July 27, 2021

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NDLEA’s harvest of seizures

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Editorial

For the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), it has been a harvest of arrests and seizures of hard substances, especially in the past few months. Perhaps the latest of these was the interception of 26.150kg of heroin valued at about N6.5bn at the SAHCO shed of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. The agency’s chairman, Brig-Gen Buba Marwa, has directed that a suspected drug baron, Tony Chidinma Onwurolu, who is on the run, be declared wanted in connection with the seizure, adding that his details would be submitted to Interpol for tracking.

NDLEA’s spokesman Femi Babafemi said in a statement that the drug in question arrived from South Africa in 25 parcels on an Air Peace flight on June 30 and was subsequently detained for screening. Follow-up operation on July 1 led to the trailing of a driver and clearing agent assigned to deliver the consignment to Onwurolu in his house at 132, Lateef Adegboyega Street, off Ago Palace Way, Okota, Lagos. The suspect, who had apparently got wind of his being trailed fled before the arrival of the NDLEA officers. According to Babafemi, Onwurolu who had “obviously mounted a counter-surveillance around his neighbourhood, fled before the arrival of the team of operatives who stormed his residence.”  A search on the residence however led to the discovery of several documents establishing his identity.

Before the instant incident, the agency had made other seizures and arrests.

On June 8, a driver, Lawal Tunde Rasheed, was arrested in connection with the seizure of a cocaine consignment. He was however released because of his cooperation with the agency’s officers which eventually led to the arrest of the suspected owner of the drug, one Egbo Emmanuel Maduka.

Babafemi said the driver was released following Maduka’s statement absolving him of complicity in the crime and also accepting ownership of the consignment. Babafemi further said that,” In the same vein, operatives of the command also intercepted a 4.3kg of skunk imported from Canada. The package, which came on Ethiopian Airline, was concealed in nine packs of cereals.

Similarly, one Babatunde Usman Omogbolahan Bakare was intercepted by NDLEA operatives with 550g of cannabis and 50g of Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam) concealed in six jerry cans of local herbal mixtures called Gabo, at SAHCO export shed, MMIA, Ikeja, on July 9.  According to the agency’s spokesman, “Earlier on Tuesday 6th July, operatives of the MMIA Command, conducted a follow-up operation at Gate 2, Ladipo Oluwole Street, opposite Guinness Bottling Company, Ikeja, where one Animashaun Kabiru was apprehended for questioning about a bag containing bitter cola, which was brought for export to the UK. When the bag of bitter kola was searched, it was discovered that the bitter kola were mixed with some wraps of a substance suspected to be illicit drug. Thirty-six wraps of the suspected substance later tested positive for cocaine weighing 600grams.”

The list appears endless.

These seizures and arrests show how desperate some Nigerians can get in their quest to make quick money. This is despite the risks of being caught and the consequences, ranging from long terms in prison, to death sentence in some countries. This should indeed worry us as a nation. Things are hard in the country; but this cannot be sufficient justification for the growing incidence of drug peddling.

We commend Brig-Gen. Marwa for the string of seizures and arrests. This is the kind of leadership we desire in the public service –  a dedicated leadership and focused officers who know what they are supposed to do and are doing it.

But, the drug business is a two-way thing. While we call on governments at all levels to do more to lift more Nigerians out of poverty as well as provide a more conducive environment for businesses to thrive, so as to reduce the unemployment rate, it is pertinent too to draw the NDLEA’s attention to the need to address the demand size of the drug business. As they say, “it takes two to tango.” If there are no buyers, the market for illicit drugs in the country would shrink. NDLEA should work more on the demand side rather than concentrating on the supply side alone.