Months after receiving the report of the probe panel on the alleged role of the suspended Head of the Intelligence Response Team, DCP Abba Kyari, the Inspector-General of Police, Baba Usman, has not forwarded any disciplinary recommendations to the Police Service Commission, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
Kyari was investigated for his alleged role in a $1.1m Internet scam carried out by an Instagram influencer, Abbas Ramon, aka Hushpuppi, and four others.
The probe followed Kyari’s indictment by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigations, which recommended that the cop be extradited to the US to face trial.
The US Attorney’s Office at the Central District of California declined comments on the warrant of arrest it issued over six months ago that the FBI should apprehend Kyari and other defendants in the case.
The court’s Director of Media Relations, Thom Mrozek, in an email interview with Saturday PUNCH on December 13, 2021, also said the sentencing of Hushpuppi, who pleaded guilty to money laundering charges, was still pending.
The Dubai Police in the United Arab Emirates had in June 2020 arrested Hushpuppi and his gang. They were later extradited to the US for prosecution by the FBI.
The FBI Special Agent, Andrew Innocenti, had alleged that Hushpuppi contracted the services of Kyari after a “co-conspirator,” Chibuzo Vincent, allegedly threatened to expose the alleged $1.1m fraud committed against a Qatari businessman.
Innocenti, who said he obtained voice calls and WhatsApp conversations between Kyari and Hushpuppi, had also alleged that the latter paid the police officer N8m or $20,600 for the arrest and detention of Vincent.
Kyari had taken to Facebook on July 29, 2021 to deny the allegations, but he later deleted the post after editing it about 12 times.
The IG had recommended the suspension of Kyari, which the PSC carried out on July 31, 2021.
The police boss had on August 2, 2021, constituted the Special Investigation Panel headed by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of the Force Criminal Investigations Department, Joseph Egbunike, to probe the allegations.
Egbunike on August 26, 2021 submitted the panel’s report, which he said “is an outcome of a painstaking, transparent and exhaustive investigative process.”
He revealed that the report contained the case file of the probe, evidence and findings as well as testimonies from Kyari and other persons and groups linked to the matter.
The Minister of Police Affairs, Maigari Dingyadi, had on September 14, 2021, during a television interview said the findings and recommendations on Kyari had been submitted to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), for “legal opinion” and thereafter for presentation to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), adding that the final decision would be taken by the PSC.
But three months later, the PSC spokesman, Ikechukwu Ani, told Saturday PUNCH that the commission had not received any disciplinary recommendations from the IG through the Force Disciplinary Committee almost four months after the Egbunike panel submitted its report to the police boss.
The recommendations of the FDC will inform the commission’s decision and also determine Kyari’s future in the force, but the matter is now inconclusive.
The PSC spokesman said, “What we received was the communication to the commission that the IG had received the Joseph Egbunike panel’s report and that they were working on it. So, it is not like they have sent a complete report to the commission; the commission is still expecting it from the police; they have not also made their recommendations known to the commission.”
Ani added that as far as the PSC was concerned, the Borno-born police officer remained suspended.
“He (Kyari) is still on suspension because we have not lifted it officially at the commission, because the commission approved his suspension,” he said.
On the in-house panel set up by the PSC to probe Kyari’s indictment, he said, “We are waiting for the police to send their own report; ours is an internal arrangement that will guide the commission in taking a decision. It is not a different panel, but we are working ahead of time to prepare the commission so that when the report comes from the police, we will have all the facts needed to assist them to make a decision on it.
“The commission is bound by the provisions of the constitution and as far as discipline for serving police officers from constables to DIGs is concerned, the constitution has given the responsibility to the commission. Because the IG is the operational head of the police, we will normally seek his advice and recommendations, but the final decision lies with the commission. It is a constitutional matter.”
The PSC spokesman said the police would be in a better position to give a reason why no disciplinary measure had been taken yet on the matter.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, did not take his calls and had yet to respond to a text message seeking the NPF’s position on the matter as of press time.
Malami’s spokesman, Umar Gwandu, promised to respond to Saturday PUNCH inquiries on the instructions of the AGF, but he had yet to do so as of the time of going to press on Friday.
The spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office at the Central District of California, Thom Mrozek, had in an email chat with our correspondent on July 30, 2021, said, “A US magistrate judge has issued arrest warrants for the defendants in the case, including Mr Kyari. This is standard operating procedure in nearly all of the criminal cases filed by this office.”
But when our correspondent contacted him on December 13, 2021, on the order of the court for the FBI to arrest Kyari, Mrozek said, “I have no comment on Mr Kyari.”
Asked if the court sentenced Hushpuppi in October 2021 as earlier scheduled, Mrozek stated, “As we noted in our July 28 news release titled: ‘Court documents ordered unsealed today show that Abbas, a 37-year-old Nigerian national, pleaded guilty on April 20’. His sentencing is currently pending.”
CSOs slam FG, IGP for delayed tactics
Meanwhile, civil society organisations have since faulted the delayed tactics of the Buhari regime on the scandal, saying the reluctance of the police to make known their findings on Kyari’s involvement with Hushpuppi and the IG’s alleged tardiness to send his disciplinary recommendations to the PSC are signals of a cover-up.
Activist, Deji Adeyanju, of Concerned Nigerians said, “I am not surprised and I am not expecting the Nigeria Police to indict Abba Kyari. He has got away with it despite the indictment by the FBI and he has moved on as if nothing has happened. The lack of transparency in the way the whole thing has been done calls to question the integrity of the government. This particular government has exhausted its credibility limit and is now in deficit of same.
“The anti-corruption crusade of the Muhammadu Buhari regime died in his first year in office because of several double standards and it is only concerned about fighting opposition.”
Also, the National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, Emmanuel Onwubiko, slammed the IG for employing delay tactics in arriving at a conclusion on the matter.
He described as “huge shame of global dimension” that months after the FBI indicted Kyari for alleged collusion with Hushpuppi, the Nigerian government had refused to do the needful.