LongRead…Abba Kyari: A scandal foretold? Five unforgettable moments of his career
Before his catastrophic fall from a hero to alleged villain, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari was, by a mile, the most celebrated police officer in Nigeria. He was the Jack Bauer of the much maligned Nigeria Police Force, the shining light whom many officers aspired to emulate.
He was arguably the most decorated police officer in Nigerian history with many media houses and organisations falling over each other in raining encomiums on him.
Soon enough, a body called the Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria (CRAN) was formed with Abba Kyari made the ‘Life Patron.’
Almost on a monthly basis, members of CRAN will conjure one award or the other to confer on him, with one witnessed by this Reporter, tagging him the ‘Undisputable Crime Fighter of the Century.’ Of course, members of CRAN never left such award ceremonies empty handed as the ever generous police officer always made them smile.
Even the Federal and State governments were not left out in the rush to bestow awards on Abba Kyari.
In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari honoured him with the ‘Presidential Medal for Courage,’ while the Lagos State government conferred on him the ‘Governor’s Award for Gallantry Leadership and Service Excellence’ in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
He was also a recipient of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police ‘Commendation Award for Courage’ in 2011 and in 2018, and was declared ‘Africa’s Best Detective’ in the same year, as well as bagging the ‘Best Police Officer of the Decade Award 2019’ and the 2018 ‘Hero of the Year Award’ by the Silverbird Group.
He was awarded the ‘Best Anti-Crime Police Officer in West Africa’ from Security Watch Africa, and also got the ‘Star Award’ from CRAN for nine years running, from 2011 to 2019.
Even the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that is angling for his extradition to the USA, gave him a ‘Certificate of Appreciation’ in 2018 ‘in recognition of his assistance and continued support of kidnapping investigations.’
Abba Kyari practically became the face of the Nigerian Police, doing everything to launder the image of the force. He was dubbed the ‘Super Cop’ and unwittingly became a social media celebrity who could not keep his achievements from the eyes of the public.
As the Head of the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Kyari got called on short notices, to any region of the country where crime was at its peak, and he always delivered results.
He accounted for so many arrests that there was a mystery built around him, all for good reasons. He had the guns and the guts and never shirked in his responsibilities, and like he once said in an interview, “all criminals make mistakes and as an intelligent officer, I am always ahead of them and I capitalize on their mistakes to bring them down.”
Kyari had a litany of exploits under his belt. In fact, in his heydays, he was instrumental in the arrest of some of the most dangerous and notorious armed robbers and kidnap kingpins in the country.
Before his posting to the Lagos State Police Command in October 2010, Kyari was just a regular officer of the Police Mobile Force, but with his deployment as the Second in Command (2/IC) to the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and later the Officer in Charge (OC) SARS, on January 15, 2011, Kyari became an albatross to criminals in the state.
His many successes saw him being made the Head of the IRT, and that was when his fame became more pronounced and every Nigerian became aware of the exploits of the ‘Super Cop’.
We serve you five unforgettable moments of Abba Kyari’s career, comprising of his feats and stumbles. Enjoy!
1. The arrest of Sunday ‘Godogodo’ Abiodun (2013)
For almost a decade until his arrest in 2013, Sunday Abiodun, alias Godogodo, was about the most notorious armed robber operating in the South-West, terrorizing residents of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun and other states in the region. Godogodo was a ‘one-eyed’ criminal who had taken it upon himself to be the lord of the underworld.
During his reign of terror, Godogodo operated with reckless abandon and snuffed life out of many of his victims. He had a personal vendetta against the police and allegedly mowed down more than a hundred of them.
He had a veil of mystery around him that made many believe he had the ability to disappear. He was also very rich and had houses in different parts of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States and according to him after his arrest, he never stayed in any of his houses for more than one week to avoid arrest.
Worried by the exploits of Godogodo after a robbery attack at the O4 Hotel in the Ajah area of Lagos that led to the gruesome murder of seven persons including the owner of the hotel, Olanrewaju Subair, and the subsequent killing of two policemen at Ebute Ero and Ajao Estate areas of the metropolis on July 7, 2013, the then Lagos State Police Commissioner, Umar Manko, declared the 36-year-old as the ‘Most Wanted Armed Robber’ in the state and gave Kyari, then a Superintendent of Police, a matching order to get the criminal dead or alive.
