Nigeria: Drug War – 42 Barons, 32,000 Others Arrested in 34 Months

In a bid to rid the nation of all businesses involving illicit drugs, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has arrested 42 drug barons and one drug baroness in the last 42 months.

The lastest of these arrests was billionaire Idumota trader, Nwaoha Anayo, who was nabbed at Onitire, Aguda area of Surulere, and 12, 700, 000 pills of tramadol recovered from him on October 31.

Earlier in the same October, operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) took 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, Abuja.

Operatives at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, on Tuesday October 10, succeeded in taking into custody Hakeem Babatunde Salami, the arrowhead of “Tajudeen Babatunde Abioye Transnational Criminal Organization”.

The drug cartel is said to be involved in 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 Lagos airport on August 25 over an attempt to export 25.10kgs of ephedrine to South Africa.

Head of another cartel, Okafor Ikechukwu Williams (aka Jantu), and his wife, Okafor Ifeyinwa Grace, were also taken into custody on Thursday October 5 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.

On October 1, the NDLEA announced the arrest of drug baroness, Faith Ebele Nwankwo, after three major illicit drug syndicates were taken down.

LEADERSHIP investigations showed that the agency seized over seven million kilograms of drugs in the period under review, while over 852.142 hectares of cannabis farms have been destroyed and three clandestine methamphetamine laboratories dismantled.

In June 2023, NDLEA chairman, Brig.Gen. Mohamed Marwa, said about 31,675 drug offenders were arrested in 29 months.

Our investigations showed however that the number has risen to about 32,000 offenders in 42 months.

About 5,147 of them prosecuted and convicted, while over 7million kilograms of assorted drugs were seized within the same period.

Also, the agency has destroyed drugs worth over N202 billion, with the highest destruction happening in September 2022 when it destroyed drugs valued at N195 billion in a single day in Badagry, Lagos.

Marwa had also stated that over 11,000 other cases still pending in court, while 23,725 drug users had been counselled and rehabilitated, majority of them through brief interventions.

In addressing the drug challenges in Nigeria, Marwa also said, “We have destroyed 852.142 hectares of cannabis farms and dismantled three clandestine methamphetamine laboratories. I can assure you that even as we speak, NDLEA agents are busy with interdiction activities somewhere.”

He said drug supply reduction is however only one of the components of the equation. “Another crucial component is drug demand reduction, which operationally means prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. It should go without saying that we must strike a balance between these two crucial components if we are to achieve our desired utopia of a drug-free society.

“NDLEA has made significant investments in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation over the last two years. The doors of our rehabilitation facilities are open at all times. We have acquired a few more rehab centres, given to us as donations, while we have also obtained the federal government’s approval for the construction of regional model rehabs.

“More private treatment facilities are also cooperating with NDLEA. To cap it all, NDLEA went above and beyond to invest in a toll-free, round-the-clock call centre that provides teletherapy. In summary, we have prioritised treatment, while our WADA advocacy initiative has taken a life of its own with our Commands, Formations and partnering civil society organisations taking sensitisation lectures and campaigns to schools, communities, worship places and many more across the country everyday.

“In addition, we have also produced TV Commercials and Radio Jingles in different languages being broadcast on various platforms. This is simply aimed at prevention, by sensitising the people and equipping them with facts about drugs to enable them take the right decisions against substance abuse.”

He charged the society to drop the stigmatisation that discourages drug users from seeking treatment, a development that has serious socio-economic repercussions for individuals and their families.

He said, “Stigmatisation and discrimination make recovery and reintegration difficult for drug-dependent users who submit themselves to treatment. And the prevalence of such an attitude is counterproductive to the effort, time, and resources invested by governments, institutions, and corporate bodies working to contain the drug problem.

“This is what the year’s theme is about. We must rid ourselves of any bias against those who are drug-dependent to be able to support, expedite, and make permanent their recovery. The theme will serve as an impetus for us to make a collective effort to break down these invincible but formidable social barriers that undermine the attainment of the goal of a drug-free society.”

While also speaking at a recent event in Abuja, UNODC Country Rep, Oliver Stolpe, emphasized the “benefits of international cooperation in criminal justice matters with a specific target of dismantling trafficking networks involved in this terrible trade”, adding that “long overdue is the need to make sure that the public and primary health care providers are better prepared to take basic drug counseling needs, knowing how to deal with people suffering from drug use disorders.”

In the process, about three foreigners have also been arrested for attempting to export and import illicit drugs outside and into Nigeria.

In August 2023, attempt by a 29-year-old South African, Erasmus Jean Pierre, to export 2.6 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in his luggage to the Middle East through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, was thwarted by NDLEA operatives who arrested him and recovered the illicit drug.

Also, a Chadian, Mohammed Ibrahim, 25, was nabbed at Mafa check point, Borno state with 11.8kgs of Skunk on Monday 25th September.

A 34-year-old South American man from Suriname, Dadda Lorenzo Harvy Albert, who was arrested by NDLEA operatives at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers State, for bringing into Nigeria 117 parcels of cocaine concealed in extra-large latex condoms factory packed inside bottles of 100ml body spray, he has been convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.


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