Abba Kyari’s indictment and Nigeria’s sovereignty crisis

Amidst the furore and banal noise surrounding the allegation of fraud hanging as a sword of Damocles on the head of now suspended super cop, Abba Kyari, a deputy commissioner of police, one important piece to note is that almost every single “super cop” venerated to the high heavens by the Nigerian media and political elite alike have ended in ignominy. From George Iyamu of the Anini saga in the 1990s to Tafa Balogun and now Abba Kyari, it further puts paid to the assertion by Demola Olarewaju that “death is the saving grace of the greatness of men” and that if you live long en, you may become the very thing you criticise.

This is in no way a form of excuse for officer Abba Kyari who was accused of impunity and abusing the law on behalf of a now convicted Internet fraudster, Ramon Abbas “Hushpuppi” Igbalode who was indicted by the FBI last week on fraud charges with a slew of accomplices in Nigeria’s security services, of whom Kyari symbolizes. While these–on the part of Kyari–remain allegations until proven guilty in a competent court of law, the mere allegation of gross misconduct and misappropriation of justice compounds the compelling argument of the debasement of not just the Nigerian police but the justice system, which of course is an indication that Hushpuppi, for all intents and purposes may not have faced justice for defrauding about a million victims in various fraudulent online schemes.

But for now, while suspended and requested for an extradition to face justice in the United States by the FBI, the current brunt of the matter bears on the possibility of the latter ever happening. The Police Service Commission choosing to act to suspend Kyari only when the crime has gained international attention once again dents the process of obtaining justice as well as the image of the police system in Nigeria especially considering the fact that Kyari himself has been the centre of many allegations of human rights abuses and outright graft which the PSC never deemed it necessary to address.

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Going forward, the alleged offences over which officer Kyari is wanted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are captured in an extradition treaty between Nigeria and the US. As the International Centre for Investigative Reporting noted in its report on the case, Nigeria has an extradition agreement with the US by virtue of an extradition treaty signed between the United Kingdom, Nigeria’s colonial masters, and the US on December 22, 1931. The treaty came into force on June 24, 1935, and was applicable to all British colonies, including Nigeria. Offences for which an accused person or a convict can be extradited between the US and Nigeria, in line with the treaty, also include obtaining money, valuable security or goods by false pretences; receiving money, valuable security or other property knowing the same to have been stolen or unlawfully obtained; counterfeiting or altering money, or circulation of counterfeited or altered money; forgery or uttering what is forged; crimes or offences against bankruptcy law; and bribery, defined to be the offering, giving or receiving of bribes.

Kyari’s supposed indictment falls under this. But the argument is leading to a direction that is not all too unknown in these matters–the supremacy of politics over law. For one, one can say with almost certainty that deputy commissioner of police Abba Alhaji Kyari, the Head of the Inspector General’s Intelligence Reporting Team will not be extradited to the United States. It is not politically expedient for the Nigerian government to send a top law enforcement officer to a foreign country to face justice. It might just be all the dignity it has left, but the resentment that Kyari might never face justice in Nigeria for various reasons ranging from fighting the extradition in a long drawn out process that may temporarily halt a domestic prosecution pending the report of the investigative panel set up by the inspector general in conjunction with the Police Service Commission, would continue to hang over the heads of the thousands of victims that Kyari had allegedly helped Hushpuppi defraud.

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Nigeria has a clean chance to launder its image by launching a free and credible investigation devoid of backdoor political machinations and maneuvering. While it is not a country known to provide justice for victims of which it is a key perpetrator itself, the law has to take its course. For the United States to take the Nigerian government and its security services seriously, nothing short of a prosecution and possible jailing of Abba Kyari would be comforting if it is to continue its cooperation with Nigeria in areas of security arrangements central to the fight against terror and other forms of crime. Already, the decision of the US Congress this past week to halt sales of Super Turcanoes central to the Nigerian Air force campaign against organized terrorism on grounds of gross human rights abuses by security forces in Nigeria has enough potential to rock the boat in the budding friction in Nigerian-American relations of which might be all too familiar given the same scenario that which happened in 2014 between the Obama administration and that of Jonathan which saw Nigeria try to circumvent American military sanctions to get weapons vital for the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram.

Nigeria can assert its sovereignty as it did when it decided to ban Twitter in June. But one thing is mightily clear: a state that cannot provide justice for the people under its suzerainty easily loses claims of sovereign legitimacy in the eyes of its citizens who are all too happy to compel the government to hand over one of its own for prosecution by a foreign government. I can offer no prediction about the future of Nigeria other than to make the obvious point that a country that is fast running out of people willing to defend its continued existence–especially its sovereignty–is not in a very good place and would continue to have problems enforcing its will.

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