Armed with the order, Kyari swung into action and expanded his dragnet within and beyond the South-West area, stretching as far as Edo, Delta, Anambra, Imo and Rivers States.
On July 31, Godogodo was arrested by the Kyari team at his house, a twin duplex located at Olowu area of Egbeda local government area of Oyo State.
After his arrest, Godogodo was paraded at the Lagos Police Command in Ikeja and when asked how he managed to escape arrest for so long, he said:
“I live a private life and kept everything to myself where I live in Ibadan. I do not attend parties, nor do I visit drinking joints. Similarly, I don’t make calls twice with one SIM card. I have over 1000 different registered SIM cards. I put a SIM card aside the moment I put a call through to anybody and may likely not use same in the next one year. But I was surprised that the OC SARS (Kyari) could trace me to my house in Ibadan and arrest me.”
2. Arrest of Benjamin ‘China’ Osinachi (2013)
Also in 2013, the Abba Kyari SARS team busted another notorious kidnap gang led by a Ghanaian-based kingpin, Benjamin Osinachi who was better known as China. Though he had his gang in Ghana, China regularly sneaked into Nigeria to kidnap identified victims and extort huge sums of money from them as ransom.
The gang was credited with abducting high profile victims like a Lagos High Court Judge, the then Chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area, Kehinde Bamigbetan, expatriates, billionaires and prominent citizens.
But when CP Manko unleashed Kyari and his team on the suspects, the stage was set for their eventual arrest and decimation.
On July 1, 2013, Kyari and his men stormed the hideout of the deadly kidnap gang in the Agbara area of Lagos where they were arrested after hours of gun battle. During the arrest, the police recovered many dangerous weapons including 12 AK47 rifles, GPMGs and rocket launchers from the gang.
In an interview after the arrest of China, the Lagos Police Commissioner said:
“Remember when the Ejigbo LCDA chairman was kidnapped, I promised Lagosians we were going to arrest the kidnappers. We later got information that these kidnappers were based in Ghana and all efforts to arrest them in Ghana failed because the country had her procedure and they insisted we could not just go there to make any arrest.
“We went to Ghana with a team of international policemen, INTERPOL, but, after 31 days without a headway, our policemen returned to Nigeria.
“Based on painstaking follow-up and surveillance in tracking these kidnappers, men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) discovered their hideout in Agbara two weeks ago. The Commander of SARS, SP Abba Kyari, led a team of crack detectives to a suburb in Agbara where the kidnappers had their camp. After 72 hours of waiting in ambush, the men cordoned off the area, then stormed the house where all the kidnappers gathered around 3am.”
3. Arrest of Chukwudi ‘Evans’ Onuamadike (2017)
If the arrest of Godogodo by Abba Kyari was seen as a spectacular feat, the capture of billionaire kidnapper, Chukwudi Onuamadike, popularly known as Evans, was an exceptional achievement that further cemented Kyari in the folklore of crime fighting in Nigeria.
Before his arrest, Evans was the most notorious kidnap suspect in the country who collected his ransom in dollars. He was an elusive gangster who had many gangs spread across different states like Anambra where he hails from, Edo, Delta, Enugu, Rivers and his headquarters in Lagos.
He lived like a king in the exclusive Magodo Estate where most wealthy Lagosians live. He was reputed to be the smartest and richest criminal in the kidnapping business in Nigeria.
The Inspector General of Police at that time described him as “a very smart, crafty, and intelligent kidnapper having evaded arrest for four years even though he was on a most wanted list in three states, Lagos, Edo and Anambra States.”
But he met his albatross when Abba Kyari was handed his case file and he swung into action. On June 10, 2017, the billionaire kidnap kingpin was arrested at his Magodo mansion while preparing to flee to Ghana where he had earlier shipped his family to.
At his parade at the Lagos Police Command in Ikeja on Sunday, June 11, Evans became a sissy and while crying, confessed to his myriads of crimes and traced his journey into the crime world and how he started from his home in Anambra State during the regime of former Governor Peter Obi but had to relocate to Edo State when the heat was too much for him.
