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Cocaine scandal: Heads to roll as NDLEA remands Kyari, others

More senior police operatives and other security agents would be arrested following the detention of DCP Abba Kyari, the suspended commander of the Intelligence Response…

More senior police operatives and other security agents would be arrested following the detention of DCP Abba Kyari, the suspended commander of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) at the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police Force, over drug-related offences, credible sources said Monday.

Kyari was on Monday declared wanted by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for selling cocaine consignment seized by IRT operatives from drug barons at the Enugu airport in January this year.

His involvement in the deal had raised questions in many quarters considering that he was under suspension last year because of his involvement in other criminal activities.

Our sources said yesterday that there was a “high profile complicity” in the latest incident involving the widely celebrated super cop who the NDLEA said has strong ties with cross-border drug barons using his position in the police as cover.

“Serious infractions have been established against Kyari in relation to drug crimes but the matter was being foot dragged at the police headquarters in Abuja and commands in some states. 

“People would be picked in other high profile places because the secret has been busted,” one of our sources said.

“The investigation of Kyari on the latest and other pending issues were being deliberately delayed by powerful forces because beyond the suspended deputy commissioner of police and the few officers whose names have been mentioned, there are some senior officers that are directly involved and they know they would be implicated, hence the tactical delay and needless technicalities in handling the matter,” he said.

Daily Trust reports that the latest scandal involving the suspended Kyari came to the fore on Monday, a few hours after the super cop was declared wanted by the NDLEA over his involvement in a 25 kilograms cocaine deal.

The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has already handed him over to the NDLEA. Daily Trust reports that the arrest of Kyari dominated discussion at the Force Headquarters Abuja yesterday. 

Before Monday’s development, the issue of the drug deal involving him and the NDLEA operatives was only known to the top echelon of the NPF, who were in receipt of the communication by the anti-drug agency.

It was gathered that the issue was discussed in hush tones by both officers and rank and file of the force on Monday.  

Meanwhile, while his fans in the police force expressed shock and disbelief, those who have been questioning his conduct said they saw it coming.

One of the officers told Daily Trust that the arrest and subsequent handover of Kyari to NDLEA for probe had caused serious confusion in the force.

“It is an institutional indictment. In the police force, especially among us the junior officers we see Oga Kyari as a role model in view of the various breakthroughs he had made in the arrest of criminals across the country.

“The drug thing happened while we are waiting to see how the Hushpuppi scandal will end,” the officer told one of our reporters last night.

Another police officer said the deal between Kyari and the NDLEA was not unusual.  

“This is not unusual. Seized items are sold including hemp and other drugs. It is you people that are expressing shock. There are bad elements in both the police, NDLEA and other security agencies, especially at our airports,” he said.


Kyari, others spent night in NDLEA cell

Our correspondents learnt that DCP Kyari and others will spend the night in NDLEA cells as the agency drilled them over the level of their complicity in the illegal drug deal.

In a statement on Monday, the Director, Media and Advocacy, NDLEA Headquarters, Abuja, Femi Babafemi, said five of the wanted suspects – DCP Kyari, 

ACP Sunday J. Ubua, ASP Bawa James, Inspector Simon Agirgba and Inspector John Nuhu – were driven into the anti-drug agency’s headquarters at about 5pm to formally hand them over for interrogation and further investigation.

“The agency wishes to assure that no stone will be left unturned to ensure that all suspects already in custody and those that may still be indicted in the course of investigation will face the full weight of the law at the end of the ongoing probe,” he said.

Babafemi had, earlier at a press conference Monday, said an investigation revealed that the celebrated Kyari is a member of a drug syndicate that operates across the globe.

He said the NDLEA took the decision to declare Kyari wanted after all efforts to get him to honour formal invitations for interrogation failed. 

“With the intelligence at our disposal, the agency believes strongly that DCP Kyari is a member of a drug cartel that operates the Brazil-Ethiopia-Nigeria illicit drug pipeline, and he needs to answer questions that crop up in an ongoing drug case in which he is the principal actor.

“His failure to cooperate forced the hand of the agency and that is the reason for this press briefing,” Babafemi said.


How Kyari was found wanting

According to Babafemi, the tracking of Kyari started on Friday, January 21, 2022, when he (Kyari) initiated a call to one of the NDLEA officers in Abuja at 2:12pm.

He said when the officer returned the call two minutes later, Kyari informed him he was coming to see him, to discuss an operational matter after the weekly Friday prayer service.

“Kyari appeared at the agreed venue of the meeting with the officer and went straight to the crux of the matter. This officer had intercepted and arrested some traffickers that came into the country from Ethiopia with 25kg of cocaine.

“He proposed a drug deal whereby he and his team are to take 15kg of the cocaine and leave 10kg for the prosecution of the suspects arrested with the illicit drug in Enugu.

