He was a man after the heart of Inspector-General of Police Hafiz Ringim. Zakari Biu, the embattled police officer in charge of terrorism in whose custody a bombing suspect, Kabir Sokoto, escaped two days ago, was until this year a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP). Ringim recommended him to the Police Service Commission (PSC) for promotion to Commissioner of Police. The PSC, after its 25th plenary meeting, approved Ringim’s recommendation. The commission, in its wisdom, also decided that Biu’s promotion should take effect from last December 15.
As the commission announced Biu’s promotion on New Year’s Day, it also said nine other officers were reprimanded. A Deputy Superintendent of Police was demoted to Assistant Superintendent of Police for conduct not expected of a senior officer.
Its Chairman, Parry Osayande, said the PSC would always reward diligence with elevation and punish offenders. Less than a month after it happily promoted Biu, the commission, most likely, will have to review its decision, with Biu’s alleged negligence leading to the escape of a suspect believed to be central to the Madalla blast in which scores died.
He is on suspension. Sadly for him too, the officers, whom he asked to escort the suspect to his house before his gang waylaid them and set their colleague free, fled yesterday, leaving Biu all alone.
Like Ringim, Biu is due for retirement next month. For many who have had encounters with him, nemesis may be at work. Under the regime of the late Gen. Sani Abacha, the embattled cop was terror personified. As head of the regime’s Presidential Task Force on Terrorism, he terrorised journalists and human rights activists, who he labeled terrorists.
Journalists on the stables of The News, TSM and Tell were the worse hit. The publisher of the now rested TSM, Chris Anyanwu, who is now a senator, narrated how Biu physically assaulted her and practically got her eyes permanently impaired. Founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) Dr. Frederick Fasehun, can never forget Biu, whom he told the Oputa Panel set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo how the embattled cop assaulted him. Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who was Managing Editor of The News, said Biu put a gun to his head, threatening to blast his brain.
The Borno-born cop is also criticised over the death of a reporter with The News, Bagauda Kaltho.Biu claims Kaltho was trying to detonate a bomb in a hotel and got killed in the process. Kaltho’s widow was also tricked by Biu to reveal information about Independent Communications Nigeria Limited (ICNL), publishers of The News on the pretext of reuniting her with her husband. It turned out he only deceived the woman, as he used the information to invade the magazine’s offices, carting away its property. Of course, he also arrested workers found on site during the raid. Biu’s deceit became clear to Mrs. Kaltho after the dreaded cop announced her husband’s death. He claimed a copy of Wole Soyinka’s book, The Man Died, was found at the scene where Kaltho was supposedly consumed by a bomb he was trying to detonate. Yet the book was not defaced by the explosion, which killed Kaltho! His remains were never released to his family.
Biu, at a press conference after Abacha’s death, said Kaltho was the “unidentified” person who died while planting a bomb which went off at Durbar Hotel, Kaduna in January 1996. He then showed the media a video recording of the scene of the blast and two photographs – one of a charred body and another of the journalist. Biu said he “strongly suspects the management of ICNL of having connection with the Durbar Hotel bombing or else James Bagauda Kaltho .”
He later said Abacha’s Chief Security Officer, Major Hamza al-Mustapha, may have been responsible for Kaltho’s fate. “I have never seen Kaltho in my life, either alive or dead and don’t know the whereabouts of Kaltho. Only the Chief Security Officer to the late Abacha, Maj. Hamza al-Mustapha, can explain what happened to Kaltho,” he said
When Biu appeared before the panel, he refused to be put on oath with the Holy Quran, because “he is not pure.” He denied all the allegations against him.
A retired Commissioner of Police Abubakar Tsav, who also appeared before the panel, debunked Biu’s claim. He said: “Everything he is saying is not true. I mean the evidence he gave in respect of Bagauda Kaltho. He said he got photographs from the wife of Bagauda Kaltho. He also said he got reports from the SSS through the Inspector-General of Police, which said the person who was killed in the bomb blast at the Durbar Hotel was Bagauda Kaltho. And he said that he never met Bagauda anywhere in his life. Then how could he come to that conclusion that the man killed was Bagauda Kaltho? He merely saw his pictures …He (Biu) should be in prison. As far as I’m concerned, he is a prisoner on parole.”
James Danbaba, a colleague of Biu, said Kaltho was “summarily executed on the orders of the Inspector-General of Police, because Kaltho was said to have seen IGP Ibrahim Coomasie suddenly collapse and was foaming in the mouth.”
Danbaba added: “ The journalist was ordered to be arrested and executed because of a disclosure that he (Coomasie) is suffering from epilepsy may jeopardise the I GP’s well preserved and seriously guarded position and ultimately lead to his untimely retirement from the police force.”
He added: “After the said journalist, Bagauda Kaltho’s summary execution, a bomb was attached to his corpse and detonated. I reliably learnt that this was directed at selling a story to the C-in-C that a NADECO journalist has died of a bomb explosion while attempting to plant a bomb, thereby finally covering their track of having killed Bagauda Kaltho and the reason for his murder.”
After the death of Abacha, his successor, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, deemed it fit to ‘dash’ Biu a national honour, a development which irked many of those who regarded him as a brute.
In his book, Trials and Triumphs: The Story of The News, Dr. wale Adebanwi, had harsh words for Biu. Adebanwi said: “Zakari Biu, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), the crude and sadistic officer in charge of the Presidential Task Force on Terrorism, was probably the best man for the operation designed as the “final solution” to the grave problem posed by the ICNL publications to the Abacha regime. Biu was an officer who represented the most grotesque face of the Nigerian Police. He saw the force as a repressive organ of an unaccountable power. And with the official bigotry that not only sustained him to the heights of the force, anything that looked like ethnocidal project excited him.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was sent to jail by the Abacha regime, felt Biu was not fit for the force. He was said to have asked then Inspector-General of Police Musiliu Smith if the controversial cop was still in the force, after meeting him at a function. Not long after this, Biu was dismissed.
But, unknown to many, he was long back. Soyinka, in an interview in 2010, said he was aware Biu had been recalled. The Nobel laureate said: “Zakari Biu was dismissed from the Nigeria Police and has been recalled into the Nigeria Police Force, despite his crimes against humanity during Abacha’s dictatorial rule by torturing innocent citizens. He could be likened to Charles Taylor of Liberia. He is brute and has no concern for humanity. For his past history, he should not be trusted with any national responsibility as he is capable of causing terrorism, which could destroy the image of Nigeria.”
The Nation learnt that after Obasanjo’s exit from power, Biu petitioned the PSC. Mike Okiro was the IGP then. Biu said he was retired without getting a fair hearing. He argued that by law, only the commission could fire him. Osayande saw merit in his case and ordered his recall.
The then Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojukwu, said: “Biu is back in the Force as his name had never been removed from the Police register. Biu is now an instructor at the Police Academy in Wudil, Kano State.”
Ringim’s emergence as IGP paid off for Biu, as he was entrusted with curbing terrorism, which in the country is synonymous with an insurgent group, Boko Haram, whose root is deep in Borno, Biu’s home state.
Now he may have got his fingers burnt. Only a few are weeping with him.