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From Edo State, Evans said he moved down to Lagos where he became one of the biggest kidnap kingpins, keeping as many as seven gangs which made it impossible for the police to pin him down.
Evans also confessed that he made billions from kidnapping and invested heavily in properties, bought two mansions in the Magodo Phase II GRA in Lagos, valued at over N300 million, with two other houses in Accra, where his wife and five children live.
4. Arrest of Hamisu ‘Wadume’ Bala (2019)
Another high-profile crime bursting feat carried out by Abba Kyari and his team was the arrest of notorious Taraba State kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Bala, also known as Wadume in August, 2019.
Wadume had eluded the police for several years while he carried out high level abductions in the northern parts of the country and made millions from the venture. What made his elusiveness possible was his alleged links to top military and police officers who provided him with information and tips.
Wadume was first arrested while drinking tea with friends in his house in Ibi Town, Taraba State, and while being conveyed to Abuja for further investigations, the police vehicle conveying him came under attack at a check point manned by soldiers after passing the first military check point where they reportedly identified themselves as police officers from Abuja and that they were holding a kidnap kingpin.
The soldiers at the first checkpoint allegedly reported to the Commander of the military check points who alerted the soldiers at the second check point that the occupants of the vehicle were kidnappers who had just kidnapped Wadume in his house and being taken away to a hideout.
On the orders of the Commander said to be one Captain Tijjani Balarabe, the soldiers chased after the police vehicle on a rescue mission, firing shots at the vehicle. By the time the police vehicle summersaulted into a ditch, three police officers and two civilians had been killed and five others were seriously injured.
Wadume was freed by the soldiers who cut the leg chains and handcuffs on him and whisked him away from the location, only for him to go into hiding. Enraged by the audacity of the well planned and orchestrated escape of the suspect, the police declared a nationwide manhunt for him.
The then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, declared Wadume wanted on August 6, and who else was saddled with the onerous task of capturing Wadume, but Abba Kyari. He and his IRT team were deployed to the north and on August 19, Wadume was re-arrested at his hideout in Kano State.
Announcing Wadume’s arrest, Force spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, said:
“The operatives of the Nigeria Police have re-arrested the notorious kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume. He was re-arrested in the late hours of yesterday, 19th August, 2019, in his hideout at Layin Mai Allo Hotoro area of Kano State.
“It would be recalled that the Police had been on the massive manhunt for the suspect, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume since 6th August, 2019, following the unfortunate incident in Ibi, Taraba State, which resulted in the brutal murder of three police officers and two civilians, and injury to five others. The suspect, who was appropriately restrained at the time of the incident, was subsequently released by his “rescuers” after they had destroyed the restraining handcuffs.”
5. Arrest of Pastor Adetokunbo Adenopo for kidnapping and armed robbery (2020)
In July 2020, Abba Kyari and his team smashed another Lagos State-based notorious kidnap and armed robbery gang led by a supposed man of God, Adetokunbo Adenopo, who was the General Overseer (GO) of the New Life Ministries located in Shagamu, Ogun State.
After he was arrested, Adenopo confessed that his gang was instrumental to the abduction of several victims and they made millions from the venture. The GO turned criminal said he embarked on the crime of kidnapping and armed robbery to fulfill his ambition of expanding the church and carrying out charity works.
The police also disclosed that Adenopo was one of the armed robbery gangs led by a notorious and wanted kingpin with international connections, Udodiri Bright, aka Ability, whose gang robbed the Murtala International Airport in May of that year, where a whopping sum of N120m was carted away.
Abba Kyari’s controversies
During his reign as the Super Cop, Abba Kyari was not devoid of controversies as many allegations of extra-judicial killings, torture of suspects and extortion were leveled against him.
In 2014, a Lagos businessman, Afeez Mojeed, had accused Abba Kyari of extorting N41m from him when he was in charge of SARS.
In a series of petitions, while seeking justice through the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mojeed said Kyari and his officers had forcefully extorted the sum and other items from him during a raid on his house.
“They forcefully took my wedding ring and that of my wife from them, opened our wardrobe and took the sum N280,000 and the sum of N50,000 was also taken from my car, after which the Honda Accord (2008) model was seized and taken away till today,” Mojeed has said.
He added that expensive phones, landed properties, cheque books, bank cards and other valuable documents were allegedly seized from him as well.
