Lagos — Despite the rate at which offenders are being caught and 'hopefully punished', pushers of hard drugs are not seemingly discouraged. If anything, instead of giving up on the nefarious act of pushing hard drugs like cocaine, heroin and the rest, they seem to be devising new means to beat security especially at the nation's international airports.
Findings revealed that between March and May this year over 41 drug suspects were arrested by NDLEA operatives at the MMIA. They were caught with a total of 47.92kg of narcotics comprising 30.261kg cocaine, 13.919kg heroin and 3.750kg cannabis. The suspects are of every sex and age and social categories, including whole families involved in the act.
Recently operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos foiled plans by drug traffickers to export 63.1kilogrammes of narcotics concealed inside fufu, a cassava-based food, and a bronze cast.
The fufu was said to be for export to Japan, while the bronze cast was for export to South Africa. Two suspects, Uche Emmanuel (39) and Akhabighimhe Bernard (43), and their associates in the destination countries were arrested.
Emmanuel, who allegedly specialises in the exportation of foodstuff, said an old friend introduced him to the illicit trade. He said: I met an old friend in Lagos. When I told him I was an exporter, he was excited and said he had a business for me. We exchanged telephone numbers.
After some weeks, he said he wanted me to export some chemicals for him. He also told me to conceal them because he had no NAFDAC permit.
Emmanuel, who said he is married and has a child also said the friend equally suggested he hide them inside fufu and promised to pay me 15,000 dollars. The drugs were given to me by him at Cele bus stop on Mile 2 Expressway in Lagos, he said.
At another occasion, officials of the NDLEA apprehended a pregnant woman and four other suspects for ingesting 6.265 kg of narcotic drugs at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos.
The pregnant suspect Osatohanwen Esohe, 29, was detected to have ingested illicit drug with the aid of scanning machine during the screening of passengers on a flight to Rome. After observation, she expelled 27 wraps of substances that tested positive to cocaine weighing 350 grammes.
The NDLEA Airport Commander, Alhaji Hamza Umar who confirmed the arrest of Esohe described her action as weird and unbecoming. He expressed shock at the strange act, stressing that drug suspects have no respect for human lives. They do not have respect for their own lives; neither do they respect the dignity of their children. This is the height of desperation by drug barons and their associates, Hamza said.
No case could better prove Hamza'a point of drug barons not having self dignity, let alone dignity for the lives of children, whether theirs or those of others than the parents who stuffed cocaine in the under-pants of their twin children. Their greed for illicit wealth seems to blind them and suppress their reasoning and conscience.
The couple Bashir Jimoh and Milikat Jimoh was arrested by police in Lagos for using a six year old twin as agents of drug pushing. The diapers of the six year old twins were stuffed with the dangerous drug which would attract substantial amount of money. The couple was arrested as they were boarding an aircraft bound for London.
The twins' mother also on search was discovered to have concealed 3.35kg in her bra and underwear, bringing the total quantity of cocaine to 4.05kg and was immediately arrested by men from Drug Enforcement Agency. The man probably to reduce suspicion did not carry any drugs.
The woman was carrying more than three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of cocaine while the children carried a total of around 700 grams.
An NDLEA official said the twins were released to family members because they are minors and innocent while their parents were to be taken to court for drug trafficking.
In most of the situations, the perpetrators always have a tale their consider heart touching to always tell as to how and why they became drug pushers. Not having any heart for the end users of the drugs, or those they innocently get involved in their ill adventure, they expect society and the law to have a heart and maybe threat their case with mercy if they cannot be let off the hook.
In the case of the pregnant Esohe who hailed from Benin City, Edo State she told anti-narcotic officers that the man that impregnated her rejected her and she needed to fend for herself. In her words, I am three months pregnant. The man that impregnated me refused to take responsibility and I am jobless. That was how I got involved in drug trafficking. They promised to pay me 2,000 euros. This is my first time of smuggling drugs; I only needed money to take care of myself and the unborn baby.
