Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have arrested a suspected billionaire drug baron, Chief Afam Mallinson Emmanuel Ukatu, who is allegedly behind the N3bn tramadol deal involving the embattled suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari-led Intelligence Response Team (IRT).
Spokesman for the agency, Femi Babafemi, said on Monday in Abuja that after months of surveillance and evading arrest, Ukatu who is the Chairman of Mallinson Group of Companies was eventually nabbed onboard a flight to Abuja at the MM2 terminal of the Lagos airport, Ikeja on April 13.
“Investigations reveal he has been a major importer of large consignments of different brands and high dosages of Tramadol Hydrochloride, ranging from 120mg, 200mg, 225mg and 250mg, all of which are illicit.
“Ukatu owns pharmaceutical and plastic manufacturing companies, which he used as a cover to import illicit drugs into Nigeria. This is in addition to operating 103 bank accounts, most of which are used to launder money,” Babafemi said.
According to him, Ukatu came under watch last year after five cartons of tramadol 225mg were seized from his staff members on May 4 2021, when he sent them to sell to undercover police officers (unknown to Ukatu) from the then Kyari-led IRT of the Nigeria Police, Ikeja Lagos.
He said that the price of a carton of tramadol was negotiated at N17m each as against the then black market value that ranged between N18m and N20m a carton in Lagos.
Babafemi said, “After the arrest of Ukatu’s staff: Pius Enidom and Sunday Ibekwete; Kyari’s men were then led by the suspects to Mallinson’s warehouse at Ojota in Lagos where 197 additional cartons of tramadol 225mg were seized by the IRT. The monetary value of the 202 cartons of tramadol seized from Mallinson in one day was over N3bn.”
He also said that three weeks after the seizure, Kyari’s IRT team transferred only 12 cartons of the tramadol with one truck and a suspect to the Lagos Command of the NDLEA, leaving 190 cartons unaccounted for.
Babafemi said that after over eight months of following the lead, anti-narcotic officers of the agency eventually arrested Ukatu at the Lagos airport on 13th April 2022.
He recalled that Kyari and four top members of his team are already facing trial for a different but similar offence at a Federal High Court in Abuja.