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‘Cocaine now costs higher in Nigeria’

Suspected drug couriers arrested with different quantities of cocaine while trying to either import or export them into or from Nigeria said the trade is…

Suspected drug couriers arrested with different quantities of cocaine while trying to either import or export them into or from Nigeria said the trade is now becoming very difficult to practise in Nigeria as the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) is “Not giving us breathing space. They operate like witches and wizards.”

Umehaa Chukwujekwu Lawrence, Oviawe Emmanuel and Nwabuife Uche are some of the suspects now languishing in the NDLEA cell at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos for allegedly attempting to import different quantities of cocaine. The suspects who narrated their experiences to Weekly Trust in separate interviews expressed surprise at the way they successfully passed all the security checks in foreign airports only to be arrested in Nigeria by NDLEA operatives despite the spiritual powers they’d acquired.

Lawrence who operates a supermarket in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was arrested at the airport on June 28 when he arrived from Brazil on board an Emirate flight. He said he successfully swallowed 71 wraps of cocaine in Brazil and got assurance from the Nigerian native doctor that he employed to pray for him that he could embark on the journey.

“You know, in terms of security, one may think that Brazil has better and more sophisticated security. When I successfully passed the security checks at their airport and got into the plane, I said there would be no problem again. In fact, I was planning to come and celebrate with my native doctor. I phoned and told him I was coming and he assured me that all was well. Look at me here with leg chain.”

“I left Nigeria for Brazil in search of greener pastures, but when I got there, I could not get a job. I had so many problems including that of language with the people. I then decided to buy some goods to come and sell in Nigeria, but all the goods were very expensive. That was how I decided to buy cocaine, which I discovered is cheaper in Brazil. I bought 1.463 kilograms at $6,000.

“I met some drug barons there that sold it to me. I paid 1,000 dollars to some specialists that packaged it in wraps. It was the powder they sold to me. I didn’t have enough money to pay them, so I only paid a deposit of 3,000 dollars promising to pay the balance of 4,000 dollars when I go back. This is my first trip,” he said.

Lawrence said though he was very apprehensive when he was passing through the security clearance at the airport in Brazil, he had no fear of anything at the time he got to Lagos believing that if he could pass the screening in a country like Brazil, Nigeria may not have the human and technological security to detect the cocaine he’d ingested.

“When the NDLEA operatives arrested me at the airport, I didn’t take them serious believing that they were just trying to be funny. But when their boss said they should go and detain me, I said to myself that their babalawo pass my own. Kasala don burst! Up till now, I am surprised at how they were able to trace what the Brazilians could not,” he said.

Lawrence was not the only suspect in the NDLEA cell that felt he’d been betrayed by his juju man. Oviawe Emmanuel, a Lagos-based automobile technician who hails from Ika West in Delta State, was arrested on arrival in Nigeria on board an Emirate flight on June 20 from Brazil. Emmanuel, a father of two, said he was arrested for ingesting 1.830 kilogram of cocaine which he attempted to import to Nigeria.

“I am jobless. I had nothing and the children are there. My wife is there expecting from me and the children want school fees. I have to pay for rent and many more. I was helpless. I went to a prayer house to seek journey mercies, but look at how these NDLEA people have turned my dream. I did all the necessary sacrifices before I embarked on this journey, but look at me here,” he lamented.

Nwabuife Paul Uche, 37, who has lived in Italy for over 15 years, was also arrested at the Lagos airport when he attempted to smuggle into Nigeria the 95 wraps of cocaine he’d allegedly ingested. Uche, a trained Seminarian and self-acclaimed ‘Man of God,’ said though he is a priest, he decided not to practise, because he does not want to live a deceitful life.

“I worked in Europe as a labourer for several years. After I lost my job, I started importing fairly-used electronics into Nigeria. There is not much gain in that one, so I decided to join the drugs business. Drug is the only thing you will trade in that they will give you on credit. They cannot give you goods on credit. But my brother, if I had known, I would have remained where I was. This one that they are chaining person up and down, who knows which day this matter will end? There is nothing like peace,” he said.       

The irony of the whole thing is that though some of those arrested said they were buying cocaine from Brazil because it is cheaper there, some others that got arrested were exporting the same drugs to Brazil and other countries of the world that are closer to Brazil than Nigeria. However, one of the suspects said while the price of the substance is also determined by its origin and the route it passes through, Nigeria is gradually becoming a transit route for illicit drugs.

The suspect, who said he has been in the drugs business for over ten years now, told Weekly Trust on condition of anonymity that “Nigeria is just a transit route for cocaine and heroin. There is no established market for the goods yet. For now, any good that comes into the country through two or more countries and passes through three or more agents costs more than the one that comes direct from the original country.