In the case of the couple who used their twins, they said they got involved because they needed money to pay the school fees of their kids who numbered six. On arrest they claimed that their circumstances had been brought about by financial difficulties because they have not been able to afford their children's school fees tracing their plight to long suffering.
Investigations however put a hole in this claim as they were discovered to own assets worth over N50million. These assets were also suspected to be proceeds from their long time involvement in the illegal trade. According to NDLEA, the assets recovered include two luxury houses in highbrow Lekki, Lagos, and another building where they operate a supermarket also at Lekki, Lagos, as well as three posh cars.
Mitchell Ofoyeju, spokesperson for the agency said, Preliminary investigation has also revealed that the couple, believed to be professional couriers, had travelled to London with the twins 17 times since 2006, under the guise of holiday or visit. Ahmadu Giade, chief executive of the anti-drug outfit, disclosed that the agency will impound all assets traced to the couple that are believed to have been acquired with illicit drug proceeds.
Those who do not have a sorry tale to tell reveal how share greed motivated them. Okeke Anthony Maduabuchukwu a trader that sells frozen foods at Mile 2, Lagos was nabbed recently, during the screening of passengers on a flight to London. He ingested 72 wraps of cocaine weighing 1.460 kg and was to be paid 4,000 pounds.
Chukwuman Kingsley Uchenmadu, another suspect that ingested heroin said he was to be paid the sum of 5,000 euros for ingesting 95 wraps of heroin weighing 1.430 kg. Darlington Nwanwere, an automobile technician residing at Alagbado, Lagos was also cajoled into swallowing 92 wraps of cocaine weighing 1.300 kg. He said he was promised 400,000 naira.
On his part, Akhabighimhe, who is also an exporter and a manufacturer of bronze works, narrated how greed pushed him to be a part of the illegal drug trade. Married with six children, he said: I was lured into the illicit trade by a friend. He told me that it would be easy for me as an exporter to send the goods to him. I know that I did it for the money, but it is due to greed. Otherwise, I was doing fine.
Though some said they intended to invest in one form of business or the other, watchers say this is not always the case as some who claim to be first time offenders may not really be so. They contend that some out of greed continue in the nefarious act and only claim to be first time offenders because they were apprehended.
What about the classic case of the politician who got involved ostensibly to raise funds for his participation in the next round of elections? In a nation where campaign for elective office has become a cash-and-carry auction, the reality is that politics has come to be considered as a thriving business.
Mr. Eme Zuru Ayortor, a 52-year-old politician in Edo State, who was eyeing a House of Assembly seat in 2011, illustrated the length desperate Nigerian politicians can go.
Ayortor, a United States-trained pharmacist, was arrested by the NDLEA while attempting to export 2.129kg of cocaine. He was about to board a flight Germany at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos when he was intercepted at the central screening area with the aid of a scanning machine.
In his confession, he was quoted as saying I contested the 2007 House of Assembly election in Edo State and lost. I also lost all my savings as a practicing pharmacist in that election.
Now, the coast is clear and I am being favoured to run in 2011 in my party. That was how I got involved in this mess. I needed to reposition myself for the 2011 election financially. I thought that with my position and appearance, there would be no problem at the screening. I do not know where to start from here.
It will be recalled that last year, Senator Nuhu Aliyu, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, raised an alarm on the floor of the Senate that he could identify a handful of his colleagues in the House who had been involved in drug deals and whose cases he had personally investigated as a senior cop.
His revelation provoked a furore in the National Assembly. Amidst threats and counter-threats, the senator was forced to eat his words. The rest is now history.
Even as some Nigerians agree that some are impelled to get involved in such illicit acts due to the level poverty and unemployment in the country, others contend that these are not enough excuses for individuals who let their pervasiveness and desperation get the better of them. Yet others relate the issue to what they describe as a decline in our values as a nation.
This group contends that drug trafficking like other crimes persist because the Nigerian society has made monetary and material wealth the parameter for evaluating a man's worth to the society. Age old values like the fear of God, hard work and forthrightness are being abandoned, only to be replaced by a craving for corrupt enrichment and love quick riches.
13 June 2010