-Hushpuppi-Kyari Saga and the Accentuated Lessons
Prof. M. K. Othman
Abba Kyari, the first time I heard of his name was when I had the misfortune of being visited by the night marauders at the early hours of the night (9:30 pm) a few years ago. It was a 30-minute operation but 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 became fully recovered, the lost properties were replaced with better ones and we have all been moving on with our lives. In the melee of the unfortunate incident, one security personnel told 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 mistook his name for the name of the famous Abba Kyari, chief of staff to the President, the late Abba Kyari of blessed memory. Later, I realized the Abba Kyari being referred to, the super cop of Nigerian Police Force, then Assistant Commissioner of Police, and since then, I developed a special interest in the activities of Abba Kyari and his famous IRT, and began to be praying for him and the entire Police force in this very challenging and trying time. I pray for Abba kyari for success and to be protected against the multitude of criminals increasing by the day. I pray for the police force to have more replicates of Abba Kyari in its midst to enable it to provide adequate, dearly needed security of lives and properties in Nigeria.
Therefore, when the news of Hushpuppi-Kyari saga surfaced, I was naturally sad, not because of what Kyari did or did not do in respect of the allegations leveled against him. The reason for my sadness is the situation and circumstances surrounding the saga; when a powerful country like the USA is interested or involved in an issue concerning an individual or group in a subservient and lesser country like Nigeria, more often than not, such countries wrongly or rightly cave-in and capitulate to avoid the risk of being in diplomatic opposition 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 misgiving 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 the 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 as stated by section 1343 of the US Criminal code. Entering a Plea bargain with accursed persons is often done to find an easy solution to a case that turns to be “a hard nut to crack” in terms of time and technicalities and in which the judgment may be either way. FBI was quoted 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, and 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 accursed, 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 renowned, smart, and ardent criminal/crook of international repute like Hushpuppi is very doubtful, questionable, and should only be accepted after a painstaking investigation.
However, there is a ray of hope as the Nigerian Police Force swung to 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 offenses against Kyari were committed on Nigerian soil. While SIP is carrying out the assignment, there are few accentuated lessons we need to learn 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 states. 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. Are we ready to sacrifice our best?
Over these years, Kyari must have stepped on many toes especially those of the 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 giving 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 variant with Kyari and his likes, just like and fire and water.
There is another set of opinions expressed by mainly the Nigerians living abroad who felt that Nigeria should sacrifice Kyari in the name of due process. Those advocating for this idea are either beneficiaries of the high-tech cybercrimes, precarious insecurity situations or naive to the insecurity threat to Nigerian people, they know next to nothing about the dreaded fear and anxiety we face daily in Nigeria. Those who talk lightly on perilous insecurity situations have never experienced a 5-minute life-threatening security breach. The time difference between life and death is one second or less. Those of us living in Nigeria know how painfully the insecurity situation pinches us. We should never allow the already precarious insecurity situation to become weaker. Nigerian authorities should take note and handle Kyari’s case with wisdom. We need more Kyaris in the police force, military and paramilitary personnel to address the Nigerian precarious insecurity, and restore hopes to the generality of people.