He said since Nigeria is not known to be a producer of either cocaine or heroin and has no established market for the illicit drugs, little attention is paid to flights going from Nigeria to most parts of the world.

“There is no cocaine or heroin that comes into Nigeria with the hope of being consumed here. I am not a baron. I only carry it for others. I know that when the demand is high anywhere, phone calls are made and supply is directed to such places.

“You have the farmers that produce these things and you have the merchants that buy from them and process the goods. The barons now market the goods in collaboration with the agents. The barons don’t usually travel with the drugs. They pay us to deliver. It is a risky job like every other business. Someone from India may be waiting for you to deliver to him at Amsterdam. On arrival, he is expected to collect the goods and pay you. You may be carrying goods of about N20 million. He is just to pay you about N700,000 for carrying it there.

“How he pays the baron that sent you is their business. But rather than receive you at the airport and take you to your destination, he will ask you to meet him at a particular hotel. On your way to the hotel, he may arrange with some people to rob and take away the goods from you. That way, you and your baron are at a loss because he will claim you have not delivered the goods to him. In some cases, you will be paid for carrying one kilogram but two kilograms will be compressed and unknowingly ingested by you. There are so many problems in the business,” the source said.

Giving details, one of the suspects, Dunu Chukwunyere, 37, said for a successful trip, a courier must abstain from eating solid food at least three hours before the ingestion and throughout the period of the journey so that he or she does not excrete the substance before arriving at the destination.

“It takes several hours to swallow the substance. It took me over twelve hours to swallow the 50 wraps of cocaine I was caught with. I swallowed them at a hotel in Okota area of Lagos. All the meetings are done in hotels.

“They will arrange for your passport, air ticket and visa. They will describe the person that will receive you at the airport. They will send your picture to him and the type of bag you are carrying. When you successfully pass the screening at the airport and get to the arrival hall, he will be there to receive you. He also has his boys there to monitor your arrival. When you have any problem, he will disappear,” he said.

Dunu, who said he was a motor spare parts dealer at Ladipo market in Lagos before he was arrested, said he was once robbed and the sum of N1.6 million taken away from him. “That robbery incident affected my business and I needed money to pay my debts and settle down. That was how I got involved in this drugs trafficking,” he said. He was arrested when he was about boarding an Emirate flight to Australia.

Confirming the stories, the chairman and chief executive of NDLEA, Alhaji Ahmadu Giade, said his agency has adopted proactive measures aimed at checking any system of smuggling drugs adopted by the barons and their couriers. He said between January and May this year alone, the Agency has successfully apprehended 2,789 suspected drug traffickers comprising 2,586 male and 203 females. A total of 37,668.194 kilograms of various narcotics and psychotropic substances were also seized. He said cannabis was the highest with 37,227.65 kilograms, psychotropic substances 306.191; cocaine 119.235 and heroin 15.118 kg.

He said contrary to the previous practice where cocaine was only being seized at Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, the Agency recorded cocaine seizures in 14 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the first five months of the year. The states are Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Enugu. Others are Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Niger, Ogun and Rivers.  In the area of destruction of cannabis farmland, Giade said the Agency has within the period destroyed 162.161 acres in six states.

The country representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ms Dagma Thomas, said Nigeria is key to further increased action against the menace of drugs in West Africa. She noted that though the ECOWAS has just adopted the regional action plan against drugs and crime and an operational plan for its implementation, a lot still needs to be done by West African leaders to stop the region from being turned to a dump site for illicit drugs.

“Again, Nigeria is key here. Not only to combat the national problems with regard to cannabis cultivation, abuse, and trafficking, but also to work with the region and support less advanced countries being targeted by traffickers and swamped with cocaine loads through the provision of operational support, expert advice and training. NDLEA, NAFDAC and the National Financial Intelligence Unit, to name just some, have standards and capacities in place that can actually support and guide other West African and neighbouring countries in their stepping up or measures against drug trafficking and growing related organised crime, money laundering, corruption and violence,” she said.

Also commenting, the national security adviser (NSA) to the President, Major General Sarki Muktar (Retired) said NDLEA has scored a very impressive record of illicit drug war that has saved the name and corporate image of Nigeria. He said the ongoing education and enlightenment programme adopted by the Agency represents a paradigm shift in line with best global practices.  

“My charge to all Nigerians is for us to question our individual efforts, especially at the family and community levels on what we have done so far to sustain our drug control efforts… All hands must be on deck to make Nigeria drugs-free,” he said.  

