Sunday Magazine

Hushpuppi/Abba Kyari: When the hunter is hunted

•Nigerians recall police involvement in Anini, Wadume’s  crimes

• Officers mustn’t associate with persons of questionable  character –Frank Odita

Criminal investigation is a serious and dangerous like a twoedged sword, even as crime rate in any society depends on the efficient and effective management of the police criminal investigation department. But the accusation and counter accusation of the police officers abetting and aiding crimes in the society have spelt doom for this task. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA examines high profile robberies and kidnappings among other criminal activities with alleged police officers’ complicity, arguing that insecurity will not vamoose in the country, except the law reigns supreme

 

 

The case of Abbas Ramon popularly known as Hushpuppi is currently exposing the depth of rot in Nigeria Police Force.

 

The involvement of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, in alleged N8 million ($20,600) bribe scandal to arrest and detain Hushpuppi’s co-fraudster, Chibuzor Vincent, has been described as a huge indictment on the Nigerian police.

 

Only few weeks ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) alleged that money laundering suspect, Hushpuppi, paid a sum of N8million to the beleaguered Deputy Commissioner of Police to arrest and detain Chibuzor Vincent, a ‘co-conspirator’ in a $1.1 million fraud.

 

A document issued by the United States District Court for the Central District of California and dated February 12, 2021, alleged that Hushpuppi contracted the services of Kyari after Chibuzor allegedly threatened to expose an alleged $1.1m fraud committed against a Qatari businessman.

 

According to page 59, item 145 of the quoted document, Kyari allegedly provided account details in a Nigerian bank in the name of a person other than Kyari himself for the said money transfer. FBI Special Agent, Andrew Innocent, made the allegation in the ‘Criminal Complaint By Telephone Or Other Reliable Electronic Means’ filed before the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Detailing the events leading to the alleged payment, the document stated: “On January 16, 2020, Abbas sent a message to Kyari on WhatsApp, and then placed five calls to another phone number that was listed as the super cop’s.

 

The call records showed that the last three of the calls were answered and that one of the calls lasted for over two minutes.

 

“Shortly after that, Abbas received a message from Kyari, confirming, ‘We would pick him today or tomorrow.’ Abbas wrote, ‘I will take care of the team also after they pick him up.’

 

Kyari confirmed ‘Yes ooo,” the document alleged, FBI document alleged. More so, the document averred that, based on the conversation described in paragraphs 143 to 145, Abbas planned to pay the Nigeria police officers who arrested Chibuzor for that underground service to pin a fellow suspect down for a financial inducement.

 

It further alleged that such was not the only time Abbas arranged payments with the super cop, Kyari, revealing that Abbas, on May 20, 2020, sent Kyari transaction receipts for two transactions from accounts at Nigerian banks of a person Abbas knew in the U.A.E.

 

It was gathered that this facilitator, whose Nigerian bank accounts were used for these transactions was also arrested with Abbas in Abbas’ apartment in the U.A.E. by Dubai Police on June 9, 2020.

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that the amounts on the transaction receipts totaled $20,600 based on publicly available exchange rate information, according to the FBI inquest. It was learnt that in an attempt to reason with Abbas, on January 18, 2020, Chibuzor recounted for Abbas all the assistance he had provided in the scheme to victimise the businessperson, including creating the power of attorney document, devising a story to tell the victim businessperson, and facilitating the creation of the telephone banking number and fake Wells Fargo website.

 

The FBI document continued: “On January 20, 2020, Kyari sent to Abbas biographical, identifying information for Chibuzor, along with a photograph of him. In a conversation immediately following, Abbas confirmed, ‘that is him sir.’ Kyari stated, ‘We have arrested the guy. He is in my cell now.

 

This is his picture after we arrested him today.” According to the document, Kyari then sent the biographical information about, and photograph of Chibuzor to Abbas, using two different WhatsApp numbers, the second of which Kyari said was his private number.

 

The document continued: “From that point on, Kyari and Abbas primarily discussed the arrest and detention of Chibuzor through WhatsApp. After receiving the photograph of Chibuzor, Abbas stated, ‘I want him to go through a serious beating of his life.’

