BY BRIGHT JACOB
Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency have intercepted various quantities of ephedrine, skunk and nitrous oxide, popularly known as laughing gas concealed in semovita packs and dry pepper being shipped to South Africa and Kenya through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
The drugs were being transported by members of Transnational Drug Trafficking Organizations, some of whom were promptly arrested, their mansions raided and their luxury vehicles seized.
A statement on Sunday by the spokesman of the anti-narcotics agency, Femi Babafemi stated that through credible intelligence, NDLEA operatives last Friday intercepted a notorious drug trafficker, Suleiman Oba who is a member of a cartel distributing cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and ephedrine between Nigeria, Brazil, Ghana, South Africa, Mozambique, and Europe.
According to Babafemi, Oba was arrested while attempting to board a Rwandair flight to South Africa with two boxes loaded with ephedrine sealed in semovita packs.
He said the recovered substance is a precursor chemical and active ingredient in the production of methamphetamine.
He disclosed that Suleiman, who holds a South African passport and married to a South African woman and has lived there for over 20 years, in his statement, identified Hakeem Salami who equally lives in Lagos and South Africa as the head of the drug ring.
Babafemi said a follow-up raid in the house of Salami located at 75, Wosilatu Dawodu Street, Ijesha, Aguda, Surulere area of Lagos State last Monday revealed that he had fled the country on the same day Suleiman was arrested.
The NDLEA spokesman said however, a white Toyota Venza car with registration number LSR 410 HT, a Mercedes Benz SUV marked LSD 998HP, phones, and vital documents needed for further investigation were recovered from the house.
Babafemi recalled that in August 2021, the agency had seized 25.6 kilogrammes of ephedrine from a trafficker, Arua Onwuka at the Lagos airport, a seizure that has also been traced to the same cartel whose identified members are currently on the run.
He revealed that an official of the airport, Godwin Shedrack (a.k.a Goddy) fingered as a member of the syndicate is also under investigation.
In the same vein, an attempt by another syndicate to export 10.4 kilogrammes of skunk concealed with scent leaf and pepper, going to Nairobi, Kenya, was equally thwarted by NDLEA operatives attached to the NAHCO export shed of the airport on Saturday, August 26.
A suspect, Ekechukwu Ndubuisi, has already been arrested in connection with the seizure.
Babafemi said another bid to export a consignment of 180 canisters of laughing gas to South Africa by a freight agent, Oyekola Gbenga for a fee of N2 million was also frustrated by operatives who seized the cargo and arrested the suspect.
NDLEA operatives on Friday, August 25, succeeded in arresting a drug kingpin, Ngene Onyedikachi, who recruited the fake couple, Ilonzeh Onyebuchi and Ilonzeh Nonyelum arrested for ingesting 1.82 kilogrammes and 1.5 kilogrammes of cocaine respectively at the Lagos airport on August 1 while on their way to India.
The kingpin was picked up at his residence located at 28 Afolabi Brown Street, Akoka, Yaba, after intensive surveillance that lasted 25 days.
Babafemi said during his interrogation, Onyedikachi confessed that the two suspects: Ilonzeh Onyebuchi and Ilonzeh Nonyelum were introduced to him by another member of his syndicate, whom he claimed he met at Zion Church in the Cele area of Lagos. He explained that the drug was sourced from Guinea Conakry.
He said the suspect revealed that when he got information about the arrest of the fake couple, he threw away his old mobile phone along with the SIM cards to avoid being traced, adding that he became relaxed and refused to leave his house because the two couriers do not know his house since they have only met twice at different locations.
He said he was living in India before he returned to Nigeria in 2022 after the Indian authorities discovered that he was using an Ivory Coast International passport. A blue Acura Legend car was part of items recovered from his home during his arrest.
Babafemi disclosed that operatives of the Lagos State Command of the agency last Monday arrested a suspect, Peter Iwebema, at Ikorodu with 79 and a half bags of cannabis sativa, weighing 864.5 kilogrammes.
He said their counterparts at Tincan port command intercepted 27 parcels of Colorado, weighing 13.5 kilogrammes, adding that the seizure was made from a container, MSMU 5664550 coming from Toronto via Montreal, Canada during a joint examination with men of Customs Service.
He said the synthetic substance was discovered concealed in a bag hidden in a Ford Edge SUV, which was part of three units of used vehicles and motor parts in the container.
In Sokoto, NDLEA operatives last Tuesday arrested two male suspects: Nafiu Arzika, 30, and Jamilu Aminu, 35, with 330 kilogrammes of skunk, while another suspect, Ismaila Razak, 38, was nabbed with 34.5 kilogrammes of the same substance and 9.5 grammes of methamphetamine was seized last Saturday at Olodo area of Ibadan, the Oyo state capital.
Babafemi said across the states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, NDLEA Commands intensified the agency’s War Against Drug Abuse advocacy campaigns to schools, worship places, palaces and local communities among others.
He said for instance, the sensitization lectures were conducted at Holy Trinity Gospel Church, Ogbomoso, and for Muslim faithful at Jammatul Nasirul Islam mosque, Ilorin; members of the Association of Hair Stylists in Ado Ekiti; leaders of road transport union in Abeokuta; traders at Kwata market, Awka; pregnant women at primary health care centre, Bonny; Dekara district palace, Babana community in Borgu local government area and at Noorul Huda Islamiyya school, Kafin Maiyaki.