Operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have intercepted various quantities of ephedrine, a strain of cannabis sativa (skunk) and nitrous oxide, popularly known as laughing gas concealed in semovita packs and dry pepper being shipped to South Africa and Kenya through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja Lagos.
In a statement on Sunday, spokesman of the agency, Femi Babafemi, said the trafficking was done by members of Transnational Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO), some of whom were promptly arrested, their mansions raided and their luxury vehicles seized.
“Through credible intelligence, NDLEA operatives on Friday 25th August intercepted a notorious drug trafficker, Suleiman Babatunde Oba who is a member of a cartel distributing cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and ephedrine between Nigeria, Brazil, Ghana, South Africa, Mozambique, and Europe.
“He was arrested while attempting to board a Rwanda Air flight to South Africa with two boxes loaded with ephedrine sealed in semovita packs. The recovered substance is a precursor chemical and active ingredient in the production of methamphetamine,” Babafemi said.
According to the statement, Suleiman who holds a South African passport, is married to a South African lady and has lived there for over 20 years, identified Hakeem Babatunde Salami who equally lives in Lagos and South Africa as the head of the drug ring.
A follow-up raid in the house of Salami located at 75 Wosilatu Dawodu Street, Ijesha, Aguda area of Surulere, Lagos on Monday 28th August revealed that he had fled the country on the same day Suleiman was arrested.
However, a white Toyota Venza car with registration number LSR 410 HT, a Mercedes Benz SUV marked LSD 998HP, phones and vital documents needed for further investigation were recovered from the house.
The NDLEA spokesman recalled that in August 2021, the agency had seized 25.60kgs ephedrine from a trafficker, Arua Emmanuel Onwuka at the Lagos airport, a seizure that has also been traced to the same cartel whose identified members are currently on the run, while an official of the airport, Godwin Shedrack (a.k.a Goddy) fingered as a member of the syndicate is also under investigation.
In the same vein, an attempt by another syndicate to export 10.40kgs skunk concealed with scent leaf and pepper, going to Nairobi, Kenya, was equally thwarted by NDLEA operatives attached to the NAHCO export shed of the airport on Saturday 26th August.
A suspect, Ekechukwu Sixtus Ndubuisi, has already been arrested in connection with the seizure.
Meanwhile, another bid to export a consignment of 180 cannisters of laughing gas to South Africa by a freight agent, Oyekola Gbenga Akeem for a fee of N2m, was frustrated by operatives who seized the cargo and arrested the suspect.
Also, NDLEA operatives on Friday 25th August succeeded in arresting a drug kingpin, Ngene Emmanuel Onyedikachi, who recruited the fake couple, Ilonzeh Kingsley Onyebuchi and Ilonzeh Roseline Nonyelum arrested for ingesting 1.822kgs and 1.50kgs of Cocaine respectively at the Lagos airport on 1st August while on their way to India.
The kingpin was picked up at his residence located at 28 Afolabi Brown Street, Akoka, Yaba, after intensive surveillance that lasted 25 days.
During his interview, Onyedikachi confessed that the two suspects: Ilonzeh Kingsley Onyebuchi and Ilonzeh Roseline Nonyelum were introduced to him by another member of his syndicate, whom he claimed he met at Zion Church in the Cele area of Lagos, explaining that the drug was sourced from Guinea Conakry.
The suspect revealed that when he got information about the arrest of the fake couple, he threw away his old mobile phone along with the SIM cards to avoid being traced and that he became relaxed and refused to leave his house because the two couriers did not know his house since they have only met twice at different locations.
He said he was living in India before he returned to Nigeria in 2022 after the Indian authorities discovered that he was using Ivory Coast International passport. A blue Acura Legend car was part of items recovered from his home during his arrest.