Featured Notes Wole Olaoye

Kyari: Between Lucifer and Beelzebub

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By Wole Olaoye. wole.olaoye@gmail.com

Greed is the king of all vices. It blurs the line between the bottomless desire for more and the natural human drive to succeed. It afflicts its victim with a passion for endless wants. Rivers have been flowing to the sea from the beginning of time but the sea will never be satisfied. How True, the words of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.”

When ‘super-cop’ Abba Kyari was unmasked as a super-rogue, many people mourned what they considered a betrayal. Painful as it was, the cruel reality was that the mistake of perception was not Kyari’s but ours. We made the mistake of investing our trust in him and his ilk.

In fairness to ourselves, we are a country desperately searching for heroes. I have always maintained that Nigerians are very easy to please. They do not expect anything extraordinary from their leaders or public officials. Just do the barest minimum and Nigerians will be grateful to you for doing the job that puts food on your table. There is so much bad example on offer in the public space that as soon as we see what looks like diligence to service, we roll out the drums — which was what the House of Representatives did when it invited Abba Kyari for special recognition and gave him a standing ovation

I do not ridicule the lawmakers. Many Nigerians had, at one time or the other, given the young man their own standing ovation in their various social circles. If you invest 15 minutes in social media research, you will find that Kyari was not just a cop but a ‘messiah’, a socialite, a rich lawman with very solid connections in high places, an egotistical lamb that feeds on meat.

He isn’t the first policeman to go rogue. He won’t be the last. Indeed, social media analysis shows that he has accomplices in high places. Our culture of unquestioning acceptance of favours from people who exhibit sudden affluence, far beyond their level of income, has created the fertile soil for characters like Kyari to fester. If you check the videos of weddings involving children of top government officials in the last three years, you may come to the conclusion that many more accomplices (mostly highly placed) ought to be accompanying Abba to the dock.

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One of Kyari’s team members named John Umoru has an interesting alias: “Too Much Money”. He allegedly owns flashy cars, residential buildings and big shopping malls like his boss.
Then, there’s Kyari’s younger brother, implicated in the narrative, who allegedly deleted the photos of over 20 flashy cars and houses from his social media postings when the heat was turned on his brother. The issue is not just about brazen impunity but the fact that it is all advertised on social media to taunt the rest of us who believe in the straight and narrow way! Recall that Abba Kyari, an officer on suspension, was seen uploading over 400 pictures of the wedding of the daughter of the IGP?

But there is nothing new under the sun. Every country has its own bad cop.

When the scandal broke, I was reminded of a rogue cop in the United States whose trajectory was similar to Kyari’s.

His name is Jonathan Trevino. He led an elite anti-narcotics task force in a city called Mission on the Texas border. Everyone called them the Panama Unit. Trevino had a special talent: he could sniff out drugs from any crevice; he was a human sniffer dog. The Panama Unit soon became popular for its anti-narcotic wars. Just like Kyari in Nigeria, Trevino soon became a folk hero.

Even the reputable television channel, National Geographic, was fooled. An episode of the National Geographic shows Border Wars casting members of the unit as heroes executing a raid on a stash house and finding two tons of cannabis. Some dramatic footage showed them busting several smugglers in high-speed boats, sometimes turning up bundles still wet from the river. Clap, clap!

Just like their Nigerian counterparts routinely do, the rogue officers took advantage of generous asset-forfeiture laws to seize exotic cars for the police department. Many of their fellow officers were happy that their department had a regular supply of new cars, courtesy of seizures by the high-flying Panama Unit.

Having established their reputation as a no-nonsense law enforcement unit, the officers started misusing their enormous powers to help themselves to some of the seized drugs which they resold through their underground network — $15,000 a kilo for coke, $150 a pound for cannabis, and meth for $1,000 an ounce (does that not remind you of a segment of the sting video of Kyari released by the NDLEA)?

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They also brazenly stole cash from couriers. Usually a courier would disown any large sum of money found in his car for fear of prosecution. (Remember the Nigerian case where Evans, the alleged king of Kidnappers, alleged that more dollars were ferried out of his house than the figure declared by the police?)

Soon, the Panama Unit became a law unto itself, seizing and selling all kinds of narcotics. Then, it upped the game: It started providing escort services for established drug cartels. Greed for more money made the officers graduate to robbing the very gangs that hired them. Eventually, one revenge-seeking gang anonymously tipped off the FBI, the DEA, Homeland Security and the Texas Rangers.

A lady called Betty had hired them for escort services on five different successful trips. She now called that she had a consignment of 10 kilos of cocaine valued at $200,000. Being well connected, Trevino and his boys had been tipped off that FBI and other security agencies were sniffing around and that they should be very careful in all their dealings. They decided that they would do just one last deal and then stop the criminal escapades.

Trevino made the trip with two colleagues. They planned to steal the consignment of coke they were escorting, give Betty $40,000 and share the rest. They pulled Betty over around 11.30am and opened the trunk on her truck to reveal a large box wrapped in red cellophane paper. Jonathan opened it to find 10 bricks covered in black tape. When he examined one, he felt something attached. He removed the tape and saw a small battery-size GPS tracker with wires and a bar code on the side.

That was the end of Solomon Grundy!

The Panama Unit took 4,000 pounds of drugs off the streets and returned 1,000 pounds back on it. For all their troubles, the unit was canned with Trevino bagging 17 years in jail and his accomplices between 10 and 14 years each.

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That is a system that has a self-cleansing mechanism unlike Nigeria where impunity is the order of the day. When the FBI requested the extradition of Abba Kyari to answer for his links with international wire fraud syndicates, the Nigerian system shielded him. Some governors even paid solidarity visits to him. Then a group of hirelings introduced a tribal ring to the whole affair by saying Kyari was being targeted because of his ethnicity.

From the facts in the public space, there is enough evidence that some NDLEA officers are on the payroll of drug syndicates. Otherwise the two traffickers, identified as Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus, arrested at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, would have first been interdicted by the NDLEA officials at the airport. But they were allowed passage into the country. It was the police, who apparently had not been factored into that particular deal, that arrested the couriers and their 25 kg consignment of drugs.

Many conspiracy theories are being proffered by Nigerians who see this as proof that corruption is the lingo of government relations in Nigeria. To be sure, there are rogue officers in both the police and the NDLEA. But kudos to the NDLEA for setting up the sting operation that unmasked Kyari as a rogue cop.

Suppose what we have just been treated to, is just a gang war between offshore cartels seeking to undo their competitor in the Nigeria corridor, using the police and the NDLEA officers to fight their proxy wars? Underworld gangs have information about their rivals and so could leak damaging information to the detriment of such competitors. God help the nation whose policemen are loyal to Beelzebub while its anti-drug marshals pay allegiance to Lucifer. What, you may ask, is the difference between one uniformed devil and the other? Is Abba Kyari not a metaphor for our law enforcement?

Was this not the police decadence that the EndSARS protesters were rallying against?

  • Wole Olaoye is a public relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on wole.olaoye@gmail.com, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021

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