By Onikepo Braithwaite
A Convenient Set Up?
It is sad and disheartening that with each successive administration, the hope and belief of Nigerians in their Governments’ sincerity declines. Today, it seems as if confidence in Government is at an all-time low. Is it because, at most given opportunities, Government has always shown a lack of will to do the right thing when it comes to many of their officials, apart from making an example of a few dispensable scape goats? If not, why would the conspiracy theory that the arrest of DCP Abba Kyari on allegations of drug trafficking and being a member of an international drug ring/cartel being a ploy to prevent his extradition to the US, be gaining ground? The theory finds support in Section 3(6)(a) of the Extradition Act 2004 (EA) which provides that “a fugitive criminal who has been charged with an offence under the law of Nigeria or any part thereof, not being the offence for which his surrender is sought; shall not be surrendered until such a time as he has been discharged whether by acquittal or on the expiration of his sentence, or otherwise”. This means that if DCP Kyari is brought up on drug charges, he cannot be extradited to the US until the case is over. He can only be extradited after he is either acquitted, or if convicted, he finishes serving his sentence in a Nigerian prison. Additionally, by virtue of Article 4 of the Extradition Treaty between Nigeria and the US (and Section 3(5) of the EA), Kyari can also not be extradited if he is facing trial in Nigeria, for the same offence for which he is wanted in the US. See the case of Udeozor v FRN 2007 15 N.W.L.R. Part 1058 Page 409 on Extradition.
A pertinent question to ask at this juncture, is why this money laundering/extradition process has been so slow? If the wheels of justice had moved as swiftly as they should, possibly Kyari would already have been extradited to the US to face his ‘Cop Puppi’ charges; and this new debate as to which should come first, prosecution for drugs in Nigeria or extradition to the US would not even arise. Though, again, in the case of U.S.A. v Kayode Lawrence Criminal No. 4:03-cr-436-1, it took nine years to extradite the Defendant who was detained by the Nigerian authorities in 2004.
Those in support of Government, dismiss the conspiracy theory as fiction, insisting that it is impossible that Government will portray itself in such a bad light, setting up a charade based on an illicit drug trade, simply to protect DCP Kyari from the American Government, and keep him from being extradited.
However, so far, DCP Kyari hasn’t been charged for any offence here in Nigeria, be it drugs or money laundering. And, though there has been exchange of correspondence between the Nigerian and American Governments, it is unclear as to whether the US Government through its mission in Nigeria, has actually made a formal request for the extradition of Kyari to the US to officially start the ball rolling in the extradition process. The Special Investigation Panel launched by the Inspector General of Police (IG) to investigate Kyari’s money laundering matter, which is neither here nor there, as the punishment meted out by the Panel which was unsurprisingly and expectedly nothing more than a slap on Kyari’s wrist (demotion from Deputy to Assistant Commissioner of Police for inter alia, fraternising with fraudsters), was however, rejected by the Police Service Commission, which has ordered the conduct of another investigation. By virtue of Section 153(1)(m) and Part 1 Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) Paragraph 30(a) & (b), the Police Service Commission is established as a Federal Executive Body to appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over all Police Officers, except the IG.
Cynicism and Scepticism
Nigerians have become quite cynical and sceptical about Government actions regarding its staff, and rightfully so too. In 2017, after the initial hullabaloo about the discovery of $43 million cash found in Flat 7B, Osborne Towers, 16, Osborne Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, what came out of it? What happened to the former Secretary to the Federal Government and the grass cutting scandal? Abdulrasheed Maina, who was fingered in a pension scam fraud worth billions of Naira, and fled from Nigeria to avoid prosecution, initially returned, was shockingly re-absorbed into the Nigerian Civil Service, resumed work and was even promoted for good measure. His son and co-accused who was convicted, is at large, while his own case will probably drag on to eternity. When the story of the NDDC Probe broke last year, Nigerians thought heads would roll with the kind of criminal revelations of contracts worth billions of Naira which were awarded and not executed, reckless expenditure etc, that emerged. Alas! Nothing happened. Many of the suspects are still walking the streets freely, facing no real consequences, apart from losing their jobs in some cases, and the little public embarrassment they faced as a result of their fainting spells, “off the mic” etc. Everything simply went quiet, and people soon forgot.