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Kaase Aondooakaa, commended the NDLEA for restoring international confidence through her constant onslaught on drug cartels in the country. He said government is aware of efforts by world drug barons to use Nigeria and the West African sub-region as major routes for trade in illicit drugs but assured that the present administration will not allow that.

“Let me say that the NDLEA has made the country proud. The courteous manner Nigerians are now being treated at international airports across the globe is a mark of credible service and commitment to drug control efforts. The decision to retire 72 officers of the Agency was my directive in order to move the country forward.

“I will make sure we fully implement the country’s drug law on culprits in line with the rule of law… I also want to urge Nigerians to support the anti-drug crusade,” Aondooakaa said.

but two kilograms will be compressed and unknowingly ingested by you. There are so many problems in the business,” the source said.

Giving details, one of the suspects, Dunu Chukwunyere, 37, said for a successful trip, a courier must abstain from eating solid food at least three hours before the ingestion and throughout the period of the journey so that he or she does not excrete the substance before arriving at the destination.

“It takes several hours to swallow the substance. It took me over twelve hours to swallow the 50 wraps of cocaine I was caught with. I swallowed them at a hotel in Okota area of Lagos. All the meetings are done in hotels.

“They will arrange for your passport, air ticket and visa. They will describe the person that will receive you at the airport. They will send your picture to him and the type of bag you are carrying. When you successfully pass the screening at the airport and get to the arrival hall, he will be there to receive you. He also has his boys there to monitor your arrival. When you have any problem, he will disappear,” he said.

Dunu, who said he was a motor spare parts dealer at Ladipo market in Lagos before he was arrested, said he was once robbed and the sum of N1.6 million taken away from him. “That robbery incident affected my business and I needed money to pay my debts and settle down. That was how I got involved in this drugs trafficking,” he said. He was arrested when he was about boarding an Emirate flight to Australia.

Confirming the stories, the chairman and chief executive of NDLEA, Alhaji Ahmadu Giade, said his agency has adopted proactive measures aimed at checking any system of smuggling drugs adopted by the barons and their couriers. He said between January and May this year alone, the Agency has successfully apprehended 2,789 suspected drug traffickers comprising 2,586 male and 203 females. A total of 37,668.194 kilograms of various narcotics and psychotropic substances were also seized. He said cannabis was the highest with 37,227.65 kilograms, psychotropic substances 306.191; cocaine 119.235 and heroin 15.118 kg.

He said contrary to the previous practice where cocaine was only being seized at Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, the Agency recorded cocaine seizures in 14 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the first five months of the year. The states are Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Enugu. Others are Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Niger, Ogun and Rivers.  In the area of destruction of cannabis farmland, Giade said the Agency has within the period destroyed 162.161 acres in six states.

The country representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ms Dagma Thomas, said Nigeria is key to further increased action against the menace of drugs in West Africa. She noted that though the ECOWAS has just adopted the regional action plan against drugs and crime and an operational plan for its implementation, a lot still needs to be done by West African leaders to stop the region from being turned to a dump site for illicit drugs.

“Again, Nigeria is key here. Not only to combat the national problems with regard to cannabis cultivation, abuse, and trafficking, but also to work with the region and support less advanced countries being targeted by traffickers and swamped with cocaine loads through the provision of operational support, expert advice and training. NDLEA, NAFDAC and the National Financial Intelligence Unit, to name just some, have standards and capacities in place that can actually support and guide other West African and neighbouring countries in their stepping up or measures against drug trafficking and growing related organised crime, money laundering, corruption and violence,” she said.

Also commenting, the national security adviser (NSA) to the President, Major General Sarki Muktar (Retired) said NDLEA has scored a very impressive record of illicit drug war that has saved the name and corporate image of Nigeria. He said the ongoing education and enlightenment programme adopted by the Agency represents a paradigm shift in line with best global practices. 

“My charge to all Nigerians is for us to question our individual efforts, especially at the family and community levels on what we have done so far to sustain our drug control efforts… All hands must be on deck to make Nigeria drugs-free,” he said. 

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Kaase Aondooakaa, commended the NDLEA for restoring international confidence through her constant onslaught on drug cartels in the country. He said government is aware of efforts by world drug barons to use Nigeria and the West African sub-region as major routes for trade in illicit drugs but assured that the present administration will not allow that.

“Let me say that the NDLEA has made the country proud. The courteous manner Nigerians are now being treated at international airports across the globe is a mark of credible service and commitment to drug control efforts. The decision to retire 72 officers of the Agency was my directive in order to move the country forward.

“I will make sure we fully implement the country’s drug law on culprits in line with the rule of law… I also want to urge Nigerians to support the anti-drug crusade,” Aondooakaa said.