•Suspended police chief, others taken to custody after being linked to drug deals •How Presidency forced IG to release him to anti-drug agency
There were strong indications last night that suspended police chief Abba Kyari, taken into National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) custody yesterday, will be extradited to the United States after his probe for an illicit drug deal.
Sources said the Federal Government had concluded plans with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) to hand over the deputy commissioner of police, who is wanted for taking bribe from suspected celebrity internet fraudster, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, alias Hushpuppi, from a $1.1million loot.
It was also learnt that the police authorities delayed action on Kyari for four days until the Presidency directed Inspector-General Baba Usman to release him to the NDLEA.
Shortly before he was released to the anti-drug agency alongside four other police officers indicted for the same misdemeanour, the NDLEA had declared Kyari wanted after announcing his involvement with drugs and releasing a video of his attempt to bribe operatives to the public.
Sources said President Muhammadu Buhari received a report on Kyari from the Chairman of the NDLEA, Gen. Buba Marwa.
The other suspects taken into custody are Sunday Ubuah, an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP); Bawa James, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP); Inspector Simon Agrigba and Inspector John Nuhu.
According to a top source in the presidency, the Federal Government was already finalising the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the U.S. on Kyari’s extradition.
A Presidency source said: “The Federal Government has made up its mind to extradite Kyari when the NDLEA is done with him. There is already an ongoing talk between Nigeria and the United States.
“Already, the US has forwarded indictment documents and some evidence to the Federal Government. It claimed that there is a prima facie case against Kyari. The arrest of the top police cop has confirmed the suspicion of the USA.
“The final stage is the invocation of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and Kyari will be extradited to the United States for interrogation and trial.”
Another source said: “President Buhari was properly briefed by Gen. Marwa before the agency released its fact-sheet and video clip to the public.
“It was after the briefing that the agency set the machinery in motion to arrest Kyari and four others. Two drug suspects linked with the Kyari group are already in the agency’s custody.
“The interrogation of the five police officers will begin on Tuesday (today) alongside the two drug traffickers in NDLEA’s net.
“Both the traffickers and the police officers will have the opportunity to face detectives on how Kyari became an intermediary.
“It is expected that this action may lead to the unearthing of the drug cartel in the country.”
How presidency intervened
A source said: “Since last week, the NDLEA requested the release of Kyari and four other officers by the police. They were to be handed over on Thursday but no action was taken.
“The agency waited on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and till the early hours of Monday without any communication from the police.
“When the police were foot-dragging, the agency addressed the press on the facts and video clip at its disposal. NDLEA also declared Kyari wanted.
“The presidency immediately intervened and ordered the Inspector-General of Police to arrest and transfer the suspects to NDLEA.”
A statement by the Director, Media and Advocacy of NDLEA, Mr. Femi Babafemi, said justice will take its full course.
The statement said: “Few hours after he was declared wanted by the NDLEA over his involvement in a 25 kilograms cocaine deal, the Nigerian Police Force has handed over Kyari…to the anti-narcotic agency.
“Five of the wanted suspects…were driven into the National Headquarters of NDLEA in Abuja at about 5pm on Monday 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 the investigation will face the full weight of the law at the end of the ongoing probe.”
‘Why NDLEA declared Kyari wanted’
At a briefing on why Kyari was wanted, Babafemi said the NDLEA believed “strongly” that the suspended officer was “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”.
He said Kyari, despite being suspended, led a team that “intercepted” some traffickers.
Giving details of Kyari’s involvement, the spokesman said: “The saga started on Friday, January 21, 2022, when DCP Kyari initiated a call to one of the NDLEA officers in Abuja at 2:12 pm.
“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 Juma’at service.
“He appeared at the agreed venue of the meeting with the officer and went straight to the crux of the matter.
“This was it: his team had intercepted and arrested some traffickers that came into the country from Ethiopia with, according to him, 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.”
The spokesman said it was reminiscent of a recent case in which a drug kingpin flew from Brazil to negotiate the release of a 27.95 kg shipment of cocaine intercepted at the airport, offering a bribe of $24, 500 to an officer, who refused it.
“By 11: 05 am 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 he 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 N7m per kilogram, the proceed from the 5kg would amount to N35m, at 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.
“He put pressure on our 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 ground in Abuja. At the time, he was speaking from Lagos, where he allegedly travelled for private business.”
How Kyari brought NDLEA’s $61, 400 ‘share’
Babafemi said on January 25, Kyari offered to send his younger brother to deliver the payment while his men hand over the suspects.
He added: “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: 23 pm, Kyari was in Abuja and met with the officer at the same rendezvous where 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 indicated how to identify the remnant of the original cocaine that would be delivered to NDLEA, five original packages marked with red dots.
“The reason for this was to avoid the dummies being subjected to test.
“He forwarded a picture of the marked original cocaine package. According to the plan, once the 5kg cocaine has been tested in the presence of the suspects and confirmed positive, there would be no need to test the remaining ones, being 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. And the moment was documented, part of which I will play for you at the end of this briefing.
“So we have a trove of intelligence, hard facts, from chats to photos and video and a detailed transcript of the communication between him and the NDLEA officer.”
The NDLEA spokesman said it was disheartening to hear straight from the horse’s mouth the kind of sleaze engaged in by a team of rogue law enforcement agents led by Kyari, the members of whom he described as ‘very, very sharp, they are very loyal.’
“It is disheartening to hear him say of this rogue team, and I quote: ‘I do take good care of them, and this kind of work is done by only that team.’
“It is equally disheartening to hear him give details of another similar operation which they pulled off, three weeks ago, according to him,” he said.
Police point finger at NDLEA
The police accused NDLEA officers at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport of aiding drug trafficking.
Force spokesman, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the IGP ordered Kyari’s and the others’ arrest following “pieces of information received from the leadership of the NDLEA on 10th February 2022”.
He said in a statement: “In line with standard administrative procedure of the Force, the Inspector General of Police ordered a high-level, discreet, and in-house investigation into the allegations.
“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).
“Although the case and the two suspects were subsequently transferred to the NDLEA on the 25th January, 2022, the findings of the in-house investigation ordered by the Inspector General of Police established reasonable grounds for strong suspicion that the IRT officers involved in the operation could have been involved in some underhand and unprofessional dealings as well as official corruption which compromised ethical standards in their dealings with the suspects and exhibits recovered.
“Beyond this, the Police investigation also established that the international narcotics cartel involved in this case have 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 confirmed that the modus is for the transnational drug barons to conspire with the NDLEA officers on duty and send them their pre-boarding photographs for identification, seamless clearance, and unhindered passage out of the airport with the narcotics being trafficked.
“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.”
Police indict Kyari
The police said the panel’s findings implicated Kyari.
The statement added: “The Police investigations report also indicted DCP Abba Kyari, who had been on suspension for his alleged involvement in a different fraud case being investigated by the FBI, for complicity in the allegation of official corruption, tampering with narcotics exhibit and sundry unprofessional conducts that negate the standard administrative and investigative protocols of the Force as well as extant criminal laws.
“It is to be emphasised that DCP Abba Kyari’s involvement in these allegations occurred while his suspension from service was subsisting.
“On the strength of the findings of the in-house police investigation panel, the Inspector-General of Police has ordered the immediate arrest and transfer of all the indicted police officers to the NDLEA authorities for conclusive investigation, while appropriate disciplinary actions are also being initiated against them by the Force leadership.
“The concerned officers include DCP Abba Kyari, ACP Sunday Ubuah, ASP Bawa James, ASP John Umoru (at large), Inspr. Simon Agrigba and John Nuhu. They have all been, accordingly, handed over to the NDLEA authorities.”