If any individual can assume the title of the biggest indirect cause of the October 2020 #EndSars protests against police brutality in Nigeria, it must be Abba Kyari, the 46-year-old Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) who was, till 2016, the Officer-in-Charge of the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos State Police Command.
The notoriety of SARS under him, as well as a few recent cases of gross abuse and killings of young Nigerians, stirred the bottled-up anger expressed in the weeklong protest.
CAREER AND EDUCATION
A Kanuri by tribe, Kyari was born into the Family of Alhaji Baba Kyari, native of Gujba Local Government Area of Yobe living in Maiduguri, Borno State, on March 17, 1975.
He attended the University of Maiduguri Staff Primary School and then proceeded to the Government College, Maiduguri, where he obtained a Senior Secondary School Certificate which qualified him to study Geography at the University of Maiduguri between 1993 and 1997. Following his mandated one-year youth service, Kyari was, in the year 2000, admitted into the Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, Kano State, from where he graduated as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP).
Following a one-year stay in the Song Police Division, Kyari was deployed to Numan, Adamawa State, as Divisional Crime Officer (DCO), and then Commander, 14 PMF, Yola. In Lagos, he was first a 2IC, and then in 2011 he became the OC of SARS. Kyari was shot to limelight when, as commander of a newly formed Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), he nabbed Chukwudi Onwuamadike (also known as Evans), a notorious kidnap kingpin in Nigeria.
RECOGNITION AND AWARDS
Kyari, the youngest high-ranking Nigerian police officer, was nicknamed ‘Nigeria’s Jagbawa’ for his sheet of successful covert police arrest and capture operations which earned him local and international accolades. Among his several awards are Leadership and Service excellence 2011, 2012, 2013; Star Award from CRAN 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017; Triple IGP Commendation Medal for courage 2012, 2013, 2014; Triple Lagos State Governor’s award for Gallantry; Best Anti-Crime Police Officer in West Africa from Security Watch Africa; Lagos State Commissioner of Police Commendation Award for Courage, 2011; Star Award for Outstanding Gallantry In Africa, 2018, by Security watch Africa; Africa’s Best Detective Of The Year, 2018; The best Police officer of the Decade Award; 2018 HERO of the year Award by Silverbird Group; and the Presidential Medal for Courage from President Mohammadu Buhari.
RIGHTS ABUSES AND EXTORTION
However, the allegations of human rights abuses, extortion and extrajudicial killings hanging around Kyari’s neck are about a match of the stars on his shoulder.
In October 2020, Afeez Mojeed narrated to the Lagos State Judicial Panel on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and other Related Matters how Kyari extorted N41million from him in 2014. According to the business man, Kyari, as OIC Lagos SARS, locked him up for 14 days, all the while forcing him to sign bank cheques, before charging him to court over trumped-up charges.
In 2019, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Amnesty International, after conducting separate investigations, accused Kyari’s IRT of gross human rights abuses and illegal expropriation of suspected proceeds of crime. In a petition to Ibrahim Idris, the then Inspector General of Police, Amnesty International said the Kyari-led team had been maltreating the wife of one Ezenwa, an alleged kidnapper killed by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad in Imo State, while depleting his assets, which included a N220million hotel in Enugu and eight apartments worth about N180million.
HUSHPUPPI CONNECTION NO LONGER A HUSHED MATTER
While Kyari seemed to have ridden on his supercop status to cushion several weighty accusations, including that of extrajudicial killing, against him in the past, a recent report by an officer of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FIB) naming him as one of six persons who conspired to fraudulently obtain over $1m from a business person, shot him back to the news. The report, released on Wednesday, detailed Kyari’s role in the crime, alongside that of Hushpuppi, a popular Nigerian Instagram sensation, and five others.
Otis Wright of the United States District Court for the Central District of California had ordered the FBI to track Kyari and a senior police officer revealed, on Thursday, that the Nigeria Police Force would probe him over his indictment.
What is left to be seen now is what will become of Nigeria’s most decorated cop. And the answer might come in just a matter of days.