Lagos — A few weeks after containers which originated from the Republic of Iran were intercepted at Lagos seaport, with a large consignment of explosives, another container also originating from Iran was intercepted at the Tin Can Island port in Lagos, by agents of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) with the discovery of 130 kilograms of concentrated heroin.
Heroin is believed to be the most expensive illicit drug , far more expensive and scarce than cocaine. According to the NDLEA, the agency received an intelligence report on the consignment coming towards Nigeria by sea, about four months ago from the Agency's foreign collaborators, and the Agency had monitored it closely before its final arrival at the Tin Can Island Container Terminal Apapa Lagos.
But because of the apprehension created by the earlier consignments of explosive devices intercepted through the containers originating from Iran, other security agencies at the port insisted on a joint inspection of the container, and so it was jointly examined by all security agencies at the Port in expectation that the Container was carrying more explosives . After the initial inspection and when no explosives were found all agencies left for their various offices, but the NDLEA armed with the foreign intelligence report on the drug concealment in the container, remained and insisted on carrying out a more comprehensive examination of the container.
The Chairman and Chief Executive of the agency, Ahmadu Giade, said the agency operatives engaged industrial welders who cut the container open to reveal the drugs. He said the action finally paid off, as the drugs were traced to some cylindrical equipment in which the substances were found. He said already some arrests have been made in connection with the unlawful cargo but he could not give details of the arrest, as according to him, the agency is on the trail of other members of the cartel, and so may not want to release the identities of those so far arrested .
Giade said, "The discovery of the 130 kilograms of heroin uncovered by the NDLEA at the port , marks the beginning of intense investigation. We are still monitoring events to perfect investigation . The agency is working on other cases, and at the appropriate time, seizures and arrests will be made. There is just no need to bother about anything. With the excellent working relationship we have with our foreign collaborators, and the tight security network we have provided around all our seaports , airports and the land frontiers, our operatives have the capability of unveiling any form of concealment of drugs.
"Drug barons will be frustrated out of the illicit drug business through similar undercover operations. We have successfully established links with our foreign collaborators, and will maximize every opportunity to dismantle drug trafficking cartels in the country, and in the West African sub region. The agency will also collaborate with relevant agencies in its operations. We shall partner with relevant agencies, in line with internationally accepted rules of intelligence gathering," he said.
Giade said the large consignment of heroin intercepted by his men was destined for Europe. Giade who described the seizure as exciting, stressed that smuggling the drug to Europe would have financially empowered drug criminals with over $9.9 million, save for the prompt intervention of the Agency.
"Available intelligence at the Agency's disposal indicates that the shipment was meant for Europe. The operation was discreetly executed, as Nigeria is poised to incapacitate drug trafficking syndicates. This is a strong warning signal to all drug trafficking cartels, that they had better quit the criminal act. Besides denying them the financial gains, they will also be prosecuted," Giade vowed.
He commended the United States government for the growing relationship between both countries, noting that it was imperative for the dismantling of drug trafficking syndicates. "We sincerely appreciate the partnership with the US, as it is empowering our drug control capacity. The relationship has been mutually beneficial, and it will be further consolidated as we plan to vitiate more drug trafficking networks globally. International partnership is crucial in winning the war against narcotics. This is cardinal to the Agency , and it explains why we deploy every resource in the execution of all intelligence operations" Giade stated.
He said the 130 kilograms of concentrated heroin was found in a 40-foot container aboard a vessel, MV Montenegro, that originated from the Republic of Iran. He said the drugs have since been taken over by his agency, and deposited in a government warehouse, and will be used as evidence against the suspected importers.
But Giade said Iran is not the only country from where large consignments of illicit drugs that originate from it, were intercepted in Nigeria. He recalled that his agency intercepted 450.400 kilograms of cocaine on July 22, which arrived Lagos from Chile. A Taiwanese, a Chinese and 3 Nigerians, are currently being tried in Lagos over the importation.
Giade said he has placed the Nigeria-Brazil route on red alert, to counter moves by drug trafficking syndicates. He said the decision followed the interception of 17.500 kilograms of cocaine at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos. The illicit substance that was imported from Brazil was hidden in plastic pipes, bed sheets and a pair of shoes. He said , while conducting this reporter round the seized items, that 10.500 kilograms of the substance was concealed in eighteen (18) plastic pipes allegedly imported by one Ntinulu-Ojulu Michael Papulu Chukwu, 43, aboard Qatar Airways flight.
He said 6 kilograms of cocaine concealed in bed sheets was found in the bag of one Ani Emeka Michael, 31, while 1kilogram was recovered in a pair of shoes belonging to one Isiwele Gabriel Hase, 40. He said several passengers were arrested on the Brazilian route with illicit drugs, which necessitated the red alert by the NDLEA to cripple illicit drug traffickers.