“I was later arraigned on a trump-up charge of stealing N97 million and for over one year, the matter was in court, the police never showed up or brought any witness.
“The police, under the supervision and threat of Abba Kyari (OC SARS) forced me to sign three Zenith Bank cheques in the sum of N150,000 each, making N450,000 in total on October 22 – 23, 2014; I was also made to give the sum to one Alabi Olawale Nurudeen who is also one of their cronies to withdraw.
“I was taken by one Inspector Fola, Corporal Bolu and Corporal Akeem, to Diamond Bank, Ajah branch, on October 23 and 24, 2014, to forcefully transfer the sum of N41m and N800,000 respectively from my corporate account, M. Mateen Concepts, into the account of one Obinna Edward, after which they shared the money.
“When I confronted Abba Kyari in his office on why he would seize his money and properties without a court order, he told me that he kept the money and properties as exhibits and till date, he has not released any of the items to me including his car.”
In 2019, Amnesty International and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), again, accused Kyari of the extra-judicial killing of one Collins Ezenwa, aka E-Money, and extorting money from the deceased’s wife.
In a petition submitted to the international bodies, Ezenwa’s wife had accused Kyari of and his team of withdrawing money from her late husband’s account running into millions of naira, as well as pocketed millions from his hotels. In his defence, Kyari denied victimising the deceased’s wife but claimed he was acting within his powers by confiscating the man’s properties.
Other allegations were to emerge after the scandal that surfaced following his links to international fraudster, Hushpuppi, and are still being processed by the Police Service Commission (PSC).
Enter Hushpuppi and the FBI (2021)
Things were looking up for Abba Kyari with many tipping him to become an Inspector General of Police in the future, until a certain Ramon Abbas, alias HushPuppi, who lived more flamboyantly than Saudi Princes, entered into the fray with his maggot infested phones, leading to the FBI indicting Nigeria’s ‘Super Cop’ of complicity in the crimes of the international fraudster.
While singing like a canary and cutting a plea bargain deal, Hushpuppi roped in Kyari, and the tightening noose around his neck led to his suspension by the Police Service Commission following a string of incriminating details found on Hushpuppi’s phone by the FBI.
Abba Kyari’s involvement in the Hushpuppi scam processing factory, though tangential, is quite damning and capable of bringing him down.
From records, Abba Kyari had travelled to Dubai in 2019 where he allegedly met with Hushpuppi who hosted him like a royalty, providing him a Limousine and a chauffeur who ferried him around the city.
Back in Nigeria, the duo continued their chummy relationship but when the scandal first broke, Kyari promptly issued a statement on his Facebook page, and though he did not deny knowing Hushpuppi, he admitted that in their dealings, he never demanded nor collected bribes from the fraudster, though he did admit that money had actually exchanged hands, “but not directly.”
In the post on July 21, Kyari said he had helped the fraudster to facilitate the purchase of native attires and that Hushppupi paid N300,000 directly into the seller’s account.
Another explanation that did not tie up was that he had received a distress call by Hushpuppi that one Vincent Chibuzo had issued threats against his (Huspuppi’s) family and he dispatched his team to arrest the suspect who was kept in detention for one month while the police carried out investigations.
At the end of the investigation, according to Kyari, Chibuzo was released as nothing incriminating was found against him.
The Kyari we know
Born on March 17, 1975, in Gubja Local Government Area of Yobe State, Abba Kyari grew up in Maiduguri, Borno State, where he had his primary and secondary school education.
Kyari, who often describes himself as a proud Kanuri, graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography from the University of Maiduguri in 1997, and had his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Akwa Ibom State in 1998, before joining the Nigeria Police Force as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police in 2000.
After completing his training at the the Police Academy, Wudil, Kano State, Kyari was posted to Adamawa State.
Kyari joined the Police Mobile Force (PMF), known as Mopol, in 2005 before he was posted to the Lagos Police Command in 2010.
He was immediately deployed as the Second in Command (2/IC) to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), before he was made the Officer in Charge (OC SARS) on January 15, 2011.
Kyari was specially promoted to the rank of a Deputy Commissioner of Police in 2018, which was seen by the police hierarchy as a “well deserved form of encouragement to service delivery” by the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission.
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