 

Kyari responded, ‘Hahahaha,’ and Abbas replied, ‘Seriously sir.’ “Kyari then asked for details about what Chibuzor did on audio, which Kyari said was ‘So that we will know what to do.”

 

In response to Kyari’s request, Abbas sent Kyari an audio message, which explained how the feud started.

 

Though Kyari has since denied having any such link with Abbas offering an unconvincing and terse defence, there appears to be overwhelming evidence to this conspiracy and has further mocked the ever damaged reputation of Nigerian Police Force.

 

In his defence, he said: “Abbas, who we later came to know as Hushpuppi, called our office about two years ago that somebody in Nigeria seriously threatened to kill his family in Nigeria and he sent the person’s phone number and pleaded we take action before the person attacks his family.

 

“We traced and arrested the suspect and after investigations, we discovered there wasn’t an actual threat to anyone’s life and they are longtime friends who have money issues between them, hence, we released the suspect on bail to go and he was not taken to any jail.

 

“Nobody demanded a kobo from Hushpuppi. Our focus was to save people’s lives that were purported to have been threatened. Later, he saw some of my native clothes and caps on my social media page and he said he likes them and he was connected to the person selling the clothes and he sent about N300k directly to the person’s account.

 

“The native clothes and caps (five sets) were brought to our office and he sent somebody to collect them in our office. Nobody demanded any money from Abbas and nobody collected any money from him.

 

“We responded to a distress call he made on the threat to his family and released the suspect when we discovered there was no life threat from the suspect. This is the true story. Vincent is alive. He can be contacted…”

 

Thus, the kiss and tell between Hushpuppi and Kyari has reminded many Nigerians of the cases of other criminals in Nigerian being aided and shielded by top police officers in their criminal ventures, while they got super rich from the rewards from the criminals.

 

The case of Lawrence Anini, who was fortified and supported by a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) the late George Iyamu is first to come to mind, followed by that of the 35-year-old kidnap baron, Hamisu Bala Wadume, who was allegedly being protected by the crime officer and station officer in Ibi Police Station, as well as a certain army Captain.

 

Sequel to this, 80 years after its birth, members of the force are viewed more as predators than protectors, and the Nigeria Police Force has become a symbol in Nigeria of unfettered corruption, mismanagement, and abuse, though there are many other officers who have conducted themselves in an exemplary manner, working in difficult and often dangerous conditions.

 

The Nigeria Police Force, established in 1930, has a long history of engagement of some of ties officers in unprofessional, corrupt, and criminal conducts.

 

Over the years, this unwieldy force has proved difficult to effectively manage and control; and has become largely unaccountable to the citizens it is meant to serve, allegedly abating crimes and still chasing after criminals.

 

It was said that most organised crimes ever experienced in the history of Nigeria’s state and insecurity were allegedly facilitated by unscrupulous, corrupt and compromised officers, who also use their position to steal, intimidate and entrap innocent citizens for financial gains. Recall the case of a dare-devil armed robber, Lawrence Anini, who ‘ruled’ the old Bendel State like a mythical king over a thousand thrones.

 

He was believed to be invincible and had the powers to appear and reappear. Many people thought he was a spirit, therefore, immortal. His name conjured so much trepidation that many men fainted at the mere mention of it, no matter how brave they were.

 

On ‘duty,’ he was swift, hotheaded and impulsively violent. Unfortunately, Anini’s strength and mysticism were drawn from Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), George Iyamu.

 

It was the biggest revelation in the Anini saga in  the 1980s – 86 when he met his waterloo. Iyamu was spectacularly rich by shielding Anini and his boys, leaking police secrets, and giving them logistical support, including arms, for their operations.

 

He was the most notorious armed robber Nigeria had ever known. He lived for only 27 years but brought an ocean of sorrow that would last an eternity to those ill-fated to cross his path. Anini was fear personified, from the beginning of his reign of terror in the early 1980s, to December 3, 1986, when he met his waterloo.

