On 17 November, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) seized a cache of arms, ammunition and servicing accessories in the strong room of the Nigeria Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCO), at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
The Customs Area Comptroller, MMIA Command, Mr Michael Adewole, said the arms comprised six double-barrel guns, one single-barrel, one pump action, one Uzzi, two magazines, one Beretta pistol and one B Echeverria pistol. He listed the ammunition as 20 pieces of 5.56 mm calibre, 19 cartridges, 12/12; 500 pieces of blank armour and a sealed box of cartridges. He also listed the servicing accessories as four pieces of pull trough, two brushes, one oil rifle bag as well as a sling colt belt.
The Area Comptroller said the arms were found and seized following information his command had received, indicating that some unidentified persons had abandoned arms at the NAHCO strong room. He said the seized items were categorized as prohibited items that could not be allowed into the country, except by government security agencies, and that investigations were underway to identify those behind their illegal importation.
In recent months, security agencies at the airport have intensified their surveillance and monitoring activities in and around the facility.
On 30 July, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) arrested three men in connection with the trafficking of hard drugs between Nigeria and Malaysia. The three men were arrested at Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, Nigeria’s largest business city.
Two of the men – Sylvester Henry Onovo and Onyedika Emmanuel Ufiri – were arrested while attempting to smuggle 2.575kg of methamphetamine to Malaysia.
Onovo 26, an auto parts dealer at Ladipo auto parts market, Lagos, had ingested 67 wraps of methamphetamine weighing 1.275kg. Ufiri, 36, a trader at the Trade Fair Complex, also in Lagos, ingested 77 wraps of methamphetamine weighing 1.300kg.
The third suspect, Nnamdi John Kingsley, 31, was nabbed at the Nigeria Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) shed section of the airport, while taking delivery of a 32-inch plasma television imported from Malaysia, which had 1.150kg of heroin concealed inside.
On how and why they got entangled in the narcotics web, each of the arrested persons had a story to tell. Onovo said: “This is my first time of trafficking in narcotics. I did not know the implications. I wanted to use the money to buy spare parts from Malaysia”. Nnamdi Kingsley, who operates a video club on Port Harcourt Road, Aba, Abia State, said his business partners in Malaysia sent the heroin to him because he needed money. In his words: “My business partners sent the drug to me inside the television. They told me to clear the television set and raise money after selling the drug”. The NDLEA officials knew those were obviously fairy tales.
Reacting to the arrests, the Chairman/Chief Executive of the NDLEA, Ahmadu Giade, said his agency was determined to sustain its relentess campaign against drug trafficking in the country, through diligent investigation, arrest, seizure and prosecution of suspects. He said: “We shall continue to arrest drug traffickers, seize their drugs and prosecute them. The Agency will also not relent in anti-drug enlightenment programmes to guide members of the public”.
On 20 April, the Federal Government sent off another group, comprising 38 former Niger Delta militants to the United States for skills acquisition training, as part of its post-amnesty programme. The trainees, who actually flew out of the country on 21 April, are to be trained for the next six months in Marine Mechanics at WyoTech, in Daytona, Florida.
WyoTech, formerly known as Wyoming Technical Institute, offers short-term technical, career-oriented training for the automotive, diesel, motorcycle, HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning), watercraft and collision/refinishing industries. It has six campuses across the US. Its campus in Daytona, Florida, was established in 1972, and the programme in marine mechanics started in 1973. The programme provides training in inboard gasoline-powered marine engines, outboard motor mechanics (which was added to the curriculum in 1975), as well as marine diesel engines and generator sets.
Speaking at the pre-departure media briefing for the former militants, the US Consul-General in Nigeria, Mr. Joseph Stafford, said the Federal Government had done the right thing by investing in Niger Delta youths. According to him, the training of the former militants will enable them contribute actively to the development of the Niger Delta and the country generally. Stafford expressed the willingness of the U.S. government to continually assist Nigeria in developing the potentials and skills of Niger Delta youths.
The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Hon Kingsley Kuku, commended the US ambassador in Nigeria for granting visas to the 38 youths. He said another group would also be leaving for Houston in a few days’ time. Kuku said the departure of the youths going to the US “is a breakthrough and we are hopeful other embassies will follow suit”.
He identified some of the challenges facing the programme to include lack of commitment by oil firms operating in the Niger Delta as well as the refusal of some state governors in the region to accept the former agitators as transformed youths. But he said: “The amnesty programme is on course and President Goodluck Jonathan is committed to its success”.
