When the 18th indigenous Inspector-General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, created the Intelligence Response Team, IRT in 2015, as one of his innovative initiatives, it was aimed solely, to combat violent crimes, especially kidnapping, which had become an intractable scourge before he assumed office.
It was not difficult for Arase, who formerly headed one of the topmost intelligence gathering units of the Nigeria Police Force; the Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Bureau, to choose DCP Abba Kyari, who was then a Superintendent of Police and Commander of now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, Lagos state, to head the IRT, known then as IGP IRT.
His choice of Kyari, among other gallant policemen across Police commands in Nigeria, was because of his sterling achievements as the SARS commander, Lagos.
Indeed, Kyari and his team hit the ground running, by cracking high profile cases with bewildering rapidity, through the use of cutting-edge technology, in the IGP IRT. Highly complex crimes of national security importance ranging from kidnapping, robbery and bombing, were cracked with suspects arrested and prosecuted and exhibits recovered.
For the first time in many years, Nigerians, both home and abroad, as well as the international community, applauded the efforts of the IRT, with special encomium showered on Abba Kyari, who was seen as the pride of the police. It got to an extent that most people who were not conversant with the hierarchy in the Nigeria Police Force assumed he was the police boss, as he became more visible than the IGP and successive Force Public Relations officers in the media space.
Kyari, enjoyed rapid promotions in recognition of his achievements described as unprecedented in the history of the Nigeria Police.
But as time progressed, there were complaints about the excesses of Kyari and his men at the IRT unit. Before the disbandment of SARS, some of the atrocities attributed to SARS were actually perpetrated by operatives of the IRT. Among these complaints were human rights abuse and acts of brutality in their bid to extract the truth from suspects.
They were also accused of converting suspects’ property to theirs, as well as withdrawing suspects’ money from their accounts during interrogation but only tendered one-tenth of the amount as exhibits.
Some of these suspects were kidnappers, drug barons and robbers, who either died from bullet wounds or were serving jail terms in correctional centres.
Although there were reportedly complaints to this effect, they never saw the light of the day, owing to Kyari’s popularity, his ability to cover any matter at any level and the confidence reposed in him by his bosses who saw him as the messiah of the Nigeria Police Force. An investigation by Saturday Vanguard revealed that operatives who worked with Kyari during his stint as the IRT commander were selected by him or his loyal subordinates. Policemen were not just deployed to the unit if he did not give his approval.
A good percentage of IRT operatives under him own gigantic buildings in their respective hometowns and in other parts of the country. They also drive exotic cars. Sources said they were able to get this property because of the unlimited freedom they enjoyed from their former boss, DCP Kyari, to operate beyond their boundaries. Even when complaints about their excesses got Kyari, he allegedly looked the other way.
Splinter groups in IRT
There are also indications that the present IRT has splinter groups. One of the groups comprises operatives who are still loyal to DCP Abba kyari, even after his suspension over his indictment in the ongoing prosecution of famous Nigerian Instagram celebrity, Raymond Abass, popularly known as Hushpuppi, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, United States of America. The second group comprises a few operatives who are loyal to the constituted authority of the Nigeria Police Force. An investigation by Saturday Vanguard revealed that Kyari’s loyalists, both as coordinators in the states and unit levels, allegedly operate outside the stipulated mandate of the unit.
For instance, some of them are discovered to go after drug barons in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and the eastern parts of the country. Rather than hand over the suspects to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, or charge them to court, they would extort the suspects, for their personal aggrandizement.
Their modus oparandi include arresting foot soldiers of these drug barons with their substance and taking them to their offices to collect huge amounts from them as bail without releasing the substance to them. Thereafter, they would sell the substance to another drug cartel.
Findings further revealed that some of these operatives worked for hand in hand with other agency officers at the airport. The drug traffickers, as gathered, were informed of when to arrive in Nigeria and which airport to arrive at depending on where their security agent collaborators would be stationed.
Sources at the NDLEA who spoke with Vanguard revealed that this collaboration had been ongoing for years until the bubble burst last week with the arrest of the suspended DCP Abba Kyari and four other IRT operatives.
Saturday Vanguard was reliably informed that upon assumption of office as the NDLEA boss, Brig General Buba Marwa (retd), information about the unwholesome collaboration between some operatives and policemen in drug trafficking reached him. He was said to have deployed some of his trusted allies to man the various loose ends, an action that led to the startling involvement of DCP Abba Kyari.
Further investigation by Saturday Vanguard revealed that aside from chasing drug barons both at home and abroad, members of this group also go after internet fraudsters popularly known as yahoo boys. They are said to be engaged in checking telephones of youths, particularly in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, an action the Police High Command kicks against.
Sources revealed that at least 10 yahoo boys were arrested daily with the sum of N500,000 collected from each of them as bail.
This splinter group as reliably gathered also go after suspects whose cases were investigated when DCP Abba Kyari was still in-charge of IRT, but were not charged to court. The suspects, who were asked to go then, after collecting a huge amount from them, were re-invited, with the intent to further extort them. For this set of suspects/victims, they are referred to as ATM machines by the splinter group loyal to Abba Kyari.
Unfortunately, members of the other splinter group who go after kidnappers, are reportedly no longer showing the zeal in their duties as their colleagues on the other side waved at them, wads of notes collected from their illegal dealings. This is why breakthroughs by the IRTs are not as pronounced as they used to be.
In his reaction to DCP Kyari’s arrest by the NDLEA, former Inspector-General of Police, Dr Mike Mbama Okiro, urged the police hierarchy to monitor the kind of life policemen live. According to him, “what the police should learn from this is that they should put a tab on officers and monitor the kind of life they live.
In those days when my father was a public servant, he said there was a General Order that you could not be seen living above your means of livelihood, you couldn’t drive a car to the office if you were not on a car loan and it was so in my time too.
But these days, you see police officers driving expensive cars when they are not on a car loan, and it is the service authority that encourages all these because they don’t give car loans anymore.
“Officers are just left to source cars on their own and when you see them driving those cars, you cannot ask them who gave them the money to purchase them because they are not given car loans. So, it should be that if you are not on a car loan, you must explain how you got the money to buy a car”.