Five suspected drug traffickers are also undergoing interrogation over their alleged roles to smuggle drugs at the Lagos airport. The 10.500 kilograms of cocaine is the highest single seizure of cocaine made at the airport since January, with an estimated street value of 100 million naira.
According to Giade, the Agency will remain at alert to prevent drug barons from using the route for drug trafficking. "We have placed the Nigeria-Brazil route on red alert, because it is becoming notorious and we are determined to stop them. Several arrests have been made on the route. The red alert is a counter measure to incapacitate drug cartels".
Speaking exclusively to Daily Trust at the NDLEA detention centre, 43-year old drug suspect, Ntinilu-Ojulu who said he works in Brazil, claimed that he was promised 5,000 dollars to deliver the bag of cocaine in Nigeria. "I have been working in Brazil for 2 years, but the little money I make, is used to settle bills. I met a Nigerian for assistance, and he asked me to send the bag to Nigeria for a fee of 5,000 dollars. I agreed to do it because of my financial predicament" he stated.
Isiwele Gabriel, a photographer and a trader, concealed one kilogram of cocaine inside a pair of shoes. He has lived in Brazil for 4years, but said that he was unable to afford his rent and other financial responsibilities.
Giade said operatives of the agency at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), have recently uncovered two wraps of powdery substance that tested positive for heroin, strapped to the legs of a suspected drug trafficker as shin-guard. The suspect, Mgbeike Mathew Chukwunwaogo, was caught at the international wing of the airport upon arrival from Pakistan, aboard Qatar Airline flight. The drugs weighing 3.150 kilograms has an estimated street value of about N11 million in Lagos.
Commenting on the success of the arrest, Giade expressed satisfaction with his officers' level of vigilance, that led to the discovery of the drug and immediate arrest of the suspect, adding, "The alertness of the officers shows that they are working in line with our operational brief, that every avenue of search must be completely exhausted. I am pleased with the results, and unless the barons stop, more will be added to our list of drug suspects," Giade stated.
Parading the suspect to Daily Trust in his office, NDLEA Commander at the Lagos airport, Alhaji Hamza Umar, said that preliminary investigation shows that the suspect is a professional drug courier, with operational base in the United Arab Emirate, especially between Dubai and Qatar. Hamza also stated that his pattern of travel was being investigated, so as to gather more facts about his mode of operation.
Speaking to Daily Trust from his cell room, the 30 year old Mgbeike Mathew Chukwunwaogo, who sold auto parts at Ladipo market in Lagos before he was arrested, said he bought the drugs for 17,000 dollars when he visited his Togolese friend in Pakistan, adding, "I bought the drug in Pakistan because it is cheaper there, and I hope to make much profit from it. It is just bad luck that I was caught. I thought they will not detect it because that was how I left Pakistan successfully" he stated. Mgbeike hails from Anambra State and resides at Jakande Estate, Lagos with his wife and child.
Alhaji Hamza Umar also said NDLEA operatives at the airport, have arrested a 28 year old mother of four children in connection with the importation of one kilogram of wrapped substance that tested positive heroin. He said anti-narcotic officers attached to the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL) warehouse at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos, discovered the substance concealed inside a refrigerator imported from Dubai.
Hamza, who gave the name of the suspect as Ayiba Okwudili, said the suspect wrote in her statement to the agency that she deals in frozen foods at Alaba Area of Lagos before her arrest. He said she also stated in the statement that the consignment was sent to her by her husband who lives in Dubai. But Hamza told this reporter that preliminary investigations showed that the suspect allegedly functions as an intermediary between her husband based in Dubai, and his associates in the country.
According to Hamza, "This is another suspected case of family involvement in drugs. The suspect was nabbed while attempting to clear the goods sent to her by the husband. The consignment was addressed to one Chinonso who was found to be a five year old son to the suspect, while the telephone number was also traced to the suspect."
The young lady told this reporter from her cell room at the airport her major regret is the welfare of her children, adding, "My husband told me that he has sent a fridge to me. He has been sending things to me. I feel bad that the drug was found inside the refrigerator. My greatest worry is my children. I do not know how they will cope.
I got married in 2001 and have four children, the eldest is 7 years. My husband moved to Dubai in search of greener pastures, four years after our marriage, but he visits at least twice in a year," she stated.
Head of Public Affairs of the agency, Mr Mitchell Ofoyeju said investigations into all the cases have since commenced. He said the agency in collaboration with it's foreign partners , will ensure that anybody implicated in any of the cases will be arrested and prosecuted from wherever he may be residing outside Nigeria. He said all the suspects so far arrested, will soon be charged to court.
29 November 2010
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