Answering a question on the difference in duration of the courses for which the various groups of ex-militants are being sponsored to abroad, Kuku explained that: “For those who are qualified to undergo degree courses in the university, the programme will be for the duration of their courses, which, for instance, is not the same for those who undergo six-month vocational training. But the point of disengagement for all of them, after their training, is when they have been engaged in meaningful ventures. We will ensure that those that complete their training are meaningfully engaged”.
On 6 March, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) reported it had a 40-year-old woman, suspected of drug trafficking. The woman, Mrs. Agbanyi Philomena, is accused of attempting to export 13kg of methamphetamine to Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
NDLEA spokesman, Mr. Mitchell Ofoyeju, in a statement, said the suspect was arrested while attempting to export the drugs through Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. According to Ofoyeju, the drug was found in a sack concealed inside a bag containing some shirts.
The suspect, Mrs. Nweze, who is married with five children and resides in Surulere, Lagos, said she thought the drug was fertiliser. She said: “I am a clearing and forwarding agent with over 18 years experience. I was told that it was fertiliser and that it is used to preserve fish. That was how I consented to send the bag”.
“I’m not good at export because I do mainly import. After collecting the bag, I searched it and saw the substance in a sack amidst some new shirts. I charged a normal fee as usual and I gave it to a fellow agent on the export desk. I told him that the bag contained fertiliser and some shirts”.
“This is my first occupational mishap in 18 years. When I got a call that the consignment had not arrived in Kenya, I thought the agent had not sent the bag. It was later I heard he was arrested by the NDLEA in the process of sending it. This is shocking to me because I felt it was a normal job”.
Ofoyeju quoted the NDLEA Airport Commander, Alhaji Hamza Umar, as saying that more people were connected with the foiled export. “We hope to make more arrests on the case”, Ofoyeju said, adding that the suspect would soon be charged to court.
On 20 February, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) reported that it had arrested five suspected drug traffickers at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos. The agency said the five men were attempting to traffic a total of 6.490kg of powdery substance that tested positive for cocaine. The NDLEA Commander at the airport, Hamza Umar, said 3 of the suspects were on the notorious Brazil-to-Nigeria route.
A release made available to newsmen and the public by the NDLEA’s Head of Public Affairs, Ofoyeju Mitchell, detailed that the 3 suspects are Okafor Sochukwu Benjamin, 48, found in possession of 1.715kg; Onuzulike Onochie Emmanuel, 34, caught with 1.200kg; and Osuolale Taofeek Olamilekan, 39, that had 1.155kg. All 3 were nabbed during the inward screening of passengers on an Iberia flight.
The other two suspects were on their way to London: Martins Henshaw David, 33, had 1.120kg, while Okorie Okorie Agbai, 48, had ingested 1.300kg.
Okafor Sochukwu Benjamin, an auto parts dealer at Trade Fair Complex, Lagos, lives with his wife and 4 children in Aguda, Surulere. He left Nigeria on 25 December 2010 and had ingested 80 pellets on his way back. He said drug trafficking was his last option to settle his mounting domestic bills, including his children’s school fees.
Onuzulike Onochie Emmanuel, who had spent over 7 years in Brazil, was quoted as saying that frustration drove him to drug trafficking and that he was promised 4,000 USD by his sponsors. Osuolale Taofeek Olamilekan, who had also worked in Brazil for three years as a cleaner, swallowed 92 wraps of cocaine, but said he was expecting only N250,000 naira to add to his business capital.
Okorie Okorie Agbai, an importer of upholstery materials, said he was driven to drugs by kidnappers, whom he claimed collected 800,000 naira from him in 2010. “That was the beginning of my problem that made me to get involved in this mess”.
However, the NDLEA Chairman, Alhaji Ahmadu Giade, dismissed the suspects’ claims, stressing that they had several other options open to them to earn a legitimate living. Said Giade: “Drug trafficking is a criminal offence. It is wrong for anybody to consider drug trafficking as the only way out of financial crisis”.
On 19 February, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) reported that a 50-year-old suspected drug trafficker, Gozie Vincent Offiah, died after ingesting wraps of methamphetamine. A statement by the NDLEA’s spokesman, Mitchell Ofoyeju, in Lagos, said the suspect, an importer, died on 16 February as a result of the substance he had ingested.
The statement said that Offiah was spotted to have ingested the drugs during the screening and clearance of outward-bound passengers, preparatory to boarding an Emirates airline flight to South Korea, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport on 13 February. He subsequently excreted 72 wraps of substances that tested positive for methamphetamine, weighing 1.115kg. He was rushed to hospital after complaining of acute pains, but “died from complications arising from the ingested drugs”.
The statement further stated that “In a post mortem examination carried out on his corpse on 18 February, in a Lagos hospital, 43 additional wraps that got stuck were recovered from his stomach. This brought the total wraps ingested to 115”.
