Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have successfully burst a trans-border drug cartel and arrested five leaders of the syndicates operating in parts of the world in a special operation that lasted weeks during which different quantities of skunk, methamphetamine and ephedrine, as well as air compressors used to conceal and distribute them globally, were recovered.
The spokesman of the agency, Femi Babafemi, said on Sunday in Abuja that the special operation came on the heels of a warning by the Chairman/Chief Executive of the Agency, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Retd) that drug barons and cartels will have it rough in 2023 if they fail to back out of the criminal business.
According to him, leaders of the cartel which spreads across Dubai, UAE; Cotonou, Benin Republic; Togo; Oman, Thailand and Europe as well as Lagos, Imo and Onitsha in Anambra state, had while on Christmas and New Year holidays in their villages were still coordinating efforts to send their illicit consignments to Dubai and other parts of the world.
“Their lid was blown open on Thursday 29th December 2022 when their freight agent, Onyeisue Collins Chukwudi was arrested by NDLEA officers at the SAHCO export shed of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja Lagos for attempting to export three big automobile air compressors to Dubai.
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“A quick follow-up operation led to the recovery of additional five compressors at his home at 24 Legacy road, Ayobo area of Lagos. A total of 27.50kgs of skunk were taken out of the air compressors after welding equipment were used to cut them open,” Babafemi said.
He said that further investigations revealed that the freight agent was working for a bigger organized criminal group. As a result, extensive operational tools were deployed to track the first kingpin, Onuoha Peter Obioma who lives in Benin Republic and Togo but comes occasionally to do business in Lagos.
The efforts paid off on Saturday 7th January 2023 when Obioma walked into the arms of NDLEA operatives with a bag containing additional air compressors used to conceal 15.7kgs of skunk and a crystalline substance that later tested positive for methamphetamine after the agency’s sniffer dogs identified compressors with drug concealment.
He said, “Obioma’s statement led to the unravelling of two other leaders of the cartel: Dubai-based, Ugo Kelechi Alex (aka KC); and Iwueke Ugochukwu (aka Odugwu), an Onitsha, Anambra-based businessman, who were at that point still enjoying the Christmas and New Year holidays in their village in Imo State.
“A well-coordinated operation was thereafter carried out on Tuesday 10th January at their ancestral homes in Umuobi village, Igbejere community, Ihitti-Uboma LGA, Imo State, while the arrowhead of the cartel identified as Ezenwekwe Obinna Nicodemus, an automobile parts dealer at Alaba International market, Lagos was put under surveillance. A Lexus SUV and a Toyota jeep were immediately recovered from Kelechi and Iwueke.”
The NDLEA spokesperson said that after so many dramatic bids to evade arrest, personnel of the agency eventually nabbed Obinna at a bar in Mazamaza, Mile 2 area of Lagos on Saturday 14th January.
A search of his home led to the recovery of 607 grams of ephedrine, a handful of Cannabis weighing 20 grams as well as other paraphernalia, including 271 grams of dimethyl sulfone used as a cutting agent for ephedrine, a chemical precursor and an active ingredient for the production of methamphetamine.
A weighing scale and an International passport were equally recovered from his house.