Hushpuppi-Kyari saga and the accentuated lessons

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Prof. M. K. Othman

Abba Kyari. The first time I heard his name was when I had the misfortune of being visited by night marauders in the early hours of the night a few years ago. It was a 30-minute operation but it became the most terrifying period of my life, the type you cannot even pray for your known sworn enemies to experience.

Thank God, no life was lost, the injured recovered fully, the lost properties were replaced with better ones and we have all moved on with our lives. In the melee of the unfortunate incident, one-security personnel said to me “your case is being investigated by the Abba Kyari’s boys”. I was too devastated to comprehend what he said. Later, I thought over the statement and then became confused, how can “boys” of Abba Kyari investigate this case?

I took the name mentioned for that of the famous chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Abba Kyari of blessed memory. Later, I realised the Abba Kyari being referred to, the super cop of Nigeria Police Force, then an assistant commissioner of police. Since then, I developed a special interest in the activities of Abba Kyari and his famous IRT, and began praying for him and the entire police force in this very challenging and trying time. I pray for Abba Kyari for success and protection against the ever-increasing multitude of criminals. I pray for the police force to have more replicates of Abba Kyari in its midst to enable it to provide adequate, direly needed security of lives and properties in Nigeria.

When the news of Hushpuppi-Kyari saga surfaced, therefore, I was naturally sad, not because of what Kyari did or did not do in respect of the allegations leveled against him rather for the situation and circumstances surrounding the saga. When a powerful country such as the USA is interested or involved in an issue concerning an individual or group in a less powerful country like Nigeria, such countries are often intimidated and wrongly or rightly cave-in and capitulate to avoid the risk of being in a diplomatic row with such powerful countries.

Within this context, there is always a tendency to sacrifice individuals to maintain “diplomatic cordial relationship”, sometimes at the expense of fairness, justice, and even due process. So, will there be fairness, justice, and thorough investigation beyond reasonable doubt that will remove all traces of misgivings in this matter?

Another reason for my sadness is the concern about the “plea-bargain” entered by the accused person, Mr. Ramon Abbas aka “Hushpuppi”, with his prosecutors in court.

The plea bargain means that Hushpuppi had already pleaded guilty to the multimillion-dollar fraud charges against him to avoid a lengthy trial and obtain court’s lenient jail sentence. This was done in Central California on July 4, 2021, and was sealed on July 27, 2021. Without plea bargain, Hushpuppi can get a maximum of 20 years jail sentence for the offense he is being accused of as stated in section 1343 of the US Criminal Code.

Entering a plea bargain with accused persons is often done to find an easy solution to a case that is considered to be “a hard nut to crack” in terms of time and technicalities and in which the judgment could swing either way. FBI was quoted as saying the cybercrime committed by Hushpuppi and his syndicate is one of the toughest it dealt with.

So, a plea bargain is a kind of a “win-win” case. The prosecutor is sure to obtain a guilty verdict; the judge spends less time to dispose of the case while the accused obtains a lighter sentence. Under the circumstances, the prosecutor always works hard to obtain as much confessional information from the accused, some of such information could be factual or doubtful, and serious effort may not be made to ascertain their veracity beyond reasonable doubts. Under such conditions, the “whole truth” may never be known. In most cases, the self-confession of notorious, smart, and ardent criminal/crook of international infamy like Hushpuppi is very doubtful, questionable and should only be accepted after a painstaking investigation.

However, there is a ray of hope as the Nigeria Police Force swung into action by instituting a Special Investigation Panel to determine the validity and authenticity of the FBI’s claim. This is the right step in the right direction as the alleged offences against Kyari were committed on Nigerian soil. While the SIP is carrying out the assignment, there are few accentuated lessons from the saga.

For over a decade Abba Kyari has been an amazon of hope in crime-busting across the nation. He and his team have been responsible for arresting and prosecuting high-profile criminals involved in several atrocities committed across the country. His records, courage, and successes are impeccable and earned him high-rated accolades and a series of coveted national and international awards.

No doubt, he has become a model and source of inspiration to the young cops and veneration of Nigerians and beyond. What will be the thinking of these young officers? Certainly, Kyari is not infallible but to excel as a police officer in the Nigerian environment is a herculean task that only the very best can do. So, how do we maintain Kyari’s tempo in crime-busting and at the same time respect international regulations in crime investigation?

Over these years, Kyari must have stepped on many toes, especially, those of criminals. With the current situation, are the criminals not having a good laugh? Can the nation have the last laugh? Are we ready to allow criminals to have the last laugh?

As opined by few analysts, Kyari’s successes were given undue publicity by Kyari and his associates that drew both admirers and foes, which might have compromised the security and contributed to the saga. In the first place, Kyari should have distanced himself from people with questionable sources of income who appear to live in opulence. Hushpuppi and his likes should be at variance with Kyari and his likes, just like fire and water.

There is another set of opinions that Nigeria should hand over Kyari in the name of due process. Outcomes of the investigation should be the guide for Nigeria’s next line of action. Whatever may be the case, Nigeria must be cautious not to jeopardise the deplorable security situation in the country. Those who talk nonchalantly about perilous insecurity situations in Nigeria have never experienced a five-minute life-threatening security breach. The time difference between life and death is less than a split second. The insecurity situation pinches us painfully. Nigerian authorities should handle Kyari’s case with wisdom.

Finally, we need more Kyaris in the police force, military and paramilitary outfits to address the precarious insecurity and restore hopes to the generality of the people. May God save Nigeria.

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