Abba Kyari, special squads and matters arising
The unveiling of Abba Kyari, a Deputy Commissioner of Police, by the US Federal Bureau of Investigations, FBI, after he was linked with Ramon Olohunwa Abass a.k.a. Ray Hushpuppi, a serial internet fraudster, has indicated that a lot is wrong with the Nigerian security formation. Hushpuppi had alleged that he gave DCP Abba Kyari a sum of N8m to help lock away a rival who snitched on him. Kyari obliged him. Though he had tried to wriggle out of the entanglement, but the revelation at all is a big scandal even if proven innocent later. The larger than life image the former commander of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Lagos state projected before his fall made it so. The Nigeria’s super of the super-cops being associated with international fraudsters, not being reported to be on their trail but hobnobbing with them for pecuniary gains is inexplicable.
A lot has happened in the last one year which has given indication that most special units or squads created in the forces are cesspools of evil – corruption, killing squad, extortion and all manners of crimes you can think of. The excesses of SARS ignited the massive #EndSars protests across many Nigerian cities in 2020, which was a real shock to the Federal Government. The Judicial Panels set up by various state governments to unmask the atrocities of operatives of SARS and policemen generally turned out to be opening of the Pandora Box. That was when the notoriety of Abba Kyari first got unearthed. The extortions, illegal detentions and so on leveled against him and his SARS command in Lagos state were frightening. Though, these were swept under the carpet as these were ignored by the relevant authorities. The happenings at Ajaawa, headquarters of Ogo-Oluwa local government in recent times and the Gestapo-like invasion of the residence of a Yoruba freedom fighter, Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo better known as Sunday Igboho, in Ibadan in the wee hours of July 1 this year in which two of his associates were killed extra-judicially and 13 others arrested this time by the operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) all indicated the carpet immunity conferred on these security so-called special squads. If Sunday Igboho had been killed that day, the DSS that owned up to being behind the attack more than 12 hours after would not have done so, “Unknown Gunmen” would have been blamed. Ajaawa tasted this bitter pill as well. Plain-clothes men heavily armed unconventionally struck the town in the middle of the night on the ground that they wanted to “arrest” a suspect, a man said to be of good standing in that society. The attackers’ style bore imitation of the kidnapping squads, which were recently experienced in the community. Instinctively, the people of Ajaawa faced off with the attackers and overpowered them, after which it was claimed that they were policemen, from the Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IGP-IRT) headed by Abba Kyari. The resistance offered by the people of Ajaawa against the armed men, who launched an onslaught in the manner of kidnappers became an offence. Similar episode had been witnessed in the traumatized Igangan and Igbo-Ora towns in Ibarapa area of Oyo state, when troops, who later claimed to be customs officers, invaded the towns in the guise of pursuing rice smugglers. But while rice smugglers escaped with eight trucks several residents including a commander of the Amotekun Corps were mowed down in cold blood. What all this boiled down to is that troops hide under these so-called special squads to carry out extra-judicial activities regular forces will not venture into. They have become like personal armies to some high-placed individuals who deploy them for nefarious missions and for activities other than national interests. The pattern emerging is ominous.
This week, a coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) demanded the disbandment of these squads which they called extra-legal departments. These units described as rogue squads by the CSOs are alleged of being used to slaughter people extra-judicially.
The statement released by the CSOs read, “By way of introduction, please, permit us to post the following posers: Is there any necessity or justification for the creation of special units like SARS, STS, IRT and IGP Monitoring units by the IGP? Does the IGP even have the powers to do so?
“Before creating multiples of the so-called specialized units became rampant and widespread, we had and still have the traditional departments and units recognized under the Police Act that carries out intelligence, investigative, monitoring, training, planning, research and statistics as well as other operational duties within the police.
“The Anti-robbery units at the state and other command levels handle armed robbery cases and other violent crimes. The homicide unit handles murder and manslaughter cases. The X-Squad monitors police conduct, etc.
“It has turned out that over the years, Police authorities use the so-called specialised units for special self-serving purposes. They use wrongful and brutal methods of ‘law enforcement’ and engage in extortion and outright robbery. Some IGPs have been reported to get returns and shares from the proceeds of the criminal activities of the commanders and operatives of these rogue units.
“Research by Action Group on Free Civic Space, a coalition of non-state actors on civic space, has revealed that Anambra and Enugu state SARS were supplying cadavers to teaching hospitals in exchange for money.
“There are also repeated allegations by victims, relatives of victims and survivors of Awkuzu SARS that the operatives may also have been dealing in body parts trading with some (obviously) depraved men of means, with all the trappings of savagery and criminality.
“This suspicion is strengthened by the fact that in many cases, the dead bodies of victims of extrajudicial killings are never seen by or released to their relatives even when they request for them for decent burial. The operatives flagrantly disobey court orders to produce detained or disappeared persons.
“The Nigeria Police should disband these suspiciously privileged extra-legal units and allow the Nigeria Police Force return to the legally recognised departments and units, thereby making this quintessential establishment live up to its true bidding as civil force created by law.
“It must stay and remain within its legal precincts for it to be seen as lawfully discharging its responsibilities under constitutional governance, thus, earning the respect and admiration of Nigerians whose lives and property it is primarily created to preserve.”
This is informative and we are of the view that these special units should be dispensed of and the traditional/conventional units be upgraded or improved to serve the nation professionally. Creating special units where inclusion into them is based on privilege only breeds men who have loyalty not to the nation but to the ones who facilitated their drafting into the Special Forces and they themselves become obsessed with personal aggrandizement and fame. They end up in a system that corrupts them. Moreover, they become vulnerable to deployment for serving personal whims. To say the form in which these special units are being abused in recent times is becoming alarming is to say the reality and it is hoped the relevant authorities will do the needful.