“In the meantime, the purloined cocaine will be replaced with a dummy worth 15kg. He asked the NDLEA officer to persuade men of the FCT Command, to play along as well.

“By 11:05am on Monday, January 24, after the agency gave the officer the green light to play along, he and Kyari began a WhatsApp call for the rest of the day. The officer conveyed their willingness to play the game.

“At this point, Kyari disclosed that the 15kg (already taken out) was shared between the informants that provided information for the seizure and himself and his men of the IRT of the Nigerian Police. 

“According to him, the informants were given 7kg while his team took 8kg which was already sold.

“He then offered to pay the NDLEA team (that is the officer and the FCT commander) by selling, on their behalf, half of the remaining 10kg, thereby further reducing the original cocaine for the prosecution to just 5kg. 

“At N7 million per kilogram, the proceed from the 5kg would amount to N35m, based on the exchange rate of N570 per dollar being the black market rate for the day, January 24, 2022.

“In effect, he would be delivering $61,400 to the NDLEA team,” Babafemi said.

He said Kyari put pressure on NDLEA officer to wrap up the arrangement with the commander of the FCT Command to take custody of the drug and suspects from his men who were on the ground in Abuja.

He said at the time, Kyari was speaking from Lagos, where he allegedly travelled for private business. 

He said, “The next day, January 25, Kyari offered to send his younger brother to deliver the payment while his men deliver the suspects, but our officer turned down the suggestion, insisting he would rather deal with him in person and was therefore prepared to wait for him to return from Lagos.

“And by 5:23pm, Kyari was in Abuja and met with the officer at the same rendezvous they had the first meeting. 

“In their discussion, he disclosed how his team received the information from a double-crosser who betrayed the traffickers to him, showing a sordid connection between law enforcement agents and the drug underworld.

“He narrated how, acting on the tip-off, his team departed Abuja to Enugu and arrested the traffickers, removed part of the consignment on his instruction and replaced same with dummies.

“He also brought with him the money from the sale of the 5kg share of the NDLEA team, a total of $61,400. 

“Our officer, however, preferred to take the money inside his car. Well, the car was wired with sound and video recorders,” he said.


NDLEA operatives complicit – Police

In what appeared like firing back at NDLEA, the Nigeria Police Force said Mon

day that Kyari was not alone in the deal. 

Acting spokesman of the force, Muyiwa Adejobi, a Chief Superintendent of Police, in a statement said the arrest of Kyari and others was sequel to discreditable, unethical and unprofessional conduct, official corruption and tampering with exhibits in a case of illicit drug trafficking involving a perpetual transnational drug cartel.

“The interim investigations report revealed that two international drug couriers identified as Chibunna Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus, both males, were arrested at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu on the 19th of January, 2022 upon their arrival from Addis Ababa aboard an Ethiopian Airlines flight ET917.

“The arrest led to the recovery of a substantial quantity of powdery substance suspected to be cocaine from the two narcotic couriers. 

“The operation, which was intelligence-driven, was undertaken by a unit of the Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT).”

The spokesman also stated that beyond that, the police investigation also established that the international narcotics cartel involved in this case has strong ties with some officers of the NDLEA at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu who are on their payroll.

“The two arrested drug couriers also confirmed that they have been enjoying this relationship with the NDLEA officers at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport since 2021 and had in this instant case of 19th January, 2022, been identified and cleared by the NDLEA officers as customary, having received their pre-departure photographs and other details prior to their arrival in Enugu, and were on their way out with the narcotics when they were apprehended by the police,” he said.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had recently said there were reasonable grounds to subject Kyari to trial for his alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar fraud spearheaded by Ramon Abass, aka Hushpuppi.

The US government had in July 2021, unveiled the charges against Kyari and other alleged co-conspirators and sought his extradition.


Kyari could be tried simultaneously – Prof Yadudu

A constitutional lawyer, Prof Auwalu Yadudu, told Daily Trust that the issues around Kyari (extradition and NDLEA case) were distinct and would be treated accordingly.

On which should take priority in the cases, Yadudu, a former Legal Adviser to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, said he was aware that Nigeria and US have a memorandum of understanding to assist one another “but the decision on what to do, whether to proceed with the extradition or to try him here will be a matter for the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Director of Public Prosecutions – to determine which one.”

Also, a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) said there was no law in Nigeria that said a police officer who committed an offence outside his regular duties would be made to go through departmental orderly room trial or disciplinary procedure. 

“The duty of the police is to have him transferred to the NDLEA without waste of time,” he said.

Similarly, a former Attorney General of Ekiti State, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN), said Kyari is like any other ordinary citizen in the eyes of the law because the accusation occurred outside the duties of the police.

“So, his institution has no role to play,” he said.

By Abbas Jimoh, Ismail Mudashir, John C. Azu, Idowu Isamotu (Abuja) & Clement A. Oloyede (Kano)

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