“Preliminary investigation revealed that the suspect had bought the drugs he ingested with the intention of selling them when he arrives in Korea,” the statement added.
The suspect claimed to have invested his last savings in the illicit drug trade with the hope of buying more goods. In his statement to the anti-narcotics officer soon after his arrest, he said “my arrest is a big blow and I find it difficult to recover from the loss. I took the risk to transform my financial fortunes if successful. Now my hope, my business and my entire life have been destroyed. I do not know where to start from now”. But NDLEA operatives suspect he was a professional courier for ingesting 115 wraps and having $10,000 cash on him.
NDLEA Commander at the airport, Alhaji Hamza Umar, said the suspect was the first to die from complications arising from methamphetamine ingestion. “Before now, cases of deaths recorded by the agency were due to cocaine ingestion. This is a confirmation that narcotics are highly poisonous and should not be ingested,” he said.
Worried by the sad development, the NDLEA Chairman and Chief Executive, Alhaji Ahmadu Giade, reiterated his call for stiffer penalty for drug offences, in order to reduce the attraction of the narcotics trade.
The NDLEA boss has ordered release of Offiah’s body to his family.
On 4 February, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) reported that it arrested eight persons suspected of illicit trafficking in hard drugs at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, through the month of January 2011.
In a statement to the press, the NDLEA Chairman, Alhaji Ahmadu Giade disclosed that the agency seized a total of 17.065 kilogrammes of narcotics in January, comprising 5.340 kilogrammes of cocaine, 8.400kg of heroin and 3.325kg of methamphetamine.
The NDLEA Commander at the Airport, Alhaji Hamza Umar, said three importers were among the eight suspects, giving their names as Michael Izuchukwu Ikegbuno, 41, Igwilo John Chinedu, 30, and Orazuluba Blessed, 38. He disclosed that Michael’s final destination was Japan. Igwilo was heading to Greece while Orazuluba was coming from Brazil.
One of the suspects Mr. Ikegbuno, an Nnewi-born importer of motor parts who lives in Japan with his wife and 3 children, had ingested 80 pellets of substances that tested positive for methamphetamine weighing 840grammes, before he was nabbed on his way to board a Qatar Airways flight. The second, Mr Igwilo, an Oraifite-born, Abuja-based importer of motor parts from Europe, had ingested 55 pellets of substances that tested positive for cocaine weighing 1.175 kilogrammes, but was grabbed while trying to board an Emirate flight to Greece. The third importer, Mr. Orazuluba Blessed, who hails from Ihiala in Anambra State but lives in Brazil, had 1.500 kilogrammes of cocaine concealed in a false bottom of his luggage, when he landed into the waiting arms of vigilant NDLEA operatives.
The NDLEA boss said all the suspects would be charged to court soon.
On 3 February, a joint team of the State Security Service (SSS) and the Airport Command of the Nigerian Police Force arrested two young men with 9,734,225 USD and 664,100 euros at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
The two youths, identified as Abdul Bashir and Rabiu Bashir, said to be brothers, were arrested at the old domestic wing of the airport, shortly after arriving from Kano, on an Arik Air flight.
According to security and airline sources, the money was packed in four travelling (“Ghana Must Go”) bags, which the suspects checked in as hand luggage. The sources said the young men did not declare the contents of the bags before they boarded the plane in Kano.
One source said the suspects had claimed they were operators of a Bureau de Change outlet, and were given the money by their customers to sell in Lagos, as the exchange rates were usually higher in Lagos than in Kano. However, another report said: “The suspects had left the local wing to connect a flight to Dubai” before they were stopped, searched and arrested. The suspects were then transferred to the Force CID for interrogation on the orders of the Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim. Reports say they were subsequently transfered to the police headquarters in Abuja.
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mrs. Farida Waziri, has also raised a team, led by the commission’s Head of Operations in Lagos, Zubair Muazu, to liaise with the Police so that the anti-graft agency can take over full-scale investigation of the matter. EFCC official sources say the case is about money laundering and therefore falls within the mandate of their Commission. However, other sources believe that as the case possibly has other significant security ramifications, cracking it would require considerable inter-agency collaboration.
Some sources said security agencies were working on at least two theories on the origin and purpose of the money, and on why the suspects chose to transport it in raw cash. First, it is suspected that the money could be connected to the financing of terrorism, especially given recent security developments in Borno and Plateau States, and also in view of the region (Dubai and other Gulf states) where the money was being shipped to. Another theory is that the cash might be part of monies being transferred to and from Nigeria by some politicians, in connection with financing the April 2011 polls. However, these are only speculations as proper investigations into the matter are still on.