By Adedotun Ajayi
A 56-year-old widow and mother of four, Mrs. Ajisegiri Kehinde Sidika has been arrested by operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos over her attempt to traffic 400grams of cocaine concealed in her foot wears to Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
The suspect who claimed to be a businesswoman trading in adults and children’s wears on Lagos Island was intercepted while trying to board a Qatar Airways flight going to Saudi Arabia via Doha. Upon a critical examination of the pair of sandals she was wearing, two parcels of cocaine weighing 400grams were recovered from them.
In the same vein, attempts by a tricycle parts seller, Ayoade Kehinde Tayo to send 1kg of Tramadol 225mg and Rohypnol to Istanbul, Turkey via Cairo on an Egypt Airline flight same day were also frustrated by NDLEA operatives who arrested him.
He was at the airport to hand over the drugs hidden in a bag of food items to an intending passenger, Idowu Ayoade but was arrested before he succeeded in doing that.
An intending passenger to Oman via sky airline, Agbamuche Bright Nkeonye and a lady, Adeoye Oluwakemi Fatimo who accompanied him to present a bag containing varieties of foodstuffs and body lotion which were used to conceal 1.10kg Cannabis and some Rohypnol capsules were also arrested at the departure hall of the Lagos airport on Thursday November 18, 2022.
Anti-narcotics officers attached to the SAHCO export shed of the airport equally foiled attempts by traffickers to smuggle consignments of cannabis and ecstasy tablets concealed in three tubers of yam going to Dubai UAE on Wednesday November 17, 2022.
The freight agent who presented the yams for export, Inegbu Ugochi Akunna was promptly arrested while the consignor, Ahmodu Sulaimon was also nabbed thereafter.
At the Brawal container shed of Kirikiri lighter terminal in Lagos, NDLEA operatives equally intercepted cartons of deadly drinks in a container marked APZU3671697 during a joint examination with Customs. Though the bill of lading indicated that the container originated from Cape town, South Africa, a search of the the shippers’ database showed that it was loaded from Antwerp, Belgium. A full inspection of the container on Thursday Nov 18, 2022 showed that a total of five cartons of beverages labeled as Euphoria cannabis beer and three cartons of cannabis energy drink were found.
Other drinks in the container include: 21 cartons of monkey shoulder; 20 cartons of dead man’s finger and 139 of champagne fruit, among others.
In a related development, not less than 5.6 kilograms of methamphetamine, cocaine and tramadol were discovered in items like play station, bicycles, motor propeller and local fabrics packaged for export to Australia and Cyprus through some courier firms in Lagos. Two suspects, Gabriel Emeka and Vintura Grillo have been arrested in a follow up operation linked to one of the seizures.
In Niger state, NDLEA operatives on stop and search operation along Mokwa-Jebba road on Nov 12, arrested two suspects; Ismail Musa and Jidda Abbas with 10,780 bottles of Akuskura, a new psychoactive substance concealed inside two Toyota Camry saloon cars marked AGL 861 GS Lagos and KMK 118 SC Bayelsa.
The consignment loaded in Ibadan, Oyo state, was going to Abuja for distribution.
While some operatives intercepted 25,000 capsules of Tramadol in Plateau and arrested the owner, Ifeanyi Nweanwe, a beer parlour operator in a follow up operation in Bauchi, pharmaceutical opioids worth more than N30million were intercepted in a commercial bus in Asaba, Delta state on Nov 18, 2022.
In Ondo state, operatives stormed the ljare forest, in Ifedore LGA on Nov 19 where a total of 600.5kgs of cannabis weed and seeds were recovered, while 142.8kgs of the same substance were seized NDLEA officers raid of zone 3 motor park in Wuse area of Abuja. In the same vein, operatives on routine stop and search patrol along Owerri-Onitsha road arrested a suspect Nwankwo Emmanuel, with 25 blocks of cannabis sativa weighing 12.5kgs in a commercial bus travelling to Port Harcourt from Lagos.
