By Femi Babafemi
It was a rude shock to a notorious drug kingpin who specializes in sponsoring young Nigerians to traffick Class A drugs to Europe especially Italy, when operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, stormed his hotel room in Okota area of Lagos late on Friday 21st July when he was preparing a recruited courier to swallow 93 pellets of cocaine meant for distribution in Italy.
The 48-year-old drug kingpin, Charles Uwagbale, had recruited Uju Dominic, 35, from his base in Italy with a deal to come to Nigeria, ingest 100 pellets of cocaine on Friday 21st July and return to Italy on Saturday 22nd July. True to plan, upon the arrival in Nigeria, the mule was lodged in Golden Heaven Hotel located at Enoma street off Ago-Palace way, Okota, Isolo, Lagos where Uwagbale brought 93 wraps of the Class A drug for him to swallow at about 23:45pm Friday night.
They were in the process when NDLEA operatives who have been on their trail following credible intelligence stormed their hotel room, arrested both and recovered the drug exhibits with a total weight of 1.427 kilograms. Operatives of the Lagos state Command of the Agency who made the arrest and seizure had on Thursday 20th July raided Akala in Mushin area of the state where they recovered 37.5kg cannabis from the home of a fleeing suspect.
Meanwhile, attempts to smuggle 98 cartons containing Five Million One Hundred and Twenty Two Thousand Nine Hundred (5, 122, 900) pills of Tramadol 225mg with an estimated street value of about Three Billion Seven Hundred Million Naira (N3.7billion) only into Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, have been thwarted through the robust synergy between men of the Nigeria Customs Service and NDLEA officers at the airport as well as those at the DHL cargo warehouse. Preliminary findings revealed that the consignments were imported from India and Pakistan, while some of the seized consignments had Freetown, Sierra Leone as final destination.
In the same vein, NDLEA operatives in Bauchi state have recovered a total of Six Million Two Hundred and Sixty-Five and Eighty (6,265,080) pills of opioids from three suspects: Emmanuel Onyebuchi, 32; Uche Iyida, 33; and Chinedu Ezeanyim, 32 following their arrest alongside a truck driver and his assistant at Shopping Complex, Maiduguri Bye-Pass, Bauchi town on Wednesday 19th July and the subsequent follow up search of the residence of Iyida on Friday 21st July.
No fewer than Nine Hundred and Ninety-Nine Five Hundred (999,500) tablets of Exol-5 were also recovered by operatives from a shop close to the market at Hong Road, Gombi, Adamawa state on Friday 21st July, while 46,000 capsules of tramadol were seized from a suspect, Paul Ajaegbu, 36, along Owerri – Aba road, Imo state on Monday 17th July. Same suspect had earlier been arrested, precisely on 9th February 2023, for the same offence.
In Ondo state, NDLEA operatives in their numbers stormed the Ofosu forest where they destroyed 29 hectares of cannabis farms on Thursday 20th July. The quartet of Osamezu George Chukwuemeka, 51, who owns the farm; his wife Kate Osamezu, 43; Agboola Wasiu, 37 and Mustapha Sanni, were arrested during the operation, while 118.5kg processed cannabis was recovered from the farm. In another raid of the warehouse of a suspect at Elegbeka, Ose LGA, not less than 107 jumbo bags of the same illicit substance weighing 1,132.5kg were recovered on Monday 17th July.
While operatives in Sokoto state arrested a suspect, Charles Nwankwo, 50, with 610kg of cannabis in Tamaje area of Sokoto on Friday 21st July, their counterparts in Yobe also same day nabbed a fleeing suspect Shaibu Musa, 29, in Dawasa while he was offering them a bribe of N500,000 following the seizure of 36kg skunk in his house on Wednesday 19th July.
In Edo state, operatives on Monday 17th July raided the Utese forest Ovia North East LGA where they arrested Victor Asukwo Jack, with 59 bags of processed cannabis sativa weighing 640kg. His two cannabis farms measuring 1.489895 hectares and 2.445295 hectares were destroyed. Also, Endurance Chukwuma, 50, was arrested with seven bags of processed cannabis sativa weighing 68kg, while his cannabis farm measuring 0.254324 hectares was destroyed.
A total of 273kg cannabis was earlier intercepted in a Toyota Sienna Vehicle marked RBC 451 CM on Wednesday 19th July at Ogida, Benin City, and a suspect, Lucky Oriakhi, 41, arrested while operatives also seized 48,380 pills of tramadol in a commercial bus marked KAK 66 XA along Ewohimi road, heading to Kabba, Kogi state and arrested the driver, Ibrahim John. In Nasarawa, two suspects: Abubakar Suleiman, 30 and Shehu Garba (aka Shagari), 29 were arrested along Keffi – Akwanga road on Tuesday 18th July in a Peugeot J5 vehicle loaded with 1,608.4 kilograms of cannabis sativa. The consignment was loaded in Edo state and meant for distribution in Bauchi state.
While a total of 1,556.1kg of cannabis was recovered from two suspects: Jonathan Nuhu, 54 and Mohammed Abubakar, 18, following their arrest at Wudil area of Kano State on Thursday 20th July, 76kg of same substance was seized from Yakubu Muhammad, 32, on Monday 17th July along Okene/Lokoja highway in a trailer coming from Port Harcourt to Kano. In the same vein, operatives in Ogun state on Wednesday 19th July, recovered 810 parcels of cannabis weighing 604kg from the house of one Adetunji Abiodun.
Fresh bid to smuggle into Nigeria, another consignment of Colorado, a synthetic variant of cannabis, through the Tincan port in Apapa Lagos was again on Friday 21st July frustrated by NDLEA officers who discovered a total of 323 parcels of the illicit substance weighing 161.5kg concealed in one of the four used vehicles in a container marked MEDU 7519460 coming from Montreal, Canada, during a joint examination of the shipment.
At least, three suspects are currently in NDLEA custody over the shipment while a bribe of N20 million converted to $22,900 offered operatives by the importers agents has also been recovered and documented as evidence.
Impressed by the volume of arrests and seizures made by officers and men of MMIA, Lagos, Bauchi, Adamawa, Ondo, Sokoto, Yobe, Edo, Imo, Kano, Kogi, Ogun, Nasarawa and Tincan Commands in the past week, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) commended them for jobs well done while he urged them and their counterparts across the country to continue the synergy with other security agencies and stakeholders in the fight against substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking.
Views exclusive rights: Femi Babafemi, Director, Media and Advocacy, NDLEA National Headquarters Abuja, Sunday 23rd July 2023.