Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, have taken into custody two wanted heads of transnational criminal organisations with multi-billion-naira worth of illicit drugs and assets seized from them after weeks of intelligence-led operations across the country and outside Nigeria.
The arrest of the wanted drug lords came on the heels of the interception of consignments of cocaine and heroin buried in the bellies of two traffickers heading to Paris, France and Doha, Qatar by NDLEA officers at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, NAIA, Abuja.
Operatives at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja Lagos on Tuesday 10th October succeeded in taking into custody, Hakeem Babatunde Salami, the arrowhead of “Tajudeen Babatunde Abioye Transnational Criminal Organization” involved in the illicit trade of several narcotics including Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine, and Ephedrine between Nigeria, Brazil, Ghana, South Africa, Mozambique, and Europe. He fled Nigeria to South Africa upon the arrest of a member of his syndicate, Suleiman Babatunde Oba at the Lagos airport on August 25 over attempt to export 25.10kgs of ephedrine to South Africa.
Hakeem Babatunde Salami was however smoked out of hiding through partnership with South African authorities and other intelligence and investigative mechanisms. While some of his luxury vehicles have been seized and his home in Surulere Lagos sealed, other members of the cartel already in custody include Suleiman and Godwin Edet Mathew.
In his statement, he claimed he was into the importation of building materials from China to Nigeria and used to sell gold in South Africa before delving into the illicit drug trade about two years ago.
The head of another cartel, Okafor Ikechukwu Williams (aka Jantu) and his wife, Okafor Ifeyinwa Grace were also taken into custody on Thursday 5th October when NDLEA operatives raided their hideout at 9 Awa Street, Ago Palace, Okota area of Lagos where they recovered 27.566 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in a blue box and two sacks, ready for export to Europe and Asia. Their Lexus RX350 marked ABJ 512 AY parked in the house was also seized during the operation. Their arrest followed weeks of intelligence gathering about the activities of the criminal network.
At the Abuja airport, operatives on Friday 6th October arrested a drug trafficker, Nwofor Ejiogu Charles, 45, during the outward clearance of Qatar Airways flight QR 1432 to Doha. After body scan revealed he ingested cocaine, he was placed under observation during which he excreted 75 pellets of cocaine weighing 1.653kgs. At the point of his arrest, Nwofor who was the last passenger to board his flight offered to compromise an NDLEA officer with $3,000 to free him.
The following day, Saturday 7th October, another trafficker, Nwufo Charles Okwudili, 45, was also arrested while attempting to board Lufthansa Airlines flight LH 0595 to Paris, France via Frankfurt, Germany. After being put through body scanner, he was taken into recovery room where he excreted 96 wraps of heroin he ingested with a total weight of 1.413kgs.
Meanwhile, NDLEA operatives on patrol along Okene -Lokoja-Abuja expressway on Tuesday 10th October intercepted a commercial bus coming from Lagos to Kano. A search of the bus led to the seizure of Four Million, Eight Hundred and Eighty Thousand US Dollars ($4,880,000), and Fifty-Seven Million Céfa, (CFA57,000,000) suspected to be counterfeits.
In Sokoto, the Federal High Court in the state capital presided over by Justice Ahmad Mahmud has sentenced an acting district head, Alhaji Umar Mohammed (aka Dan Bala) to five and a half years in jail on four count charges of possession and dealing in 436.38kgs cannabis and 7kgs psychotropic drugs brought against him by NDLEA in October 2022. He was convicted and sentenced to two years on each of counts 1 and 2 with an option of N1million fine, and eight months on each of counts 3 and 4 without an option of fine.
Operatives in Edo state on Wednesday 11th October stormed the Orue forest, Owan West LGA where they arrested Happy Akashili, 37, and Solomon Uwesue, 40 in a hut located inside a cannabis farm measuring 2.367308 hectares which was destroyed, with 92kgs already processed skunk recovered, while 49kgs of same substance were also seized at Ogbeturu camp.
The Commands across the country balanced their drug supply reduction operations with War Against Drug Abuse, WADA, advocacy campaigns to schools, markets, worship centres and communities. Some of these include: WADA sensitisation lecture on Drug Use and Mental Health for students of 15 secondary schools in Ibadan metropolis at the University of Ibadan, Oyo state; WADA sensitisation lecture for students of Ascension College, Iworo Imeke, Badagry Lagos; WADA sensitisation lecture at Modern Comprehensive College, Amokwe, Udi LGA, Enugu; WADA sensitisation lecture for students of National Secondary school, Awka; Students of JIBWIS Islamic Science Secondary school, Herwagana, Gombe; students of Government College, Makurdi, Benue; students of Government secondary school (Boys), Kafin Maiyaki, Kano and students of JNI Special Model primary School, Gusau, Zamfara.
While commending the efforts of the NAIA, MMIA, Kogi, Sokoto and Edo Commands of the Agency as well as the Special Operations Unit targeting the drug cartels, for jobs well done in the past week, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) assured that officers and men of the Agency will never let down their guards no matter the tricks and distractions orchestrated against it by criminal networks.