In a report, Abba Kyari has been described by the Washington Post newspaper as “Nigeria’s super cop.”
With such an international reputation, the indictment of the Commander of Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IGP-IRT) by the United States could not have been more seismic in impact. He gave good face to a rotten Nigeria Police and performed well for the camera – until now.
Kyari wasn’t just a good face, he was also one of the police’s most powerful.
So powerful was he that he rejected the invitation by the independent investigative body on alleged extra-judiciary killings and other crimes by the now defunct police SARS unit, on the grounds that he was too busy with national priorities.
But while many may be celebrating the fall of this celebrated policeman, we must be cautious.
First, Kyari has not been found guilty yet and he is entitled to his day in court, if he is bold to face the US judicial system.
Although, it is ironic we should not be running into conclusion, since the Nigeria Police does not accord many of the people it arrests with this basic right, having formed the habit of parading citizens before the press with claims of confessions before trial.
Secondly, even if it the allegations by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are true, the real issue is systemic, embedded deep in the feculent enterprise, exceeding the actions of one man.
We have to avoid hanging all the ills of the putrescent institution on one man.
Kyari was a future Inspector General of Police, by all indications.
He had built a career as a tough, no-nonsense, incorruptible crime buster – the kind of officer that the police need to repair a battered public image.
He was everything that was good about the police, until now.
A few weeks ago, he sent the social media buzzing by a sudden appearance at the immodest funeral of the mother of socialite Obinna Iyiegbu, commonly known as Obi Cubana.
To critics, Kyari replied he did nothing but honor a hardworking Nigerian. Since then, photos of him with doubtful characters had surfaced.
As if it was just a dry run for a scandal, last week, the world came crashing for the VIP crime buster, such that people now ask if he was indeed involved in busting crime all along.
President Mohammadu Buhari has always promised to change the police, but with less than two years left in his term of office, it will take an absolute magic for Baba Go Slow to execute sweeping reform
Deputy Police Commissioner (DPP) Kyari is now wanted by the FBI for an alleged involvement in a global fraud ring anchored by the flashy Nigerian fraudster, Ramon Abbas, popularly known as Hushpuppi.
According to an arrest warrant against the DPP by US prosecutors, he received a bribe to arrest and punish an accomplice who had betrayed Hushpuppi.
The FBI produced evidence to prove that Kyari received money from Hushpuppi and got the job done for the fraudster.
The FBI wants Kyari sent to America for trial.
What followed was dramatic.
Kyari issued a statement claiming that the money paid by Hushpuppi was for a tailoring service. His response was scandalous.
The police immediately set up an internal review, resulting in his suspension while probing continues.
Let’s assume that the investigation finds Kyari guilty and he is fired from the job.
Would that change the image of the Nigeria Police from an institution bedeviled by a culture of corruption to an organisation that truly serves the public interest?
The police is perhaps the most distrusted and disliked organ of public service.
It is so discredited that not many Nigerians would want to pose in a photo with a policeman friend.
Bribery and the police are synonymous.
The picture that young people see of the police is that of corrupt agents extracting bribes from commercial bus and private drivers on the roads.
It is so rare to find good cops.
The Nigeria Police is so rotten to the core that it has transcended shame and redemption.
It is the same police that hounded Nigerians to the extent that our young adults needed a nationwide protest tagged #EndSARS in 2020 to put an end to oppressive and criminal police tactics.
Kyari’s case presents an opportunity for reform.
He is a decorated officer who symbolizes that the best in the Nigeria Police is still bad for Nigerians.
The Nigeria Police should merely be an organisation that coordinates and shares intelligence with the various police units across the nation, leading the investigation of complex and inter-state cases
President Mohammadu Buhari has always promised to change the police, but with less than two years left in his term of office, it will take an absolute magic for Baba Go Slow to execute sweeping reform.
Therefore, I place a demand before the National Assembly, the delegates of the people, to act.
To start with, the idea of a national police force is anachronistic for a nation of Nigeria’s size and diversity.
Strategy and tactics have become a challenge for the national police.
In a federation, the police would be better run at state or local levels.
The only reason the federal executive has held on to policing powers is that the Presidency can use the police to achieve goals above and beyond law enforcement purposes.
If the President cannot use the police against all kinds of opposition, he would feel less powerful as a president.
This is the mindset that makes me think only the National Assembly can solve the problem.
All we need at the national level is a domestic intelligence, investigative and security service like the FBI.
The Nigeria Police should merely be an organisation that coordinates and shares intelligence with the various police units across the nation, leading the investigation of complex and inter-state cases.
The Federal Government should have no interest in the violation of traffic rules, theft, burglary and the other trivial things that the Nigeria Police is preoccupied with.
Once the police is decentralised, the Federal Government should then provide assistance to equip the states or local governments with resources to mobilise policemen for community policing across the nation.
Community policing delivers policemen who have good education and equipment, earn good salaries, respect the people they police and are respected in return.
A typical policeman in the United States is college educated, properly trained and so well paid that an average person would not even think about offering a bribe of a few dollars.
In some communities, the police collect, repair and donate bicycles to children. Elsewhere, local policemen hold Christmas parties and other events to endear themselves to those they protect.
I am not at all inferring that policemen are loved and are not involved in despicable things at times.
The police anywhere in the world has low favorability ratings. It is just in the nature of their work.
The late punk-funk musician, Rick James, captured the public perception of the police perfectly in his 1980 song, Mr. Policeman, singing: “I’ve seen you in my neighborhood. You look to me you’ll do no good. I’ve seen you with your gun in your hand.”
To burst crimes, the police have to be tough and rough.
However, when the police as an institution is filled from top-down with men and women who will more often than not collect bribes, regardless of the merit of requests before them, as in the allegations of Hushpuppi against Kyari, everything must be broken down and rebuilt.
The Nigeria Police is far beyond repairs. It should be disbanded.