NDLEA, a super cop and Nigeria’s drug war

During the meeting with the officer, Kyari volunteered information that his team had intercepted and arrested some traffickers that came into the country from Ethiopia with 25kg of cocaine
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The news came like an earthquake: DCP Abba Kyari, arguably the most decorated and most celebrated young cop in recent memory, was wanted for drugs. It sounded so incredible, in large part because, following his indictment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over his involvement with the disgraced international scammer, Raymond Abbas (Hushpuppi) in a $1.1 million fraud case, Kyari had been placed on suspension by the Police Service Commission, and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, had given indications that there might be a definitive, positive decision on the extradition request by the United States government over his (Kyari’s) fraud case. It thus beggars belief that an officer facing such a grim prospect would be involved in a drug deal.

Alas, as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency disclosed on Monday, February 14, the suspended Commander of Intelligence Response Team at the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigerian Police Force was wanted over his involvement in a 25-kilogram cocaine deal, hinging the decision to declare him wanted on his refusal to honour formal invitations for interrogation. As it noted, even before the damning findings of the 2018 National Drug Use and Health Survey, Nigeria’s drug problem was getting close to an epidemic proportion, and the arrests and seizures by the agency in the past 12 months was an indication that the country’s drug problem was grossly underestimated before (the) President, (Major General) Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd) resolve to strengthen the NDLEA and the subsequent launch of offensive actions to rid the society of the menace. It lamented the fact that some law enforcement agents who should be partners in the pursuit of the President’s mandate were aiding and abetting drug trafficking in the country.

The details of the Kyari saga are indeed gripping: on Friday, January 21, the celebrated cop contacted an NDLEA officer in Abuja at 2:12 pm, informing him of the need to discuss “an operational matter” after the Juma’at service. During the meeting with the officer, Kyari volunteered information that his team had intercepted and arrested some traffickers that came into the country from Ethiopia with 25kg of cocaine. He then proposed a drug deal whereby he and his team would take 15kg of the cocaine and leave 10kg for the prosecution of the suspects arrested with the illicit drug in Enugu State. In the meantime, the purloined cocaine would be replaced with a dummy worth 15kg. He asked the officer to persuade men of the FCT Command to play along. Kyari also disclosed that the 15kg already taken out was shared between the informants that provided information for the seizure and himself and his men at the IRT: the informants were given 7kg while his team took 8kg.

He then offered to pay the NDLEA team 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 5kg would fetch N35m. In effect, he would be delivering $61, 400 to the NDLEA team.

Being a man of his (corrupt) word, Kyari delivered the $61, 400, which the NDLEA officer, acting on instructions by the agency’s leadership, said he preferred to collect inside his car, a vehicle already wired with sound and video recorders.

Anyway, few hours after he was declared wanted by the NDLEA, Kyari’s embarrassed employers handed him over to the agency, together with four other suspects, namely ACP Sunday J. Ubua; ASP Bawa James; Inspector Simon Agirgba and Inspector John Nuhu, with the NDLEA promising that no stone would be left unturned in ensuring that all suspects already in custody and those that might still be indicted in the course of investigation would face the wrath of the law.

However, the saga was only just unfolding, as the NPF insisted that some NDLEA officers were also involved in the drug deal and should be arrested and prosecuted by the agency. In reply, however, the NDLEA dismissed the statement as a red herring, saying that it had no reason to shield anyone who might be indicted in the course of the ongoing investigation.

Truth be told, the Buba Marwa-led leadership of the NDLEA deserves applause for its strategic interception of the super villain: if the vehicle of the NDLEA officer who played along to expose the villain had not been wired, the story would have been reduced to an attempt to witch-hunt or blackmail Kyari.

The obvious has come out and it is a shame to our national security apparatus, especially the policing system which has retained irredeemable criminals in the force. Unless such criminals are purged from the force, Nigeria is in for it. Marwa and his team must not rest on their laurels. There will be challenges but they should strive to leave imprints on the sands of time. Nigeria needs a courageous anti-drug czar who can withstand the lure of money and save the country from future pains. For what will drugs bring but sorrow? Bad eggs should be flushed out so that Nigeria does not continue to be a laughing stock among the comity of nations.

Since his appointment, Marwa has indeed been doing well. For instance, between January and May last year, the NDLEA made cash and drug seizures valued at over N100bn. The agency has arrested over 8,634 drug traffickers and five major drug barons. It has seized more than 2.7 million kilograms of assorted illicit drugs, filed over 5,000 drug cases in court and secured over 1,630 convictions. That, in my view, is the stuff of legends.

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