul and Rahman), Kelly Chibuzo Vincent, Rukayat Motunrayo Fashola (aka Morayo), Bolatito Tawakalitu Agbabiaka (aka Bolamide), and Yusuf Adeyinka Anifowoshe (aka AJ and Alvin Johnson). On social media, Nigerians with gallows humour have interpreted the fact that the suspects hail from the north, east and west of Nigeria as indicative of their respect for federal character.
Details of the allegations against Abba Kyari and other accused persons became public knowledge when Judge Otis Wright of the US District Court for the Central District of California made an order unsealing the docket containing allegations against Kyari and others in July. He also granted the government’s request for a detention order and arrest warrant against the accused persons.
Mr Kyari, a deputy commissioner of police, is alleged to have knowingly conspired with Hushpuppi “together with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to commit wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343”.
The grand jury alleged in the second count that they conducted and attempted “to conduct financial transactions, affecting interstate and foreign commerce, knowing that the property involved in the financial transactions represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, which, in fact, involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity — namely, wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343”.
He and the others are also accused of aiding and abetting one another and knowingly transferring, possessing and using, without lawful authority, a means of identification that each defendant knew belonged to another person, during and in relation to a felony violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, as charged in Count 1.
Kyari is a much celebrated police officer in Nigeria where he is regarded as a super cop. He is highly decorated. The FBI allegation against him sent shockwaves round the country. Unfortunately, in a knee-jerk reaction, and probably to steal the thunder from news outlets who had already pounced on the story, Kyari posted his defence on Facebook.
On the allegation that he detained one Vincent Chibuzor of the instruction of Hushppupi and even posted the picture of the detainee in chains to confirm to Hushpuppi that his instruction had been carried out, he explained that he was contacted by Hushpuppi about two years earlier with a complaint that somebody was threatening to kill his family members. He admitted arresting Chibuzor but claimed that he never demanded money from Hushpuppi.
“Nobody demanded for a kobo from Abbas Hushpuppi. Our focus was to Save people’s lives that were purported to have been threatened,” he said. He denied any serious personal relationship with Hushpuppi apart from introducing him to a cloth seller who Hushpuppi directly paid about N300,000.
Kyari ought to know that when you are in a hole, you stop digging. His Facebook posting opened up the floodgate of innuendoes and outright condemnation by a section of the public. Since when has policing become a branch of tailoring or of the textile trade? they wondered. Pictures and videos of Kyari living it up with ‘shady characters’ are now bubbling on social media.
But several others have risen stoutly to his defence. I note that the ethnicity of his defenders is pan-Nigerian. Many testify that Kyari is a kind man, a compassionate officer and a cheerful giver. Except that that is not what is at stake in the FBI case.
What the FBI says is that Kyari is part of a crime ring and that he needs to come to the US to face justice. That is a grave matter. That is bigger and more serious than our usual North Vs South jostling.
The Police Service Commission which has already suspended Kyari and ordered an investigation into the allegations against him, may also have to look into several petitions bordering on extortion, torture, dehumanisation, sale and conversion of property of suspects, extra-judicial killings, and other allegations against the police officer which have allegedly remained un-investigated so far.
Senior lawyers have been educating us that the US cannot play the gangsterism card and invade Nigeria to abduct or secure the surrender of Kyari as it did Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian politician and military ruler of Panama from 1983 to 1989 whose country was invaded by the US to remove him from power and extradite him to the America to face trial. There is a painstaking legal process for extradition.
So, those who are ignorantly engaged in our usual medieval, ethno-religious sabre-rattling should take a holiday. This is a matter of criminality and legality. Let the law take its course. north or south, justice is the best.