 

That was when the world knew the secret behind Anini’s much touted invincibility. It turned out that the main source of his despicable strength and seeming invincibility were criminals within the police force, who he had compromised to aid and abet his evil enterprise with insider information and weapons.

 

Ten police officers, including George Iyamu, a deputy superintendent of Police, were tried with Anini and his gang. Five of the police officers, including Iyamu, were convicted and executed with Anini and his boys on March 29, 1987.

 

By playing the godfather to Anini, Iyamu acquired many houses, exotic cars, wine, and women of variegated shapes, sizes and colours. Buoyed by their blood money, both men compromised the police system and operated freely till they met their nemesis.

 

In the same manner, certain police officers and army captain were also fingered as the co-conspirators in Hamisu Bala Wadume, kidnapping business.

 

 

Wadume wanted to make it big through the shortest route possible. So, he plunged into kidnapping. And within two years, he became so rich he built a mansion at Ibi, his home town in Taraba State, and contested election into the House of Representatives in the 2019 general elections under the banner of the Young Democratic Party (YDP).

 

Like the iniquitous duo of Anini and George Iyamu, Wadume was somewhat invisible and untouchable.

 

He spent big, ‘empowered’ people with heavy cash, bought motorcycles for hundreds of youths, and spoiled law officers and security personnel. And they reciprocated by allegedly giving him protection.

 

On the surface, the kidnap king was seen as a ‘nice guy’ because of his generosity. But in real life, he was a big time criminal who turned Taraba State into a huge hell, abducting people at will.

 

That was until his chicken finally came home to roost on Monday, August 19. His capture came at a great cost to Nigeria. For a fact, Wadume’s journey to the abyss began with his initial capture on August 6, when operatives of the inspector general of Police’s elite Intelligence Response Team (IRT), from the police headquarters, Abuja, swooped on him at Ibi.

 

But while being transported to the Taraba State Police Headquarters in Jalingo, the capital, for documentation and initial interrogation, prior to his eventual transfer to Abuja, troops of the 93 Battalion based in Takum shot out like a bolt from the blues along the Ibi-Wukari Road, pursued the police team and their trophy, Hamisu Wadume, and opened fire.

 

Though the valorous police team stood their ground during the fire-fight, the soldiers succeeded in setting Wadume free. By the time the dust generated by the attack settled, three of the finest investigators the Nigeria Police Force ever had, and two civilian police informants, had been callously murdered. Several other cops sustained serious injuries.

 

According to the International Journal of African and Asian Studies – An Open Access International Journal Vol.1 2013, extortion, embezzlement, and other corrupt practices by Nigeria’s police undermine the fundamental human rights of Nigerians in two key ways.

 

The Journal noted that the first and the most direct effect of police corruption on ordinary citizens stems from the myriad human rights abuses committed by police officers in the process of extorting money. It noted that these abuses range from arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention to threats and acts of violence, including physical and sexual assault, torture, and even extrajudicial killings.

 

The police frequently extort money from the public at taxi stands, in marketplaces, or while going about their daily lives. “However, the most common venue for extortion occurs at police roadblocks, ostensibly put in place to combat crime.

 

In practice, these checkpoints have become a lucrative criminal venture for the police who routinely demand bribes from drivers and passengers alike, in some places enforcing a de facto standardised toll,” it stated.

 

“Motorists are frequently detained and endure harassment and threats until they or their family members negotiate payment for their release. Extortion-related confrontations between the police and motorists often escalate into more serious abuses,” it added.

 

Speaking on the police crime and criminal investigation in Nigeria, a Sociologist, Chinwokwu Chijioke of the Department of Sociology, Federal University, Lafia, said the criminal acts by the police, coupled with their failure to perform many of their most basic functions, severely undermine the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.

 

He said: “These criminal acts by the police, coupled with their failure to perform many of their most basic functions, severely undermine the rule of law in Nigeria. The police routinely extort money from victims to investigate a given criminal case, which leaves those who refuse or are unable to pay without access to justice.