The NDLEA Spokesman, Femi Babafemi, said drug traffickers have become more daring, despite government efforts to check abuse, increase surveillance and harsh punitive measures
According to him, “the huge financial benefits remain a major motivating factor for smugglers who continue to adopt deceptive means to ferry their goods
“For instance, smugglers hide drugs inside head of fish, footwear, baby foods, vegetables, imported machines and automobiles, aside from the traditional injection of cocaine.
“The prices of the drugs in the global market is huge, a kilogram of cocaine goes for about $600 in the international market and the greed to make money at all cost blind them to the risks.”
The NDLEA Chairman, Mohammed Buba Marwa, at the 30th Conference of Heads of Drug Law Enforcement Agencies Africa (HONLEA) in Nairobi, Kenya November 9, 2022, said seamless exchange of intelligence and strengthened collaboration among African countries will help the continent surmount the daunting challenge of illicit drug trafficking.
While speaking on the gains so far recorded by Nigeria in the fight against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking, Marwa said there is the need for all to put in place a national coordination mechanism that will ensure coordinated action against the menace.
According to him, The starting point is the harnessing of all the stakeholders by the national drug focal agency. Through this national coordination and collaborative effort, Nigeria has steadily made significant efforts in tackling drug challenges and has between January 2021 and August 2022, recorded unprecedented arrests, in the region of 21,302 suspected drug traffickers, including 28 drug barons. In the area of prosecution, the agency has secured 3,111 convictions, and seized 5.4 million kilograms of illicit substances. On Drug Demand Reduction, the Agency within the same period had brief interventions, counseling rehabilitation for over 12,326 drug users.
While canvassing for regional and sub-regional collaboration, the NDLEA boss said “the global drug problem has placed higher demands on countries to work round the clock to achieve this goal and consolidate the achievements recorded.
He said ”It is on the above premise that my delegation is proposing strengthened collaboration at both regional and sub-regional levels. This noble objective could be realized with the creation of an informal network of HONLEA contact persons to complement and enhance real time exchange of intelligence or operational information. It will also enhance more robust activities all year round. At the sub-regional level, countries should endeavour to establish sub-regional group like HONLEA for strengthened collaboration under the auspices of the regional economic communities.
He told the gathering that “the HONLEA platform offers unlimited opportunities, and it is imperative to maximize these amazing benefits by completing it with practical form of cooperation such as the suggested HONLEA Informal Network of Contact Persons. This would enable regular bilateral meetings, training programs, exchange of intelligence, and the conduct of joint operations at sub-regional and regional levels, if need be.”
He said this, Nigeria has done by taking practical steps to deepen collaboration at both national and international levels in countering the world drug problem in line with the principle of common and shared responsibility. “This was done through bilateral visitations and discussions that culminated in the signing of Memorandums of Understanding with countries and organizations. Thus, Nigeria’s statement is anchored on the need to deepen collaboration to fighting a common challenge as the world is taken by storm with the exponential increase in drug trafficking and use”, he added.
He expressed optimism that the canvassed synergy will facilitate the speedy dismantling of drug trafficking cartels across Africa through a more vibrant HONLEA platform.
Dr Mrs. Kemi Adebola, a sociologist from the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) said drug trafficking is an international crime saying our borders are very porous and when the substance gets out of the country, there are buyers, coupled with the fact that people want quick money. Since people outside Nigeria are ready to buy it at any amount and Nigerians are looking for quick money, it continues to thrive.
“Another reason why it is difficult to curtail in Nigeria is because the high and mighty are involved, though they make use of common people”.
When asked how the situation can be managed, she said: “We should work on the younger generation through reorientation. We have lost value for what is good and are now interested in making quick money. We must reverse that and continue to preach against it” she added.
In the same vein, Adegoke Adebiyi, a business developer and a stock broker attributed the desperation to the high unemployment and poverty levels, as the number of Nigerians without visible means of income continues to rise due to lack of jobs and poor business environment to enable businesses.
According to him; “Nigeria’s unemployment rate has reached an alarming 33 percent, with more than half of the labour force now either unemployed or underemployed, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics. Poverty headcount rate is projected to jump from 40.1 per cent in 2018/19 to 42.6 per cent in 2022. Infant, the World Bank projects that more than 5million Nigerians will be pushed into poverty by the end of this, bringing the number to 95.1 million” he said