DCP Abba Kyari and FBI: A Reform Opportunity



By  Osita Chidoka


A few weeks ago, the news media was awash with stories about the issue of the FBI report on DCP Abba Kyari. Subsequently, the Police high command suspended the Deputy Commissioner of Police and instituted an investigation panel headed by a Deputy Inspector General of Police. The Special Investigation Panel submitted their report on August 26, 2021. We await the outcome of the Inspector General’s review.


The FBI, as widely reported, named DCP Abba Kyari as an accomplice in an international fraud case. A US court issued a warrant for DCP Abba Kyari’s arrest over his alleged involvement in a $1.1m Internet fraud allegedly perpetrated by an Instagram influencer, Abbas Ramon, popularly known as Hushpuppi and four others; AbdulRahman Juma; Vincent Kelly Chibuzo (Kelly); Rukayat Motunrayo Fashola; and Bolatito Agbabiaka. The FBI claimed that Kyari detained Chibuzor at the behest of Hushpuppi for one month to enable the latter and his co-conspirators to fleece their Qatari victim of over $1m.

In typical Nigerian style, the issue of the FBI report has adorned a national toga of pseudo nationalism or ethnic rallying point. On either side, it represents our national descent to moral ambivalence. DCP Abba Kyari is a renowned officer with many feathers to his cap for his courage, dedication to duty and unceasing battle against criminals. I am one of his numerous distant admirers and will continue to praise his work as a crime fighter. In my opinion, as a police officer, he should willingly appear before any authority to clear his name and show respect to constituted authority. He does not need to be extradited to the United States unless he has embraced the growing national culture of shamelessness.


The real issues that concern Nigerians are: Did DCP Abba Kyari arrest and detain Mr Kelly Chibuzo for ONE month? What offence was recorded in the police entry against Mr Chibuzo? Did DCP Abba Kyari obtain a court order to detain him initially or subsequently? Who was the complainant in the detention of Mr Chibuzo? These questions deserve simple answers. Suppose the answers affirm that he arrested a Nigerian citizen and detained him for more than 48 hours without charging him to court for a whole month. In that case, we have serious issues here—issues of impunity, violation of our constitution, and lack of internal compliance mechanism.


Democracy, or rather the appearance of democracy measured by the presence of institutions like legislature and judiciary, periodic elections, and citizens’ rights, can present a vast opportunity for state capture. A Police organisation in which an individual, no matter how rich or powerful, can induce an officer to arrest and detain a citizen is a danger to any citizen without government connection or protection. This captured state is the Nigeria that we need to fix. That Nigeria that provides cover for egregious acts of impunity will not change if we don’t restructure citizens control of institutions.


The opportunity before us as a nation today is to take the Abba Kyari issue as a basis for the reform of the Nigerian Police. Who oversights the Police? Does the Police have an internal compliance unit that ensures officers and, in the case of Kyari, highly decorated officers acting with broad discretion, comply with the rules of the Police? Does the Police have an Ombudsman to who the public can complain about abuses by officers? In the event of the failure of the Police Ombudsman, the next stop should be the Police Service Commission with the mandate to discipline officers. If fundamental rights are breached the National Human Rights Commission has the responsibility to investigate and provide citizen redress against such violations. Are these organs working? If so why did Chibuzo spend over one month in detention without triggering an internal inquiry? Why do we need a Special Investigation Panel if normal organs are functional to investigate DCP Abba Kyari?


By way of example, the FBI has a Chief Inspector who oversees internal inquiries and performance audits. The Office of Integrity and Compliance ensures that officers are monitored and comply with the spirit and letter of rules. I recommend the same to the Nigeria Police if they do not have such an office. Such an office would have a mechanism to trigger internal inquiry when, for example, a person is detained beyond the constitutionally provided time of 48 hours without a court order.


The important story is that many public functionaries like DCP Abba Kyari in the government may use the instrument of public office for their end. The growing rise of impunity amongst government officials and failure of the government to oversight its institutions is one of the outcomes of a captured state. Nigeria is a state captured by special interests, and its institutions are used to further the welfare of its ruling elite.


To use this Abba Kyari scandal as a learning and reform moment, the government should do the following:


1. Review the current Police reporting mechanism and institute an online platform that provides daily information on detainees and the number of days in detention without the names of the detainees.


2. If it does not exist, the Police should appoint a senior officer at the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police to head a compliance unit for internal monitoring, investigation, and enforcement of officer’s compliance to rules equivalent to the Military Police in the Army.


3. The Police should clearly define an Ombudsman to deal with public reports of abuses or infractions by officers.


4. The National Human Rights Commission should Conduct an independent audit of Police cells across the country to determine the number of detainees and those in custody against constitutional provisions.


5. The Police Service Commission should Review records of police detention activities and ensure proper record keeping of documents about arrest and detention of citizens. It should invite the public to report cases of unlawful detention and try the officers involved appropriately.


6. The Police Service Commission and the National Human Rights Commission should collaboratively conduct quarterly oversight of Police activities that impact fundamental rights and publish reports.


It is the responsibility of Nigerians to hold the Police accountable. I call on all illegally detained Nigerians to speak up now. The Police Service Commission (PSC) is mandated to appoint, promote, and discipline officers of the Nigerian Police except the Inspector General of Police. It will be of public interest if the Commission can make public its procedures and mechanism to proactively control the behaviour of Police officers. The office of the Police Ombudsman should ideally be in the PSC.


In the event of fundamental rights violations, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), as a statutory organ with investigative powers should lead the inquiry and seek redress for breach of rights through unlawful detention. Nigerians should use the NHRC to hold the Police accountable.


The path to Unlocking the self-created gridlock obstructing our path to progress is through citizen activism. Citizens must lead the fight to make sure that good officers like DCP Abba Kyari do not get carried away and succumb to a growing culture of impunity. Let’s #unlocknaija together.


Osita Chidoka is the founder of UnlockNaija Movement, a volunteer-driven organisation committed to the renewal of the idea of Nigeria


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