 

“Meanwhile, criminal suspects with money can simply bribe the police to avoid arrest, detention, or prosecution, to influence the outcome of a criminal investigation, or to turn the investigation against the victim (As in the case of Kyari, Hushpuppi and Chibuzor).” In his research titled: “Crime and Criminal Investigation in Nigeria: A Study of Police Criminal Investigation in Enugu,” he said, the police commonly round up random citizens in public places, including mass arrests at restaurants, markets, and bus stops.

 

“Underlying many of these abuses is a cycle of corruption driven by senior police officers, who siphon off police funds at the top and enforce a scheme of collecting illicit “returns” from the money extorted by junior officers.

 

“High-level embezzlement of public funds destined for the police force indirectly impacts human rights, as senior officials have squandered and stolen vast sums of money that could have gone toward improving the capacity of the police to conduct patrols, respond to emergency calls, or investigate crimes.”

 

Police Act regulates officers’ conduct -CP Odita

 

Chief Frank Odita, a retired Commissioner of Police, said the Nigeria Police Act and Police Regulations govern activities of all police officers and any infractions can be handled both departmentally or at the court of law.

 

In an interview with Sunday Telegraph, he said: “Every policeman is trained to exercise self-respect, self-discipline as an officer who represents the Federal Republic of Nigeria at every point where he is serving.

 

And police officers on or off duty are expected to be well-behaved and members of the public are expected to report any police officer who misbehaves to the authority. “On no account should any police officer get involved in conduct that is likely to bring the force and indeed the country into disrepute.

 

Accordingly, this has various consequences, including query, sanctions, reduction in rank, dismissal or even prosecution in court. “So any police officer who is corrupt is doing so at his own peril.

 

That is why the Nigeria Police has the X-Squad, a section which handles issues of indiscipline and corruption of officers and men and the high ranking officers are attended to by the Police Service Commission.” He said the police should endeavor to maintain mutually rewarding relations with the public.

 

“It is not for nothing that the slogan ‘the police is your friend is used in the Nigeria Police.’ It was designed to bring the police closer to the people they are employed by the public to protect and guide.

 

“If the policeman is the friend of the public, it means that your friend cannot blackmail you, lay unfounded charges against you, and every police officer must behave according to this slogan and treat you with dignity and in conformity with the provisions of the law.

 

“It is unacceptable in the force for any policeman to associate with persons of questionable character, after all it is often said ‘show me your friend and I will tell you who you are.’”

 

Way forward

 

As a way forward, US-based Human Rights Watch recommended establishment of an independent commission of inquiry with subpoena power to conduct a transparent, comprehensive, and impartial investigation into systemic corruption within the Nigeria Police Force.

 

According to the rights oragnisation, the commission should focus its investigation on determining the extent of the embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds by senior police officials and its impact on police conduct and services.

 

It said: “The extent to which senior police officials sell for personal profit the services of junior-level officers to private individuals and companies as well as its impact on police conduct and services should be determined with a view to discourage it.”

 

It recommended prosecution without delay and according to international fair trial standards, any police officer implicated in corruption and other serious abuses, improving financial oversight of the Nigeria Police Force.

 

Human Rights Watch requires the Police to publish quarterly financial reports of total fines collected for vehicular and traffic violations, revenue received from state and local government allocations, and any funding received from private sources.

 

It recommends the reduction in political manipulation of the police by setting the term of the inspector general of police to one five-year term, and subjecting the confirmation of appointment as well as removal to a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate, as recommended by the 2008 Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigeria Police Force.

 

The organisation requires the police to publish quarterly budget execution reports, including detailed expenditure reports from each state command and make public the auditor general’s financial audit reports for each of the past 10 years as ways forward.

 

However, Kyari is currently on suspension from all police duties as he defends himself before the four-man special investigative panel, headed by DIG Joseph Egbunike, the Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department (FCID).

 

The SIP is undertaking a detailed review of all the allegations against Kyari by the US Government and conduct further investigations as it deems fit, and submit recommendations to guide further actions by the force leadership on the matter.

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