Today, the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation) brought in bad/sub-standard fuel, through its nominees. Apart from the damage it caused to the vehicles of many who were unfortunate enough to purchase this bad product, and the costs that will be incurred in discharging the bad fuel from the storage tanks of the fuel stations that were unlucky enough to take delivery of same, and the cleaning out of those tanks to be able to render them fit for use again, Nigerians have been plunged into suffering with the long persisting fuel queues caused by this misadventure which has lasted for about two weeks or more.
In a civilised country where Government and public officials are held accountable for their actions, those at the helm of affairs at NNPC would have voluntarily resigned or been sacked. In a place like Japan or China, they may even have committed suicide as a result of their failure to perform their duties properly, and the sheer shame of it all.
But, in Nigeria, where there’s little or no accountability, having unsuccessfully tried to shamelessly shift the blame on the marketers, NNPC issued an apology! Of course, all Nigerian Governments have a penchant for setting up panels of inquiry to investigate the obvious, simply as a window dressing I might add, to be seen to be up and doing; and nothing usually comes out of them. Yet, another one has been called for by the President in this bad fuel matter. Before the Panel issues it’s report, the matter would have been forgotten. What has become of the #EndSARS Reports of the Panels of Inquiry set up across the country, to investigate the unfortunate incident where precious lives were lost, especially that of Lagos State? They are most probably, on their way to being consigned to the dustbin of history.
So, why should DCP Kyari’s case be any different? When the case of DCP Kyari broke in August, 2021, in my editorial of August 10, 2021, “Kyari: The Trial of Nigeria Police”, I had written that the way Government handles this case would be a litmus test for Nigeria. I said: “this time it is not just Abba Kyari that is on trial, but also the executive arm of Government (including the Nigeria Police Force (NPF)) and the Nigerian legal system that will be facing the court of global opinion”.
Sadly, not much has happened since then. Six months later, no orderly room trial has been commenced in Kyari’s matter, which would result in his dismissal from the Nigeria Police Force should he be found culpable. In the light of the drug allegations and video evidence etc against him (whether contrived or not), on the face of it, they make a strong case for his dismissal from the Nigeria Police Force. Again, if the Buhari administration/APC was really serious about the so-called fight against corruption, it would have been doing more to cooperate with the US Government, especially with the conviction of Hushpuppi (Ramon Abass) and the issue of a warrant of arrest for DCP Kyari in Case No. 2:21-cr-00203 USA v Abba Kyari.
Many have complained that the Buhari administration’s fight against corruption is selective. Can this be true in Kyari’s case? My dear Readers, what is your opinion on this matter? Can one really perceive a reluctance on the part of Government to send Kyari to the US, or is it that the wheels of justice in Nigeria are just slow? Because, in December 2000, with the connivance of the Nigerian Government at the time, an abductee was forcibly kidnapped and taken to the US to answer to money laundering charges (extraordinary rendition). If our two Governments, that is, Nigeria and US could join hands together and use unethical means to take a suspect to America to answer to criminal charges, why didn’t they cooperate to do so lawfully in Kyari’s case? Why the delay? Only time will tell. Hopefully, a little time, not eternity.
Technically, Section 3 of the EA preventing his extradition if Kyari is charged in Nigeria for the crime that the American Government wants him for or for drug charges, has not taken effect yet, because at the time of writing this editorial, no formal charges had actually been laid against DCP Kyari in Nigeria. While the naysayers will gladly believe the fact that if Kyari is subsequently charged in Nigeria with the full knowledge that the issue of his warrant of arrest in USA is first in time, it will be an indication that the Nigerian Government seeks to protect Kyari and prevent/frustrate his extradition to the US; a valid reason for prosecuting DCP Kyari in Nigeria taking precedence over the US, may be the issue of a nation’s sovereignty. That as a sovereign nation, the alleged infringement of your own country’s laws, especially on serious drug-related matters, should take priority over charges to be faced in any other country. Either way, one thing is for certain, DCP Kyari has fallen hard from grace to grass. Government ensuring that justice is duly served in this matter, may improve its image in the eyes of the people.