Nigerian authorities had previously been accused of shielding the senior police officer from the law at home and abroad.
The Nigerian government initiated the United States government’s extradition request for Abba Kyari, a highly decorated senior police officer. Deputy Commissioner Kyari is wanted in the United States for fraud and identity theft.
Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, who filed the extradition request under the Nigerian Extradition Act, confirmed to the press on Thursday that he had done so at the request of the United States Embassy in Abuja.
The Minister said he was satisfied that the offense for which Kyari was wanted was neither political nor trivial and that the filing of the extradition request was in good faith and in the interests of justice.
Last July, Kyari, 46, was suspended by the Police Services Board following an FBI indictment linking him to Instagram influencer and suspected money launderer Ramon Abbas, popularly known as “Hushpuppi”.
Abbas, who was arrested by the FBI in a covert operation in the United Arab Emirates, has pleaded guilty to a number of cybercrimes and is awaiting sentencing in a US court.
Dubai-based Abbas had paid Kyari 8 million naira [about $19,500] to arrest Chibuzor Vincent, a co-conspirator who threatened to reveal a $1.1 million fraud against a Qatari national after he felt aggrieved in the illegal deal.
In April 2020, an extradition request for Kyari was filed in the District Court for the Central District of California in the United States.
The police officer, along with five other defendants, face three counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft, according to court documents. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Kyari has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, but in February the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) arrested him for trafficking cocaine and membership in an international drug syndicate.
He had been filmed engaging in a drug deal with undercover agency agents. The NDLEA filed eight charges against Kyari and his accomplices.
“It will really affect the image of the police,” said Remi Aiyede, professor of political science at the University of Ibadan. The police hierarchy is “really embarrassed by what is going on”, he told Al Jazeera.
Aiyede said Nigeria’s partnership with foreign countries like the United States and other international crime-fighting networks would make extradition possible.
Kyari will be the first top Nigerian police officer to stand trial in the United States.
For decades, Nigeria’s security forces have struggled to earn public trust with daily instances of systemic corruption, inefficiencies and human rights abuses tarnishing their public image. The latest developments have led to renewed calls for structural reforms, starting with the police.
Prior to his arrest, Kyari – a former commander of the fearsome Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) – was celebrated as a “super cop” for solving high-profile crimes including armed robbery and kidnapping, alongside a tactical team he led. But reports of extrajudicial killings and extortion under his leadership have been largely ignored by authorities.
Civil society groups had called for an investigation and an overhaul of the unit, but his much-celebrated successes in breaking up criminal syndicates and parading them in public, saw him receive plaudits from parliament instead. , for his exemplary performance.
Kyari’s indictment led police chief Usman Alkali to order the disbandment of the police unit. But local media reports show the unit is still operational across the country.
Aiyede added that it would take a long time to clean up the system, which would involve “systemic and sustained reforms over a long period of time”.